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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Odds at Getting Published

Odds!

What are our odds at getting published?

I read somewhere where 95% of submissions are rejected right off the bat.

One way to improve our odds, after writing a great manuscript, is to not let the rejections stop us from sending  our manuscripts out again and again.

It is kind of like going to a thrift store one time and when we do not find anything that grabs us, we refuse to go back. It takes visiting on a regular basis to find that certain something that we need or cannot live without. Our persistence will eventually pay off.

I search for arrowheads in my garden. If I stopped looking after one walk through, what would be the chances of finding more? My chances would not be very good, so I look each time I go to the garden. Now I have a collection of artifacts to show for my persistence.

We need to keep writing and sending out our manuscripts. Our persistence will eventually pay off and we may have a contract to show for our persistence.

We can improve our odds by writing a good manuscript. Or should I say, a very good manuscript.
We need to follow all the submission rules and send in a manuscript the editors want to see.
Let our words rest for a couple of weeks, then go back and edit out the weeds so the flowers have room to sprout. It is easier said then done, isn’t it.

But, I think the results will be worth the effort.

Happy Writing!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Garden Surprises

We had a small gully washer yesterday. The rain did not last for a long time, but it fell hard and fast.

This morning I ventured out to the garden to take a look-see at everything and I found a couple of surprises.

I am used to seeing little green tomatoes. . .

 

I am used to seeing little green peppers. . 
.

But, I am not used to seeing little green things on top of my potato plants.  I took a second and third look to make sure a tomato plant had not made its way into my potato patch.


They green potato ‘fruit’ looks like little green tomatoes.


I looked it up on the internet and it seems that this does happen, just not very often. We planted Yukon gold potatoes and it said that it happens with them more frequently than the other varieties of potatoes. They are not harmful to the plant, but they are poisonous to humans.

Well, I guess you are never too old to learn. This is my first time at seeing these cute little potato fruits. It really surprised me.

I came across another surprise in the garden when I looked down and saw this jutting out of the damp ground. Most people would not even notice it as anything unusual. But, the color of it told me to investigate a little further.


A beautiful arrowhead, right next to the cucumber plants. I'll just have to add this one to my collection.


After a rain is one of the best times to look for artifacts in your garden. They get washed off and washed up out of the dirt. Flint is very hard and smooth to the touch and can easily be distinguished from rock or coal.

Wednesday - June 29th - I just found another arrowhead in my garden. It seems to be a good year for cultivating flint!

Have you found any surprises in your garden?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writing Wednesday

Welcome to Writing Wednesday.

I know a few of you that follow my blog are writing memoirs. So I thought I would talk to you about the workshop I attended at the WVWriter's Convention called How Creative is Creative Non Fiction by Jim Minick. I thoroughly enjoyed his workshop. The room was full and they kept coming. He laughed each time the door opened and more people walked in. Someone finally left the room in search for more chairs. He said, "I didn't think this workshop would be so popular."

He is the author of The Blueberry Years. You can visit his website here.

You can go here for an excerpt from The Blueberry Years.

His workshop was very informative.

Some of the things I learned from the hand outs and from the conversation was that:

Memory, one of our key tools, in unreliable, so how much leeway do we have to use our imagination to fill in what is half-remembered - and still call our work nonfiction?

You select and dramatize for clarity and suspense. You don't change the basic plot or invent characters, but you might -
Condense Time - Let your readers know what you are doing - and why.
Make Omissions
Recreate Once-Heard Dialogue
Make Composite Characters
Stretch Out Key Scenes

You have to think about: Ethics, Intent - it helps us resist the urge to change facts, just to make a better story, Elaboration, Honesty, Authenticity - justifying adding the details, Emotional Truth vs. Factual Truth.

You have an obligation to the people you are writing about and to your readers.

I leave you with a few quotes:
"Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth." Picasso
"I am an artist...therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth." Ursula LeGuin.
"Memory has its own story to tell." Tobias Wolff


Happy Writing!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writing Wednesday

I had a wonderful time at the West Virginia Writer's Conference over the weekend.

I met some wonderful authors, including Cheryl Ware . . . who is the author of Flea Circus Summer,  Catty-Cornered and Venola in Love.


 

and Sarah Dooley. . . who is the author of Livvie Owen Lived Here, published by Feiwel & Friends, and is currently working on her third book.

 

I attended workshops such as Sandy Tritt's Get your Narrator Out of my Way, Cheryl Ware's Digital Storytelling, Jim Minick's How Creative is Creative NonFiction, Heather Issacs' Freelancing, Crystal Wilkinson's Make a Scene, Belinda Anderson's Oral History, Susanna Holstein's From Ballad to Story and Cheryl Ware's Character Development.

They were very good workshops and I have arrived home with all sorts of ideas and projects I want to work on. If there were only more hours in the day.


There were other workshops I wanted to sit in on, but they took place at the same time as others I also wanted to go to. So, sadly, I had to pick and choose and I never got to go to all the workshops that I wanted to attend. One of the workshops I wanted to go to was  Pam Hanson's Time Management and Organizing for Writers because I really, really do need to get organized.

There were so many talented people there, it made me feel very little in the scheme of things. But, I am happy to report that I didn't come home empty handed.

I received this . . .

 
 Writers attending the conference attach their poems and/or 1 page of prose on the Writer's Wall.
Your name is not on it, only an assigned number and everyone votes on their favorite.
I was surprised to come in 2nd place in the poetry section.
This is special to me, because the people voted on it.


and this. . . 
 
 My MG manuscript, The Family Secret got 3rd HM in the 
West Virginia Writer's Annual Contest
in the Children's Book Section.

I've been sending this manuscript out to publishers this year, 
keeping my fingers crossed that I will find one that likes it.
If you ever get the chance to go to a Writer's Conference, I recommend that you go.
You learn a lot, get to make contacts with writers and have a lot of fun!

It is nice to be in a group of people who are just like you.

Happy Writing!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yard Sale Goodies

Last Thursday we went to a few yard sales. We had a real good time buying items that we really didn't need, if you know what I mean. But it is hard to pass up neat things at such good prices.

I got this red basket and the items in it - a blue glass fish with a cork in his mouth ( I think I might put it outside as decoration in one of my flower beds), two blue bottles, a copper water dipper, a pretty butterfly (I think I will put it outside in my butterfly bush), a wooded angel, 2 DVD's and a painted enamelware percolator. I saw those percolators online and it said they were made in Sweden. It is so pretty.


 
And, I also got this black basket and everything in it - milk glass salt and pepper shakers, a jar lifter used when canning, and a vintage kitchen utensil. I think it is used for tenderizing meat. Anyone out there know for sure?
 

I got both baskets and everything in them for $5.
I also got this small quilt rack. The doll quilts are ones that I made a few years ago. I think I will stain the wooden rack to make it look nicer.

 
Below is a wooden bread basket, large old green vase, milkglass vase and glass measuring cup.
I have already painted the breadbox red to match my kitchen.

 
And last, but not least, my husband just had to get this.
Why, I don't know.
An old potty chair with an enamel pot for $1.
I guess I could put flowers in it.

 
I got a few other things, but didn't post everything here. I got a bunch of books and a lot of them were from a free box.
We didn't really get to go to any sales on Friday and Saturday because I went to the WVWriter's Conference at Cedar Lakes.
More about that on Writing Wednesday.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Writing Wednesday

Openings!

We need to have good openings to get the publisher's attention.
We call them hooks.
With the first line, the first paragraph and the first page of our manuscript we need to hook the reader (and publisher) so he wants to turn the page and continue reading.

There are many ways to do this.
We can hook the reader by using action verbs and creating an immediate conflict.
We can open our story with an intriguing setting.
We can open with violence or danger.
We can open with mystery.

What do you like to open with?

Our readers want to be entertained. If we do not grab their attention early on in the story, they will put our book down. We don't want to gradually sneak up on the story. We need to start with action.

In my first draft of my MG manuscript, with the suggestion of my critique group, I skipped past the first chapters and started my story at chapter three. I later worked in information from those first chapters. It made for a much better story. I did not lead up to the action, my story now started with action and a little mystery!

I did not know this when I first started writing, but my experienced critique partners noticed it immediately.

In fact, I admit that I did not know much of anything about writing when I first started. But, with perseverance, practice and a very helpful writing group I have grown as a writer.

If I keep it up, maybe some day I will have one of my stories published.

What or who has helped you grow as a writer?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Appalachian Stack Cake


I attempted to make an old fashioned applesauce stack cake to take to our family reunion. This was only the second time I had ever made this cake. I don't have my grandma's recipe, so I just put together my own recipe from others I had.
There aren't many ingredients. 
I think this is why the cake was popular in the old days.
It took a few simple ingredients that they already had on hand.
My grandmother made this cake all the time.
I have many memories of walking  in the back door of the kitchen
and her slicing me a piece of this cake.
My Aunt once told me that if Grandma didn't have applesauce, 
she would put apple butter or jelly in-between the layers.




1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup shortening, 3 eggs, 2 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup buttermilk, 4 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsp. ginger
(48 oz jar of applesauce, 3/4 tsp. allspice, 3/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp cinnamon)


Cream 3/4 cup shortening and 1 cup of sugar





Add 3ggs, beat well. Add 2 tsp vanilla and 1 cup of buttermilk.
(I did not use a mixer, I did all my mixing by hand)




Add 4 1/2 cups flour and 2 tsp. of ginger.


 
This would normally make around 8 layers, but I made my layers smaller than usual.
With my hand, I made the dough into 10 balls and patted them out by hand onto floured wax paper.
 
I greased the bottom of a pie plate. It measured around 7" inside the pie plate. 
Place the floured circle of dough inside and pat it out to fit.
Cook in 375 degree oven until golden  brown (around 15 minutes or so)
(For larger layers, you could use a 9" cake pan.
You can turn the cake pans upside down and put the dough on the bottom
of the greased pan. This way, it will easily slide right off after baking.)

 
Stack the baked layers and place a generous amount of the applesauce mixture in-between each layer.
Some recipes say to let them cool before stacking. I didn't.
 
Poke toothpicks in the top, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator.
It is better after setting for a couple of days.
It gets moister the more it sets.

 I also put the applesauce mixture on the top.
Many recipes tell you not to do this.
Well, I had to be different. I figured the more applesauce the better.

What would Grandma say? 
"Well honey, at least you tried."

Seriously, it turned out pretty good.
Give it a try sometime, it is not all that hard.

Do you remember your grandma making these cakes?


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Family Reunion

Our McMillion Family Reunion is Saturday!

I've got my pile of vintage tablecloths ready. 
Thirty should be enough, don't you think?
I put these over the picnic tables.



Below is a poem I wrote.
It is a fictional account of a fun family reunion!




The Family Reunion

The road goes up, down and all around, on the way to our family reunion.
Back through the hills to my Uncle Bills, we are going to our family reunion.
We will drive the dirt road, with our carload, up to the end of the holler.
And this time of year, every year, we get to see all of our cousins.

We start to unpack and I grab a quick snack as Sis runs for the babies.
Mom fans her face while Grandpa says grace over the food and the fixin’s.
We see tall Uncle Matt who wears a big hat and is married to short Aunt Bertha.
And this time of year, every year, we get to see all of our cousins.

I scare Uncle Jack who pats my back and I hug my sweet Aunt Gracie.
We eat more than our share, without any care, on the tables under the shelter.
We see Uncle Dan and Grandma Fran who forgets more than she remembers.
And this time of year, every year, we get to see all of our cousins.

Oh what a sight as the cats start to fight and knock over the Kool Aid and coffee.
Dad strums his guitar and I show off my scar when we swim down at the river.
We see big Uncle Jim and Great Aunt Em who brings her black cat named Tilly.
And this time of year, every year, we get to see all of our cousins.

I jump over some logs, catch some bull frogs and fall in a patch of ivy.
We pitch horseshoes, take a snooze, and see who can spit the farthest.
We see Aunt Connie sip tea while old Uncle Lee tells us his many war stories.
And this time of year, every year, we get to see all of our cousins.

“Gee, it’s been fun, but we’ve got to run,” says Mom to Uncle Dilbert.
We say our good-byes, wipe the tears from our eyes and load the old station wagon.
We will miss them all, each one and all, even the dog that bit me.
But this time next year, every year, we will go back to see all of our cousins.

The road goes down, up and all around, on the way back from our family reunion.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writing Wednesday


I'm "plumb tuckered out", as my grandma used to say, so I am doing a re-post today.
I posted this last year after attending our West Virginia Writer's Conference in Cedar Lakes.
I hope you enjoy it and comment, it has some very good advice on writing.

More Writing Workshop Info

I attended a picture book workshop conducted by children's author, Cheryl Ware. But if you are not a picture book writer, please read on, I think the information will help you with any genre of writing you choose to write.

Here is a group picture of the attendees of her workshop. Cheryl is the tall lady in the middle, I am in the pink shirt beside of her.



I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop. She came with a pile of picture books to share with us. She read a few of her favorites.

She told us something that I think is very hard to do. She said to find the holes in the market - find what hasn't been written. I think this applies to all genres of writing, don't you?

She showed us some books that she stated when she first saw them, she didn't think they were the greatest. But when she read them to small children, they loved them!

They shouted out answers when she read the text to them!
They became involved in the reading!
They wanted it read over and over again!

I think that is what we want to accomplish with any of our books. We want our reader to become involved with the story and for them to want to read it over and over again.

One of her favorite books : THE DOT
If you write picture books, but haven't read this one, go to the library and check it out.
It is so simple, yet so good!

Some very good advice from her:

Start your story on a day that something is different in their life.
Ending should be expected, but a surprise.

As you can see, I think you can take this information and apply it to whatever type of writing you do, whether it be for adults or children.

Some of Cheryl's published books are:

Flea Circus Summer,
Catty-Cornered,
Venola in Love, and
Venola the Vegetarian

Her stories introduce you to Venola May Cutright, a spunky 11 year old girl.

I hope you read something from this post that will help you with your writing.

Happy Writing! And, I hope to see some of you at the Writing Conference on June 4 at Cedar  Lakes.