Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Joy of Prosody: The Anapestic Foot



by Liz Mastin

I have discussed the most commonly used feet in metered poetry; the iambic and trochaic feet, in my past columns and have given examples. Both of these feet have two beats: the iamb sounding like (da DUM’) with the hard stress placed on the second syllable and the trochee, sounding like (DUM’da) with the hard stress landing on the first syllable. But another commonly used foot is the “anapest.”  The anapest is a three syllable foot sounding like this: da da DUM’.

According to Wikipedia “Because of its length and the fact that it ends with a strong syllable and so allows for strong rhythms, the anapest can produce a very rolling, galloping verse, and can allow for long lines with a great deal of internal complexity.” I think the best way to show you how the anapest works is by example.

Examples of anapestic poems:

Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabellee”

“For the moon/   never beams/   without bring/   ing me dreams/   of the beau/   tiful Annabellee’.”


Lord Bryon’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib

“The Assy/    rian came down/     like a wolf/      on the fold”

Limericks are all anapestic, as well as most of the Dr. Suess’s children’s books.

To determine the footage of poem one looks at the predominant foot. In the poem “Slievenamon” you see other kinds of feet beside the anapestic foot, but they are substitutions in a predominantly anapestic poem

Example from “Slievenamon” by Irish poet Charles J. Kickmam

Alone, all alone,by the wave-washed strand,
And alone in the crowded hall.
The hall is gay, and the waves they are grand,
But my heart is not here at all.

“All alone, by the wave, and alone, in the crowd, and the waves, they are grand, but my heart, is not here: these are all anapestic feet sounding like da da DUM."

The other words in the lines form pure iambs.

Here is “Slievenamon” in its entirety. See if you recognise the anapests as they appear throughout the poem. This poem is an anapestic poem by any standards. You will see the substituted iambs throughout, as well.

Slievenmon
By Charles J. Kickmam

Alone, all alone, by the wave-washed strand,
And alone in the crowded hall.
The hall is gay, and the waves they are grand,
But my heart is not here at all!
It flies far away, by night and by day,
To the time and the joys that are gone!
And I never can forget the sweet maiden I met,
In the valley near Slievenamon.

It was not the grace of her queenly air,
Nor her cheek of the rose’s glow,
Nor her soft black eyes, nor her flowing hair,
Nor was it her lily-white brow.
“Twas the soul of truth and of melting truth,
And the smile like a summer dawn,
That stole my heart, one soft summer day,
In the valley near Slievenamon.

In the festive hall, by the star-watched shore,
Ever my restless spirit cries:
“My love, oh, my love, shall I ne’er see you more?
And, my land, will you never uprise?
By night and by day, I ever, ever, pray,
While lonely my life flows on,
To see our flag unrolled, and my love to enfold
In the valley near Slievenamon.

Liz Mastin is a poet who lives in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho during the summer and Bullhead City, Arizona in winter. She thrives on the study of the great poets, their biographies, the schools of poetry to which they adhered, and the poetic conventions of the times in which they lived.

While she enjoys free verse as well as metrical poetry, her main interest lies in prosody. She notices that most of the enduring poems are those we can remember and recite. Liz enjoys poetry forms such as the sonnet, the sestina, the couplet, blank verse, simple quatrains, etc. and she hopes to see modern poets regain interest in studied metrical poetry.

Liz is currently putting together her first collection of poems which should be completed this winter. The poems are a mixture of metrical and free verse poems.


Monday, May 28, 2012




Sometimes it seems like writing is kind of a futile effort – like the words we write won’t get read and don’t really matter – but every once in awhile the world of being a writer opens the door to do something meaningful.  Whether you write to advise, inform or entertain, there is always the chance your writing may make a difference in someone’s life.

A few weeks ago a man walked into the Panhandle Sun newspaper office where I work and handed me an envelope.  He tried to say something then stopped.  He began again, but seemed unable to get the words out.  It dawned upon me he was trying not to cry. 

Glenn McKee entered the U.S. Navy in 1943.  At seventeen, his father had to sign for him to enter the service underage.  He finished boot camp and was sent to war aboard a landing ship dock that transported smaller boats, tanks and equipment.  During the next two years he saw action in seven major invasions and saw things he wishes he had never seen.  He remembers Okinawa as being the worst, but there were others: Saipan, Luzon, Leyte.

On April 30, 2012, Glenn and 35 other World War II veterans climbed aboard an Honor Flight and were flown to visit veteran’s memorials in Washington D.C.  The entire trip was paid for by donation.  The men attended a banquet and received thanks for their service wherever they went.

A few days later a cheering crowd welcomed them home at the Spokane airport.  Each received a handful of cards from area school children thanking them for their service.  The next morning Glenn came to see me. The envelope?  It contained his name tag from the trip which was printed with Honor Flight information. 


His gratitude continued to overwhelm him every time he tried to speak.  By the time I understood what he wanted, I too was in tears.

Glenn wanted me to place information about the Honor Flight in our paper.  He wanted to make sure that every veteran, no matter what health problems they had, made the trip.  He wanted to put information about the flight out there so others don’t have the trouble he did in getting on the waiting list.  He wanted every veteran to feel the thanks of a grateful nation. 

His story was on the front page of our paper on May 23, 2012.  The article included these same thank you cards.

I know Memorial Day is a day dedicated to honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice – their lives in service to our country.  But in this busy world, it is also a good time to thank all veterans for their service.

During WW II my father, his brother and three brothers-in-law were all serving our country.  I have some of their letters.  My dad was serving in the South Pacific as a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Force.  My Uncle Kenny was a driver in the motor pool with the U.S. Army in France.  Uncle Jesse, Uncle Bob and Uncle Burt all served in the U.S. Navy.  Uncle Jesse was in Cuba at the end of the war.  Uncle Burt was a Pearl Harbor survivor.  They all came home from the war.  They are all gone now.  I wish they could have gone on the Honor Flight.

What you can do:
·        Tell any veterans you know about Inland Northwest Honor Flight.  Once World War II veterans have gone, communities are sending Korean and Vietnam veterans and intend to see that all who served make it to Washington D.C. to see their memorials. 
·        Make a donation to the Inland Northwest Honor Flight.  Find out more about the organization at inwhonorflight.org.

   
·     Join in the “National Moment of Remembrance” by pausing from whatever you are doing at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, to observe a moment of silence in remembrance and respect for our veterans. 
·        Place a flower on the grave of a veteran.  In some communities, individuals place flowers on the graves of U.S. soldiers unknown to them, in appreciation of their service to our country.
·        Place a flag at the gravesite of a veteran.  Many groups place flags at the gravesites of U.S. soldiers.  Each year, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. infantry place over 260,000 flags at each of the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.
·        Visit a veteran’s memorial or place a wreath at a veteran’s memorial site.  Each year the U.S. president or vice-president places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery
·        Attend a Memorial Day program.  Nearly every cemetery holds a Memorial Day program to honor our nation’s deceased veterans.  Check with your local cemetery, a local military group or watch for notices in your local newspaper.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Events for Writers: Seminars, Workshops, Speakers, Book Signings

There are a number of learning opportunities for writers being offered in the North Idaho area in the coming weeks. They include monthly seminars sponsored by the Loon Lake Ink Slingers, as well as free writing workshops hosted by Eastern Washington University. Check out the details below.

 ____________________


THE ART OF WRITING SEMINAR

The Art of Writing Seminar, sponsored by the Loon Lake Ink Slingers, announces their agenda for the monthly seminar hosted by Terry Hughes, author of the novel Burning Paradise. The seminar’s venue is The Depot, a Knapweed restaurant, located at 107 Shaffer in downtown Springdale, seven miles west of Loon Lake.

SCHEDULE

The Art of Writing seminars occur on the last Friday of every month from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Hughes will speak from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., and then the guest speaker will discuss the topics listed below, plus chat about their books, until Noon, at which time there will be a lunch break, social hour and book signings. All events will be recorded for audio books by Blue Line Multimedia Enterprises, and will be aired on Spokane’s community access Channel 14.

The current guest speaker schedule is as follows:

May 25 Craig Goodwin author, Year of Plenty, Pastor, Millwood Community Church
Topic: The Art of Living Locally

June 29 Frank Scalise (pen name, Frank Zafiro) author, ten published novels. Frank is also a major with the Spokane Police Department
Topic: The Art of Writing While Earning a Living and Raising a Family

July 27 Dawn Nelson, author of too many books to count
Topic: The Art of Writing While Living

Aug 24 Laura Munson, NY Times Best Selling Author of This Is Not The Story You Think It Is...
Topic: The Art of Getting on the NY Times Best Seller List

There is a five dollar charge for each event. For more details contact: Eve Dubois, 509-844-6650.

____________________


FREE WRITING WORKSHOPS

Eastern Washington University's Writers will be hosting a series of creative writing workshops for adult writers. These workshops will consist of craft-based discussion, writing exercises, and mini-workshops to provide feedback to authors. All workshops will be led by graduate students from EWU’s creative writing program.

Writing exercises and writing time will be built into the workshop format. Participants can bring works in progress to work on during the sessions, but it is not necessary.

All workshops will meet in the library of the Student Academic Center on the EWU/WSU Riverpoint campus. The address is 600 N. Riverpoint Blvd. in Spokane. The entrance to the library is on the second floor of the building.

Workshop Schedule:

Sunday, May 27 @ 2 - 4 p.m. – Fiction

Sunday, June 3 @ 2 - 4 p.m. – Poetry

Pre-registration is not required. Questions? Contact the WITC office at (509) 359-7437 or by email at witc.ewu@gmail.com.

____________________


AUTHOR BOOK SIGNINGS

There are several author book signings scheduled at Aunties Bookstore in Spokane. For these and other events in the North Idaho area, check the Events page of this blog.



And finally, here’s a fun graphic my about the English language from BusyTeacher.org.




Have a wonderful weekend!




Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bookshelf Makeover: Keeping Current

Does your bookshelf need a face lift? I know mine does.

We all have our favorite “How To” writing books on our shelves that we purchased years ago and still refer to on occasion. But there are many writing-skills books published each year by authors with new experiences, perspectives and ideas about how to be successful in our writing endeavors.

As writers, it’s important to keep informed not only about the writing and publishing industry in general, but also about the current resources for writers. Even if we have heard the same information from a different author, sometimes it takes the right thing said the right way by the right person at the right time to finally click in our head and put us on a new path toward reaching our writing goals. Keeping informed helps guide us toward better decisions in our writing and our writing careers.

To get a jump on what’s new, here are 10 books about writing due to come out within the next several months. They are available for preorder and will be published in both paperback and ebook formats.






Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction
Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd
Random House, January 2013

Lessons from a lifetime of writing and editing from Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder and author Richard Todd. 
 


Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers
Mary Kole
Writers Digest Books, December 2012

Authored by literary agent and blogger Mary Kole.



Monkeys with Typewriters: How to Write and Read Better
Scarlett Thomas
Canongate UK, December 2012

Exploring how fiction works, this manual shows you how you can learn to understand it well enough to crack open any fictional narrative, and, if you like, start creating your own.



Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing
Constance Hale
W. W. Norton & Company, October 2012

A writing handbook that celebrates the infinite pizzazz of verbs.



Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
Lisa Cron
Ten Speed Press, July 2012

This guide reveals how writers can utilize cognitive storytelling strategies to craft stories that ignite readers’ brains and captivate them through each plot element.

Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in Modern Fiction
Donald Maass
Writers digest books, October 2012

Donald Maass heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 150 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?: A Writers Guide to Transforming Notions into Narratives
Fred White
Writers Digest Books, November 2012

Fred White is a professor of English at Santa Clara University, where he has been teaching courses in composition and literature since 1980.


The Arvon Book of Literary Non-Fiction Writing
Sally Cline
A&C Black, October 2012

The Arvon Book of Literary Non-Fiction Writing offers new insight into the critical impact and nature of this evolving genre, adding to the ongoing debate and offering valuable instruction to authors.

The Arvon Book of Crime Writing
Michelle Spring and Laurie R. King
A&C Black, October 2012

The Arvon Book of Crime Writing captures the essence of Arvon teaching into a practical handbook for writers, packed with tips and advice from leading novelists as well as reflections on the genre itself and practical instruction on great storytelling.

A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement
Barbara Abercrombie
New World Library, June 2012

Barbara Abercrombie provides a delightfully varied cornucopia of inspiration — nuts-and-bolts solutions, hand-holding commiseration, and epiphany-fueling insights from fellow writers, including Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners and Abercrombie’s students who have gone from paralyzed to published.


So, get ready to discover new resources to add to your library. Consider getting ahead in the line by dusting off your bookshelf, sliding over the old favorites, and making space for the new.

Happy Browsing!




Monday, May 21, 2012

Renovations and Revisions: The Writing life

My husband and I have been renovating a boat. The boat (named Pretty Lady by my father after my mother) was the last one my father built in the early 1980s while living in Ketchikan, Alaska. After my folks’ passing, we had the boat brought from Alaska to Idaho where it underwent mechanical repairs in Coeur d’Alene to get it into good working order again, and then had it delivered to our back yard last fall where we are renovating the interior and giving the Pretty Lady a face lift, of sorts.

Working on the boat over the past few days, I couldn’t help but think of the long hours my father had worked on the Pretty Lady when he originally constructed it. He had spent hours on end welding, sawing, hammering and bolting the boat together. And now, nearly 30 years later, I (along with my husband) am spending hours on end sanding and refinishing wood, pulling up old flooring, painting, and shining aluminum, to help bring it back to life.


As this renovation process progresses, I feel like I have been mimicking a small piece of my father’s life, following one of those preset patterns in which we sometimes find ourselves repeating things we have gleaned from our parents or others.

These patterns are learned, and we follow them in all areas of our lives. In our writing lives we get these patterns from other writers as we study and learn from those who have accumulated knowledge and experience. We mimic their styles as our own style develops. We look to them for guidance, techniques, and tips for improving our writing.

Our goal for the Pretty Lady is to have it seaworthy, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing. This goal works as well for the books we write. 

Like the Pretty Lady, we need our stories to be structurally sound, mechanically correct and in good working order so that they are seaworthy when the day comes to launch them into the publishing world. We also want our books to be aesthetically pleasing. We want our book covers to garner the attention of readers; to entice them to open the front cover and begin reading. We want a comfortable interior layout that has an easy-to-read typeface with clear organization, adequate spacing and white space.

To do this, of course, takes hard work with thoughtful attention. We need to “renovate” our manuscripts again and again to make our stories as compelling as possible. We need to make sure every scene is complete, to cut what is not essential and to add what is essential. We need to revise our prose for the greatest impact on the reader. We want to fulfill our promise to our readers and to try to give them more than they expect.

There are a number of writing-related books that give us patterns for revising our manuscripts. Two I have on my shelf are Revision by David Michael Kaplan (Story Press, 1997), which is one of my favorites. Even though Revision may now be out of print, copies are still available through the Amazon marketplace.

Another book I found helpful was Manuscript Makeover (Perigee Trade, 2008) by Elizabeth Lyon, who goes into great depth about many aspects of the revision process.

A more recent publication is Crafting Novels & Short Stories (Writers Digest Books, 2012) by the Editors of Writers Digest.


       

Whether we self-publish or contract with a publisher, we want our manuscripts to be strong enough to weather the potential turbulence of the publishing world and have its best chance at drawing readers. And it is those who have come before us that give us that chance, whenever we are ready to climb aboard.

Bon Voyage!


Friday, May 18, 2012

Obstacles in the Way of Love




In glancing at a book lying on my desk, entitled, 20  Master Plots and  how to build them, by Ronald B. Tobias, I had a look at master plot number fourteen: Love.

While I would not describe myself as a fan of the romance novel, I can attest to having a great deal of affection for a beautiful love story. The structure appears to be quite simple. You put an attractive pair together and then toss obstacles in their path. We become involved to such an extent that we want to see the hero ford the raging river, ride through woods filled with stinging nettles, capture and rescue the trapped object of his affections and we are only satisfied when we are assured that they will be together in the end.

The idea of obstacles, defined as hindrances, things standing in the way, or in opposition to, sits as an uneasy topic with me. I am a person who likes to smooth the way, not make it more difficult. I fall in love with my characters, with my protagonist most of all, so the task of making things block the way to success, does not come naturally to me. Yet for a work of fiction, it is essential.

These roadblocks come in all shapes and sizes; adding a surprise factor can make events more exciting. There are different ways to think of them. My most literal memory of an obstacle happened to occur all too  frequently when on long canoe trips. In my childhood and teen years, cooler heads had to coax us to accept the challenge before us with some modicum of good cheer.  We would be on slow moving rivers, dazzled by what looked to be fields of floating water lilies. We would line the gunnels of the canoe with pink and white blossoms by weaving the tendrils through the wooden slats. We would imagine away the grime of our days in the bush by feeling as if we had become like the Lady of Shallot. Then around a soft bend we'd turn and alas, we would find ourselves foiled by the work of the industrious beaver. The dam would block our way completely. If it was sturdy enough to hold the weight of a strong man, our guide could sometimes crest it and heave the canoe over. This could only happen if we had attempted to beach our craft on soggy, uncertain ground, somehow manage to unload our large, green canvas packs and then disembark, gingerly.  Many attempts would see one foot securely planted and our problem swiftly remedied, when whoosh, in we would sink, sometimes up to our waist in inky, stinky, floating mud. Then the man atop the dam would hear a great snap and his footing would give way plunging him down into a sticky wicket. So there we would be. Sunk in the mud, stopped in our path, with mosquitoes on the attack without mercy. Some would cry, others would swear, but most of us would laugh and start to figure our way out.

Whether getting bogged down, literally, or slogging through a novel, or being stymied by rejection, every writer needs courage and determination, as well as relentless focus on the goal. Obstacles come in many forms.  We do not know who first said the words, "where there is a will there is a way." I would venture to guess it was someone's grandmother.

We can credit Virgil for these words.
“Every calamity is to overcome by endurance.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow heard the old story of Evangeline and her lost love, while dining one evening at Nathaniel Hawthorne's house. The tale was well know at the time. It told the sad story of lovers parted on their wedding day by the cruelty of the governor of English Canada. Acadia, what is now Nova Scotia, having been happily settled by intrepid folks from the coast of Brittany, in 1640, were now, after more than one hundred fruitful years, under threat of expulsion. If they would swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown and renounce their Catholic faith, they could stay. If not, they would be banished to ports unknown, irregardless of family ties. Evangeline and her Gabriel were separated. She ended up in the swamps of Lafayette where a statue, pictured above, remains to this day.  They were reunited only at the end: Gabriel died in her arms.

Longfellow wrote:

"This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss and in garments green open and indistinct in the twilight,   
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic.
Stand like the harper's hoar with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rock comes the deep voiced neighboring ocean,
Speaks and in accents disconsolate
answers the wail of the forest"




As a young girl, my father gave me the nickname of la fille du bois, girl of the woods, in English. The forest primeval, throughout the whole of my life to date, has been my refuge, my inspiration, and my safe haven. I have been a lucky girl, so very fortunate, to have never had to veer far from the personal heaven I have always known, my home beneath the murmuring pines.





Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dear Diary and the Art of Journal Writing



My first journal, begun in the summer between the fifth and sixth grade,  sits on my desk as a reminder of my love of writing. How I loved that little blue plastic book with its tiny lock. To record my private thoughts, with no worries about uninvited readers, seemed like total bliss at the time. However, as I apparently come from a long line of hackers, it took the spies in my midst all of two seconds to pry their way into my deepest secrets, only to repeat them for general entertainment at the dinner table. Nevertheless, I plodded on, writing diaries and journals through most of my life. I can be sporadic, missing a year or two here and there, but I am happy to say that I can at least fill a modest book shelf with my efforts. Lest you think they would make for interesting reading, a record of my time as a teen, then a young wife and a mother, followed by the trials of middle age, I can only attest to the fact that, they are nothing short of pure drivel. How did this happen? I tended to use my diaries and journals as a place in which to beef. The stings and arrows of life that tended to swirl around in my mind, distracting me from my goals, were a nuisance, and so I found a way to expunge them. I have had to make it very clear to my husband and children that they are for my eyes only and in no way a record of my happy, family life. My complaints, when read in bulk, are totally depressing to me now. Why did I not record the cute things the kids said, my thoughts about life, my dreams or my aspirations? I can only confess that they record an inner relationship I have with myself where I like to process things slowly.

In the past, I have thoroughly enjoyed well written journals and have spent weeks and even months reading volume after volume. The top three on the hit parade are as follows: Virginia Woolf, Noel Coward and Lucy Maud Montgomery. Virginia Woolf, like me, set down many frustrations. The unwanted criticisms, the interruptions from writing and the stings of patronizing male reviewers are all preserved for prosperity. My admiration for her as a writer could never be overstated. Her brilliant work, A Room of One's Own, tells us flat out, what we, as women, will have to carve out for ourselves if we are to have any chance at all. To know that anyone would disturb her clear and acknowledged genius, over a question regarding lunch, made me what to chase her housekeeper around the yard brandishing a rolling pin. Her ups and downs, pain and sorrow, small moments of triumph, gave me a clear picture of the path, the road and the way a writer must take. Her bouts of depression and sad end, did not deter me either, as it was clear from the start that she suffered from a malady that had no cure in her day. Describing her struggles, in the light of her illness, afforded an even greater level of inspiration. Her courage astounded me.

By contrast, Noel Coward had a much more exciting life of glamor and parties in London, but he had his endless frustrations as well. In reading his journals, I found much to delight in and sympathize with. The obstacles in his life had a similar ring and can be summarized in one word: interference. Again, I was shocked that anyone would dare think they had a better way to say a line, or to put on a play than he did. I wanted to shoo them out the backstage door. I also loved his take on critics which would be summarized by, “Insulting review in the times.” I gained an understanding that opinions which some people seem to value, are often nothing short of hostility, for whatever reason, and the greatest minds in our midst, those who crafted works of pure genius, seem to have a great ability to not listen to any negativity of any kind.

The third and best grouping I did not read until a few years ago and when I did, I became so involved in them, it changed the way I go about my daily life. For some strange reason, I read the journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, in reverse order. I understood her life from her last days to those preceding the great war, and predating the creation of her most famous work, namely, Anne of Green Gables. To think of her sitting at the kitchen table, in a simple farm house in Prince Edward Island, warmed by the fire in the cook stove, with pencil and notebook in front of her, and no idea of the future ahead, that she was in the process of composing the greatest selling book of all time, gives me chills to this day. Her novel was rejected, and stuffed in a hat box, shelved in a closet and all but forgotten until a spring cleaning project had her take a second look. Astonished to rediscover it with the understanding that it really was quite good, she vowed to try again and the rest is history.

In many phases of my life, I have turned to reading journals when I am stuck and casting about for ideas. This often leads me back to keeping a journal once again. As I scribble away, getting things off my chest and out of the way, sometimes new ideas begin to take hold. When we see a published group of diaries, we are looking at entries which have been recopied and reworked. Some editing and piecing together form the finished look, and no doubt a lot of what is mundane and downright petty is discarded.

From the Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery
The first entry:

1890
Monday, Jan. 20

"Mollie and I have made a decidedly startling discovery about some of our little personal affairs. I am not going to write it down because it is a dead secret. We have refused to tell Nate what it is but we have hinted just enough to fire his curiosity to the blazing point."



Monday, May 14, 2012

The Clubhouse Turn



 I recently had the pleasure of indulging in a familiar and much loved annual rite of spring; I spent a happy afternoon watching the Kentucky Derby. Starting early in order to catch the preliminary shows, I felt informed enough to pick a horse, but did not indulge in off track betting. A call to my sister gave me a heads up. She told me her heart belonged to a beautiful, all white steed, named Hansen. We discussed the favorite, and then she added, "There is also a Canadian entry, a long shot, but we should cheer for 'I'll Have Another'," just in case. I told her I liked the name, but was kind of taken with Hansen too. 

Exposure to the world of thoroughbred racing came early for my sister and me. Our paternal grandfather was a breeder and fierce competitor whose love of the sport of kings became legendary.  Up way before dawn he would be at the rails, stopwatch in hand,  figuring the odds and statistics of the track. He theorized that champions come through the bloodlines, not just in horseflesh, but in people as well. He looked for that quality everywhere. The Canadian  world of horse racing has its own version of the Kentucky Derby, namely, the Queen's Plate. The race often includes the presence of royalty and those lucky enough to win when the Queen is present, will ride around the track with her in a splendid carriage. As a child, I used to think the best part of the event had to be in watching my parents and get dressed. Dad wore a light gray top hat and tails. The ladies, turned out in their finery, and as in Kentucky, donned beautiful hats. I remember my mother hand sewing a garland of flowers for my sister to wear in her hair.

There were times as a child, at our farm in the country, when our old crank style phone would clang in the front hall and we would listen for our special ring, as we were on a party line. When my father said, “We'll be right over,” we kids would start jumping up and down. His words signaled the birth of a beautiful colt, or filly and we would excitedly enter the spotless barn and see a glowing mare nudge her new born to rise up on spindly legs, the chief characteristic of the thoroughbred.  It was on one of these occasions when we found my grandparents arm in arm, peering into the stall.  My grandmother remarked, in reference to the still wet, little filly, “isn't she lovely?” Stricken with cancer, and ill at the time, we were all moved to see her radiant smile. My grandfather, looking at the sight of her, thought his wife had never appeared more beautiful. So he named that horse Jamned Lovely.  As if endowed by a special sort of magic, our beautiful filly went  on to give us the supreme thrill of winning the Queen's Plate, passing a field full of bigger, and stronger looking colts. When she came around the clubhouse turn and the crowd leaped to its collective feet, we knew she had a chance. My emotional grandfather, a widower, at this point, stood, slapped his racing form to the side of his mourning coat and roared, “Come on, come on!”

I am always taken by the stories, not just of the breeders and their skill, but of the trainers and jockeys as well. On Derby day, I  love to see the red roses, the celebration of spring, the time honored tradition of the singing of, 'My Old Kentucky Home'. Horses are noble; there are no two ways about it. They move us with their strength, their beauty and their character. They have moods, they can be persnickety and like us, they are competitive. They inspire great writing too, and many a young girl has been transported to a life long love of horses by reading Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and Enid Bagnold's National Velvet. Seabiscuit also comes to mind, telling the tale of a horse that captured the imagination of an entire nation. The stories often involve, grief, heartbreak and with the help of horses, healing and recovery.


In the race, when the horses reach the clubhouse turn, the field has narrowed, the positions are somewhat set and the jockeys who have held these fine creatures back, up until this point, will let out the reins, give them a few taps with the stick and let them show their stuff. On Derby day 2012, it was the Canadian entry who took the lead down the stretch. Challengers poured on the speed, but they could not quite catch, 'I'll Have Another.' Jockey, Mario Gutierrez wept with joy from the finish line to the moment when his mount became blanketed in red roses.

I think of the clubhouse turn when writing a novel. The last third of the book requires that level of inspiration and speed. It also serves as a milestone in life: when you round that bend, you go into your true power. Ideally, it should spark the same level of excitement.

Now, on to the Preakness.

I am so thrilled to add this update. 'I'll Have Another,' in a flat out race to the wire, won the 137th running of the Preakness today.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Writer's Celebrate Mother's


 (For my mother, Lenora Rosalie Cooney)

What is a mother ? Wonderful mother. A mother’s worth beyond compare. Mothers and Daughters. My mother, my friend. A Mother’s  heart , devoted and true. A legacy of love.  These are  only some of the endearing  sentiments  reflective of mother’s  throughout the ages  -  especially on Mother’s Day—a day of celebration honoring mothers and motherhood.

                                                         
                                                           

 Because this is a blog for writers about writing,  and Mother’s Day is this Sunday, I thought it would be  good to look at what some of the writers of classic literature and poetry have to say about mothers .

Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them allOliver Wendell Holmes.

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother’s love  is notJames Joyce

Mother is the name  for God in the lips and hearts of little children  - William Makepeace Thakeray

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgivenessHonore de Balzac

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause a peace to return to our heartsWashington Irving

In  a letter to his mother, dated Paris, December 23, 1826 Henry Wordsworth Longfellow wrote to his mother :  Two months ago this was in my mother’s hand. It makes me sensible that time  as well as distance separates us….. And then  I look forward to the distant day of our meeting until my heart  swells into my throat and tears into my eyes. I cannot help thinking  that it is a pardonable  weakness

And this letter to her mother (one of my favorites),  dated December 25, 1854  Louisa May Alcott wrote:

Dearest Mother,
   Into your Christmas stocking I have put my ‘first born’, knowing that you will accept it with all its faults (for grandmothers are always kind), and look upon it merely as an earnest of what I may yet do; for, with so much to cheer me on, I hope to pass in time from fairies  and fables to men and realities.
    Whatever beauty or poetry is to be found in my little book  is owing to your interest  in and encouragement  of all my efforts  from the first to the last; and if ever I do anything to be proud of , my greatest happiness will be that I can thank you  for that, as I may do for all the good there is in me; and I shall be content to write if it gives you pleasure.
     Jo is fussing about;
      My lamp is going out.
    To dear mother, with many kind wishes for a Happy New Year and Merry Christmas.
     I am ever your loving daughter,  Louy  

I think of letters I ‘ve written to my dear  mother  while I was away at college, or travelling in Europe;  I  wrote  not only  what I was doing , and about the people I met, but  I  shared  freely my exultant joy over some special happening , and sorrow over some sad event.  I wrote of my hopes and fears, knowing  my mother  would understand better than anyone.  And always, expressing my love for her, so grateful for my mother’s  unconditional love.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, MOM!


*** Note of Interest (Wikipedia) -  When Anna Jarvis had the phrase "Mother's Day" trademarked in 1912 she was specific about the location of the apostrophe; it was to be a singular possessive, for each family to honor their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers of the world.  
President Woodrow Wilson also used this spelling when signing the Bill into law passed by Congress making Mother's Day an official holiday in the United States


  









Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Books About Writing & Food Copy



Writing North Idaho recently added a side bar to its blog, a list of favorite books about writing from each  WNI contributor.

 If  you haven’t read   them I encourage you to do so.  Each give wonderful insight  about the process of writing.  I bet there are  hundreds , maybe thousands of books written on the subject of writing, all with different themes and topics written by college professors, English teachers, newspaper editors, and published authors—some about scriptwriting,   travel writing, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, play, essay and memoir ; Others  about writing children’s  books, Christian books, mystery, Sci-fi and fantasy. All with the purpose to help the writer become a better writer , and reach their goal of becoming published.

Some books  are very specific giving  instruction on  plot, dialogue or description—Writer’s Digest published Guide to Query Letters, and of course there’s Strunk and White’s Element of  Style.  A book every writer should have on their shelf.

My background as a writer didn’t start with a particular genre, but as a journalist.  The books I read, and studied were text books about Journalism . After college I went to work for the Herald American/Call-Enterprise Newspapers  in southern California.  First as a proof reader at the Bellflower Herald Enterprise, then a feature writer assigned to covering stories of interest in the local area.  It gave me good experience in practicing the  Who, What, Where, When and How rule of classic journalism, and helped me grow as a writer.   But it was when the  Managing Editor, Tony Derry  named me as Food Editor that I grew as a creative writer .


                                                             
After accepting the position, reality sank in and I thought , What do I know about cooking. It’s not like I’m Julia Child. I didn't even like to cook.   As a high school Freshman, I nearly  failed Foods class ! And  just prior to my becoming Food Editor I had invited a young man to my house to cook dinner for him.  It was a bit deceiving as it wasn't me who prepared the delicious fried chicken that night ,  it was my brother, Walt.  He was always a better cook than me.  It took some time before my cooking improved.  One of the first meals I fixed for my husband was baked halibut with a special orange sauce.  When I placed it on the table the sauce was burnt, and the halibut steak was  hard as a brick.  Gary looked at it, then looked at me and sweetly said, “Maybe we should go out to eat”.

While I didn’t like to cook , I did like to write  - even about food.

My job as Food Editor was to read the hundreds of recipes mailed to our department each week  and write  a 'savoring'  opening paragraph  about each one,  with a captivating   headline.  For instance, 

GRANNY’S  CHOCOLATE FUDGE
FUDGIER WITH SECRET INGREDIENT
or
MELT IN YOUR MOUTH CREAMY MASHED POTATES
PERFECT FOR  MEMORIAL DAY GATHERING

The number of recipes that ran each week would vary depending on number of pages in the Food section, which was dependent on the number of grocery market ads sold.   Typically,  25   -  35 recipes were featured in the Thursday edition.  But that doesn't mean I only wrote opening paragraph's and headlines for that number each week.  Tony was  insistent  I have a surplus of ready to go food copy in my file, at least enough for three weeks out. 

 Being Food Editor wasn't a burdensome responsibility ,  the challenge was in continually coming up with something new to write about pork and hamburger, sweet potato pie and apple pie.   That’s why when someone asks me when  it was I became a creative writer, I tell them it was while I was Food Editor at the Herald-American/Call-Enterprise.

If only there had been a  book  about writing Food copy,  how it would have helped my appetite for writing !



Monday, May 7, 2012

Latin Alive !


Plures of lacum audimus quod utom utidie adveho ex Latin
Many of the words we hear and use daily come from Latin

Latin est a key ut English
Latin is a key to English

The first Latin I remember  hearing , (and speaking) was  when I was a  young girl attending daily and Sunday Mass  at St. Rose of Lima Catholic church  in Maywood, California when the Priest  would often  say during the course of the Liturgy, Dominus Vobiscum (The Lord be with you), and Altar Boys responeded, Et Cum Spiritu tuo (And also with you).   Then , the priest again, Oremus (Let us pray).

At that time, prior to Vatican II , Missals  were always printed with the Order of the Mass in Latin on one page, and in English on the opposite page.

                                                           

My next experience with Latin was when I entered  Bell High School ,  and Mrs. Gerard taught that ancient language to  Freshman students who were only half interested in what she was teaching.   After all, Latin was considered a dead language.  Looking through memories eye, I remember Mrs. Gerard as a pleasant white haired lady who  seemed to love what she was doing, and delighted in showing her students slide pictures of her trips to Rome, and sharing her love of Latin.   She would periodically stop  her slide presentation to try to stump one of us when she asked a student at random  to name the building, place, object in Latin.   Let’s see.   First Declension or second Declension ?

Oh, how I wish I would have paid better attention !  Enough so to earn an A or B instead of a C.

What I do recall , and still recognize is how much of our English vocabulary  and Latin words have in common, especially in abbreviated form.   Exempli gratia:

A.D. Anno Domini  - in the year of our Lord
A.M. ante meridiem  -  morning (before midday)
P.M. post meridiem  - afternoon
B.A. Baccalaureus Artium  - Bachelor of Arts
M.A. Magister Artium—Master of Arts
Ph.D. Philosophie Doctor—Doctor of Philosophy
N.B. nota bene—note well
P.S. post scriptum—written afterthought
e.g. exempli gratia—for example
Pro tem. Pro tempore—temporarily, for the time
And my favorite, so well expressed by Yul Brynner in his role as King of Siam,
etc.  Et cetera—and other things

 Familiar Latin phrases :
Persona non grata—an unacceptable (or unwelcome ) person
Verbatim ac literatim—word for word  and letter for letter
Pro bono publico  - for the pubic good
Vice versa—changed and turned; turned about

State Mottoes:
Ditat Deus—God enriches (Arizona)
Regnant populi—The people rule (Arkansas)
Esto perpetua—May it be everlasting (Idaho)
Excelsior—Loftier (New York)
Dirigo—I direct  (Maine)
Montani semper liberi  - Mountaineers are always free  ( West Virginia)

Latin phrases are used in the Constitution of the United States:
i.e. Section 3 , dealing with officers of the United States pro tempore , means for the time; In Section 9, dealing with powers forbidden to the United States—the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, making it mandatory that an accused person be brought to court to be told the reason for his or her detention.

The names of all our months come from Latin.  As do the planets, astrological signs, medical terms, musical terms and legal terms.

In her book , Latin Made Simple,  (Doubleday Made Simple, copyright 1992),  Rhonda Hendricks gives an overview of Latin literature writing  it is usually divided into six periods: The Early Period  prior to 80 B.C., The Golden Age—lasting from 80 B.C. until A.D. 14,  The Silver Age; The fourth period called The Patristic Age ran from the late second century through the fifth century. The major writers included the Church Fathers (patres). During this period the Romance languages were developing from local dialects of Latin. The fifth period , called the Medieval Period ran from the sixth through the fourteenth centuries. The sixth and final period  runs from the fifteenth century until the present day. It is called the Modern Period.

The author also writes, Although a classical language, Latin is vital and living—a pillar of our language, our culture, our civilization. Latin is a thread that connects us with our own history; if it were to snap, we would lose our relationship to that past.

Mrs. Gerard would be pleased . As writers, and lover of words , we should be pleased too, to know this language of  history continues to provide meaning and value in our literary life.



        ** For more Latin Phrases visit      http://www.tameri.com/write/coollatin.html