Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lincoln's Proclamation

    Speech writing has a flare all it's own, sometimes to rouse an audience, other times to calm fears; it can provide information, outline a goal or give hope. Many believe there was no better speech writer than the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.  He had an eloquent way with words, and knew how to string them together as perfectly as a seamstress threading a needle then stitching a straight line. Lincoln knew precisely how to use a sentence, a phrase to get his message across.

   Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation  is a fine example of his speech writing , expressing his lofty ideals, and calling a nation to give thanks for their bounty and blessing.  As an admirer of President Lincoln's writing skills, and in the spirit of our Thanksgiving holiday, I share his Proclamation with you now.

Abraham Lincoln's  
1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation  

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world.  May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.  I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.

A. Lincoln
October 3, 1863

Monday, November 25, 2013

To Write About John F. Kennedy

   Below is essay I posted Friday November 22 on my blog 2 lane highway (  in memory of President John F. Kennedy. I share it again, on Writing North Idaho not only because  his meaningless death occurred a week prior to Thanksgiving, and for many of us of a certain age, Thanksgiving and the death of the  President of the United States  seem to intertwine in some surreal way, but  because as writers there is a mountain  of material left to write about    President Kennedy, his family, his politics, the assassination, the 1960's, his legacy and the impact  he had on the folks of  that era, and the continuing  influence he may  have  on future generations.

   Fifty years have passed since President John F. Kennedy was killed. It hardly seems possible so many of us, who were so young when the President was shot on November 22, 1963 , are now older than he was when he died, and yet we remember that horrific day and where we were like it was yesterday.  Several 'friends' on Facebook  posted memories :

*    I remember the day like it was yesterday! I was in choir and Mr. Salter talked to us after the PA announcement. Then we gathered in the cafeteria. No one was eating, and you could hear a pin drop.

* I was standing in the East Quad when I heard the news on the PA system. No one spoke, many shed tears, and most of us held our breath hoping it wasn't true.

* I was in P.E. and walked into the gym and saw Mr. Taschner sitting in the bleachers with his head in his hands, crying. I don't think I had ever seen a grown man cry before.

* I remember being in science class. It was such a sad day. I remember going home watching TV, and crying for days. I still have the newspapers from that horrible time. No matter the politics, everybody loved Kennedy.

   Yes ! I remember too, I  was in 8th grade  at St. Rose of Lima school in Maywood, California,  and  can see in memories eye,  an obviously sad, teary eyed  Sister Mary Agnesine tell the class the President had been shot, and feel  the solemn silence that followed like a darkened room after the lights are turned off. Then we prayed.

    That following Monday school was closed so students could be at home to watch the coverage of the Presidents funeral procession.  Perhaps the image of Mrs. Kennedy and her two children standing in front of the White House, and little John-John's sweet salute as his fathers caisson passed by has left the most lasting impression on us. So tragic, yet so tender.  If the bombing of Pearl Harbor joined our  parents generation together , the assassination of President Kennedy, the first Catholic elected president ,  certainly bound ours. And television played a big part. For the first time as a nation we not only grieved singularly , or within our own community , but collectively as a nation, witnessing together on live TV the killing of a president, his funeral and burial, then the murder of his assassin.


     In a recent New York Times Book Review article titled Kennedy, the Elusive President,  Jill Abramson, executive editor of the Times wrote , An estimated 40,000 books about him (JFK) have been published since his death, and this anniversary year has loosed another vast outpouring. Yet to explore the enormous literature is to be struck not by what's there but by what's missing. Readers can choose from many books but surprisingly few good ones, and not one really outstanding one.

  Whoa! That 40,000 books have been written about President Kennedy is amazing to think about, but what strikes me more is Abramson's contention that none are worthy, that not one is really outstanding. She sites biographer Robert Dallek as saying historians are not really impressed with him , they see him more as a celebrity who didn't accomplish very much.

    In  the scheme of things , I suppose  a thousand days isn't all that long to accomplish goals set out in campaign promises.  But I would submit Kennedy's mark isn't necessarily his political imprint, but the imprint he left on the American psyche, and how his glow, and positive outlook  attracted young and old alike. And today, let  his  words sound loud and true,  Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Excellent Advice for Writers and Runners

Angela White
Guest blogger Angela White gives more insight into the analogies of writing a novel in a month (NaNoWriNo) while training for marathons and triathlons and being a busy mother.
(Who has time for creative post titles during NaNoWriMo? Not me!) Novel word count at start of day 8: 13,040.
In week one, I learned lots of lessons from National Novel Writing Month. Here in week two I’ve learned plenty more (continuing the list):
7. You make time for what’s important to you. Do I have three free hours a day to write? No, I generally do not. But can I cut out watching (as much) television? Yes. Can I steal half an hour to write in my car while I wait to pick up my daughter from gymnastics? Yes. Can I steal another hour to write on a park bench while my youngest plays at the park across the street from her sisters’ tennis lessons? Yes. Can I throw a 15-minute meal in the crock pot on low and save 30 minutes cooking dinner later? Yes. VoilĂ ! Three hours.
8. Procrastination never feels as good as hitting your word count for the day. All things I have done to procrastinate writing: uploaded family photos and created our family holiday card; paid bills; sorted laundry; loaded the dishwasher; written a blog post (ahem). Did all of those need to be done? Well, yes, at some point. They’re certainly productive. But did they need to come before writing that day? No. It’s okay to be flexible (and sometimes guilt is a good motivator) but it feels a million times better to knock out the writing first and reward yourself with other things later. (I’m not sure the privilege of doing laundry and loading the dishwasher is a “reward” but you know what I mean!)
9. You will lose track of time. That is a good thing. You know you’re in the “writing zone” when you look up at the clock and realize an hour has passed when you could swear it only had been five minutes. I have to set alarms (I’m talking multiple alarms: stove, cellphone) to remember to pick up my kids at school on time. You might even lose days. One day it was Halloween and the next day it was November 8. True story.
10. You will lose sleep. That is not a good thing. Even if you don’t stay up late writing (but you will), your brain will churn with thoughts of plot lines. You’ll dream about (not) hitting your word counts, and wake up as tired as if you hadn’t slept at all. Coffee will be your friend. Don’t be surprised if, about a week in, you finally crash and sleep extra hard one night, and yet wake up with an odd sort of sleep hangover, your body’s way of saying, “Oh, so that’s what sleep is! I want more!”
11. Do yourself a big favor and leave a cliffhanger at the end of the day. What do I mean by cliffhanger? Leave yourself a clear jumping-off point for the next day. Taking a precious few extra minutes to outline the next piece of the plot will save you several agonizing minutes of writer’s block the next day. Write that one scene today of course, but leave yourself an unfinished thread as a starting point for tomorrow’s writing. You could even stop writing in the middle of a
(Hahahaha…. I crack myself up. Forgive me. It’s the sleep deprivation.)

UPDATE on Angela's NaNoWritMo writing as on 11/20/13

Thanks, Angela, for some true-to-life experiences that can teach all of us lessons on how to handle a busy schedule and find time to write. 
xo, Mom

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lessons from NaNoWriMo

This is the second of three posts from Angela White, blogger, mother, marathon writer (NaNoWriMo) and marathon runner. Number one in this series was posted on 11/18/13.
Angela White in new racing clothes

Lessons from NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month Word Count as of midday, day 6: 10,584 words. I’m on track, people! I sat in front of the fireplace today and wrote for three hours. Every day I think I’ll take less time or write more words overall than the day before, but that’s pretty much how long it takes me every single day to crank out the necessary 1,667 words.
Having completed one-fifth of the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing 50,000 words, I feel pre-eminently qualified (ha!) to write about what NaNoWriMo has taught me so far.
1. With writing just as with exercise, it’s a lot more fun to knock it out in the morning than to put it off until the end of the day. Mind you, that’s not saying it’s any easier to do the work then, just that it’s less pressure and more rewarding to complete it early in the day.
2. The words that flow the fastest are the ones that come from your own experience. You always hear the advice to “write what you know” and now I know why. I simply have to trust that I have a unique experience and a unique perspective to offer.
3. While I’m on the topic of inspirational advice, let’s go with “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” True for the beginning runner, true for the beginning writer. Do not fear the blank page.
4. You know those photos that circulate every once in a while — the ones that show what you think you look like when you run (a graceful Olympian) and what you really look like when you run (a flailing maniac)? That’s how I feel as I’m writing. I feel like a poser, wannabe writer who is sure to be found out as the flailing maniac she really is. But then I remind myself of lesson #3 above. Repeat to self: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Everyone has to start somewhere. I wouldn’t fault a beginning runner for not having perfect form at the start of her running journey. Why would I expect to be able to write perfect prose right out of the gate?
5. As a writer it’s hard to “show and not tell.” I tend toward very concise writing and speech, and my first instinct is to say, for example: “She worried what would come next” instead of “She hunched her shoulders and furrowed her brow in nervous anticipation.” When I worked as a lawyer, one seasoned paralegal offered me some advice on how to explain legal concepts to a client: “Write like you’re explaining the law to your grandmother.” I need to write for my grandmother. Set the scene. Describe the smells. Paint the characters. Don’t assume the reader sees any of what you see in your head.
6. Find your motivation. I know why I’m doing this, this mammoth marathon writing project. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing a novel and now is as good a time as any to do it. But that’s the big picture motivation. I find that the little picture motivation, for me, is the ability to log my word count for the day and see that blue progress line turn green when I’ve hit 1,667 for the day. It shouldn’t surprise me. After all, I log every mile that I swim, bike or run. Of course I take pleasure in logging every word written!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Running Marathons and Writing Marathons


It is with pleasure that WNI shares the posts of guest blogger Angela White from southern California. She earned an undergraduate degree in literature, a law degree, is a marathoner, triathlete and the writer of two blogs. Her first blog on breast feeding ran for several years and her current blog,, is about her training, nutrition and participation in marathons and triathlons. She is also the car-bound mother of my three wonderful, active granddaughters. Yes, she is my daughter and I am busting-my-buttons proud of her for all she does so well. I have always admired her and her skill at writing (far better than mine). In late October, she announced that she was going to participate in NaNoWriMo by writing a 50,000 word novel in one month (November), in addition to training for a 5K race and another marathon (26.2 miles), volunteering at school, driving children on different schedules to school and to numerous extracurricular activities, reading fifty books in twelve months, and participating in children+parent and 'tweens+parent book clubs...a schedule that would make me blanch.  Below is the first of three posts of analogies between marathons and writing from Angela's blog,

I do love to talk running (and racing and biking and swimming and spinning and kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding and now Jillian Michaels DVD’ing), but in this down time after my third full marathon, I have another kind of marathon in mind: a writing marathon!
Yes, I plan to spend the month of November attempting to write 50,000 words of a novel. I have always wanted to write a novel. Well, to be perfectly honest, I have always wanted to have written a novel. The actual writing work scares the heck out of me. But while the daunting task of writing an average of 1,667 words per day intimidates me, I will not let that stop me.
Thankfully, marathon training has taught me a lot that can be applied to writing a novel:
1. Setting concrete, measurable goals along the way to your main goal can keep you motivated.
2. If you want to grow as a person, do one thing a day that scares you. It’s okay. You might make mistakes, but you’ll learn along the way.
3. There is nothing more satisfying than completing an intimidating task.
4. You must put in the time and effort if you want to see results.
5. The goal for your first (writing) marathon is simply to finish. You cannot expect to “knock it out of the park” on the first try. [Do you see what a stellar writer I am, that I can so ridiculously mix running, writing and baseball metaphors? I consider it part of my freewriting training -- just write, just put words on paper, and save the editing and fine tuning for later!]
Now, you might recall that, in spite of being a very logical lawyer, I still delight in seeing “signs” and good omens before a big race. Right after I wrote that list above, I looked up to see this:
rainbow over the palms
While I don’t really believe it rained in Southern California and then had the sun come out at just the right time for me to see a sign, I do think that seeing that rainbow made a nice little reward for my taking the time to write about my big goal while my daughter played happily at the park.
Have you ever participated in National Novel Writing Month?(I’ve survived a few rounds of National Blog Posting Month but never attempted NaNoWriMo.) What kinds of challenges do you like to take on in the down time for your training?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Patrick Ball: Bard Extraordinaire

A few years ago, my husband and I sat captivated during a performance by a gentleman who, from all appearances, had been transported to our century from some ancient, distant land. Through the simplicity of story, song, and harp, I soon felt myself sitting not in a plush seat in Sandpoint's venerable Panida Theater, but on a mossy stump in a mythical incarnation of of Sherwood Forest, enchanted as a true bard wove his literary and musical spell around me.

What is a bard? Shakespeare is often called a bard, even "the" Bard. Wondering if bard it is just another word for poet, I grabbed my trusty Webster's and read that a bard is "a tribal poet-singer skilled in composing and reciting verses on heroes and their deeds" or "a composer, singer, or declaimer of epic or heroic verse."

In other words, a bard is a poet on steroids. The world needs more bards.

That definition fits performance artist Patrick Ball who, to my great delight, will be making a return engagement at the Panida tomorrow evening, November 16, at 8 p.m. The Bonner County Daily Bee describes it thusly: "In playing the ancient, legendary brass-strung harp of Ireland with its crystalline, bell-like voice, and in performing marvelous tales of wit and enchantment, [Ball] not only brings new life to two cherished traditions, but blends them in concert to create a richly theatrical and hauntingly beautiful performance."

Following in the tradition of the wandering harpists and balladeers of Ireland, Ball tours extensively and has recorded nine instrumental and three spoken word albums, many of which have won awards in both the music and spoken-word categories. 

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students, and are available at Eve's Leaves and Eichardt's as well as the theater. For more information, visit the Panida website.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Math Phobia, or My Worst New Year's Resolution Ever.

Blame it on Barbie.

Do you remember when toymaker Mattel created a minor scandal by equipping a talking Barbie doll with the recorded comment, "I hate math. Math is hard."? Equal-rights proponents, especially those eager to see an increased number of women pursuing STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) raised such a hue and cry over this demoralizing influence on young girls that the offending statement was swiftly banished from Barbie's vocabulary--replaced, one assumes, by something far more innocuous, like "I love tiny pink plastic shoes" or "I have physical proportions not found in nature."

The thing was, I didn't quite see what the fuss was about. After all, I too hate math. Whatever qualities make for a good math mind, I have the opposite. Even the simplest calculations tend to make my brain fog over. For a reasonably smart person, I have a capital-D Deficiency when it comes to numbers. I explain this away by claiming to be a "words" person, not a "numbers" person. (And right now you're muttering that that's a cop-out if ever you heard one. Am I right?)

Somehow I skimmed through high school and college by meeting only the bare-minimum math requirements. Since then, calculators and spreadsheet programs have allowed me to limp along in the real world, to some extent.

Which brings me to the point of this post (yes, there is one):  My Worst New Year's Resolution Ever, the year I decided to teach myself math in a misguided effort to overcome the shame and dread of story problems involving trains leaving this station and that station, and the eternal fruitless quest for X.

And so, thought I, what better way to spend cold, dark winter evenings than plumbing the depths of arithmetic, algebra, even (gulp) geometry? Visions of calculus danced in my head. Just pull out a textbook and begin at the beginning. It should have been simple, right?

Dear reader, I barely made it past chapter one in the textbook. I yawned. I balked. I fogged. Every bad memory I had of math class came rushing back to me, full force. After a halfhearted attempt or two, I dreaded even cracking open the book. And with no teacher holding me accountable, I didn't.
So on top of my epic failure to understand math in school, I have now added a epic failure to stick to a New Year's resolution meant to overcome the first epic failure. Two epic failures for the price of one!

What was your worst New Year's resolution? Or your best one? Write it up and submit it to our Best/Worst New Year's Resolution contest. If you never make resolutions, tell us why you don't. We'd love to hear from you, and you might even win a prize! Details are on our Contests page.

In the meantime, I've been eying an online course in Basic Math. Hope springs eternal. Maybe having an instructor to guide me will help it all make sense, instead of trying to figure it out on my own.

Maybe. But don't hold me accountable.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering Our Veterans

A Whispered Tale

I’d heard fool-heroes brag of where they’d been,
With stories of the glories that they’d seen.
But you, good simple soldier, seasoned well
In woods and posts and crater-lines of hell,
Who dodge remembered ‘crumps’ with wry grimace,
Endured experience in your queer, kind face,
Fatigues and vigils haunting nerve-strained eyes,
And both your brothers killed to make you wise;
You had no babbling phrases; what you said
Was like a message from the maimed and dead.
But memory brought the voice I knew, whose note
Was muted when they shot you in the throat;
And still you whisper of the war, and find
Sour jokes for all those horrors left behind.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Benefits of Joining a Writing Support Group

Sandpoint Film Festival at the Panida Film Festival, Nov. 2, 2013
Just a few days ago I was treated to the heady experience of seeing my first screenplay up on the big screen and hearing audience laughter and applause for my words. First excitement; then happiness; then appreciation. My excitement was in seeing Root Bound in a movie theater. Happiness washed over me when the story touched the audience. And my appreciation for my membership in writing groups blossomed as I became aware of how far I have progressed since the day I first overcame my fear and visited a writing group.

Actor James Pendleton, Director Rebecca Cook and
screenwriter Mary Jane Honegger enjoy the moment
following award at Sandpoint Film Festival.
Without the inspiration, motivation and mentoring I received from members of the Coeur d’Alene Chapter of the Idaho Writer's League I would not have become a writer. Without the mentoring and support of members of Northwest Independent Film & Video Entertainment Society (kNIFVES) I would not have become a screenwriter. Of course my family support was essential (especially my spouse), but in addition to that "attagirl” attitude I received from my family, the information, advice and expertise provided to me by those writing groups enabled me to step up on that stage as a screenwriter. 

Root Bound director Rebecca Cook shares information onstage at the
Sandpoint Film Festival while screenwriter Mary Jane Honegger and
Festival Director Janice Jarzabek share the limelight.
For me, joining writing support groups enlarged my world and enabled me to break outside the solitary box I created around my writing. These groups held informative monthly programs with plenty of networking opportunities; and sponsored classes, workshops and conferences. Through these groups I learned of writing opportunities, grew to appreciate critiques of my work and found mentors whose encouragement helped me set higher goals for myself as a writer.

Jennifer Lamont Leo chats with friends at
2008 Idaho Writer's League Meeting
Most importantly, I found friendship with other writers by joining these groups. They were writers. They understood. They appreciated why it takes me so long to find the right word or phrase. They commiserated with my rejections and urged me not to give up; they buoyed me up when I flubbed (big time); and applauded when success came my way. They showed up for my premier or sent their best wishes.

Nancy Owens Barnes supported my screenwriting from the beginning. Several years ago the two of us decided to learn how to write a screenplay. We attended our first screenwriting workshop in Kalispell together and ordered screenwriting software with the same hopeful expectation. Nancy not only read my first draft of Root Bound, she agonized with me through years of rewrites and cancelled production schedules. As a writer, she understood. She was the first person I called when the project was done. She and her husband Tom attended the Root Bound premier.

Sitting in the same row with her were fellow bloggers Liz Brinton and her husband Nick and Jenny Leo. Other bloggers, Kathy Dobbs, Ana Goodwin and Jennifer Rova, had sent their well wishes prior to the showing. Together the seven of us have been blogging on Writing North Idaho for nearly three years. We all met at the Idaho Writer’s League.  I know it sounds cliche, but their support means the world to me.

WNI Blogettes at Newman Lake retreat in 2011.  From left:
Jennifer Rova, Jenny Leo, Liz Brinton,
Mary Jane Honegger, Nancy Barnes & Kathy Dobbs.
On second thought, I’m going to amend my opening statement. My heady experience was not just in seeing my first screenplay up on the big screen … it was in seeing my first screenplay up on the big screen while surrounded by family and friends who support me as a writer.

With that much support I was already a winner even before the opening credits rolled.  I hope you'll check out a writing support group near you or take a look at the many online networking opportunities for writers.  Good luck!
2013 Root Bound
Audience Choice Award
Sandpoint Film Festival

I would also like to express special thanks
to my husband Larry for his willingness to support
the many extraordinary requests he gets
as a result of my writing career.
Thanks, Hon!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

THE Joy of Prosody: How to do a great reading

By Liz Mastin

I was fortunate to be asked to do a poetry reading last summer at the Fog Dog Art Gallery in Arlington, Washington (state). I would be in the company of  better known poets of the Pacific Northwest, thus I was a little apprehensive. Fortunately I had taken a workshop the previous spring at the Whidbey Island Writer’s Conference entitled “How to do a Fantastic Reading with Craig English.”

Craig was full of information about how to do one’s readings (whether poetry or prose), and after he presented his lesson, we each had the opportunity to read some of our work so that he could correct our errors. Among his lesson points for doing a fantastic reading were:

· Stretch before the reading just as you would before you work out.
· Vocalize with humming, light singing, tongue twisters, etc.
· Breathing exercises helpful.

· Pick the right material for the environment, age of audience, setting, etc.
· Know your time limit and stick to it.
· Practice. Know what you want to emphasize, where the story builds and climaxes (or the poem). Note the difficult lines or passages.
· Pencil in notes to yourself.
· Bring water (it’s okay to pause and take a drink.)
· Control your environment such a asking for a chair if you wish. Get comfortable.
· Plan what you want to say to the audience beforehand (bring notes if you wish.)
· Be loud enough for the people in the back to hear you and ask if you are not sure.

Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah. - Rumi
· Breathe just before you start your reading and between sentences.
· Slow down.
· Know the audience is on your side.
· Don’t hide your face behind the manuscript.
· Look up (if you feel comfortable) but keep your spot on your page with your finger.
· Don’t worry about how your audience listens.
· Enjoy yourself!
· Get the feeling of your poem (of each character in prose.)
· Savor your words
· Deal with mistakes in a normal, confident manner. Audiences love it!

· Plan what you want to say afterwards.
· Sell your books.
· Be gracious and have fun!

Craig also advised practicing before a mirror prior to reading and stressed one cannot speak too slowly nor too loudly. You want to be heard and understood.

Liz Mastin Bio
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.