Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fun Times Ahead

 We are in a winter wonderland out here on Windy Bay. Our kids are headed back to their busy lives. The house is cozy and warm.
 Before I begin my New Year's Resolutions, I always look up what I vowed to pay attention to last year. Tim Cork  provided an excellent list:

I will be grateful
I will listen… focus on being present
I will do my best everyday
I will share
I will collaborate
I will compliment people
I will live without regret
I will respect myself at all times
I will forgive and accept myself when I make a mistake
I will read something new every day
I will write in my journals
I will read 40 books this year
I will launch my new book … “G3”
I will speak to over 25,000 people this year
I will listen to self-help audio books in my car … your car is just a University on wheels
I will make those around me feel loved
I will forever pursue happiness regardless of what occurs
I will take responsibility for my actions
I will surround myself with people who inspire me
I will laugh at myself
I will hug my wife and children often
I will help those in need
I will use kind words in difficult situations
I will live with an attitude of gratitude
I will respect others points of view
I will pick myself up when I fall
I will work out every day
I will drink lots of water (and wine)
I will say sorry when I make a mistake and mean it
I will take a break when I need it
I will live every day as if it is the first and the last
I will not be driven by fear
I will find extraordinary in every day
I will enjoy my food
I will be patient
I will get up early
I will teach leaders and learn from leaders through my work
I will read this list every morning
I will not take myself too seriously
I will cry when my emotions tell me to
I will listen to my inner voice
I will focus on the attitude of giving
I will play hockey, golf, tennis, swim and ski regularly in season and stay very active

"Whether you think you can or can't, you are right" - Henry Ford       

I read my list every day when I wake up and it jump starts my day … positive affirmations & repetition creates excellent habits and a life of abundance and success.

Make it Straight A's Week & Year!  
Seasons Greeting and all the best for 2015!

Tim Cork

Are you getting Straight A's in life?
Find out at

Monday, December 22, 2014

1 Corinthians Christmas Version

 I Corinthians A Christmas Version by Sharon Jaynes

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling
lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at
mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I
have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend
a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus
on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to
kiss the husband. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn't envy
another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they
are there to be in the way. Love doesn't give only to those who are able to
give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be
lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

Merry Christmas and lots of love to you and yours!

Friday, December 19, 2014

How a Stranger Restored My Christmas Spirit

My Christmas spirit deserted me until a stranger’s words revived 
my belief in the magic of the season.

Everyday pressures and the news of the world overwhelmed me this year to the point that Christmas lost its meaning.  As the season approached, nothing lifted my spirits.  The flickering lights and glimmering tinsel on our Christmas tree didn’t do it.  Watching my favorite Christmas movie didn’t do it.  Even the joy I felt after spending an afternoon baking Christmas cookies with my grandkids deserted me as soon as their cheery voices faded away.

Everything overwhelmed.  Two days ago we cancelled our plans for our anniversary dinner after an unexpected visit from a family member.  Yesterday, unforeseen responsibilities again upset our plans.  So this morning, filled with determination rather than joy, we left home armed with a numbered, to-do list, our Christmas gift list, packages, sizes, addresses, a fistful of sales flyers, and the intent to celebrate our anniversary with lunch and a movie.  After a half hour delay to return home to pick up forgotten gifts that needed to be delivered, we headed off to our favorite restaurant. 

With little thought, I suddenly heard myself say, “Let’s eat lunch there.” as we passed an unfamiliar eatery.  My husband shrugged and nodded his agreement.  I was paying to park when I heard him speaking to someone.

I turned to see him talking to a young woman in a car with another woman and a young boy.  She was asking directions in good, but halting English.  She seemed confused by his directions. 

He explained again … and again, yet she didn’t move.  Sensing her distress, I joined in, trying to give more exact directions.  We were standing out in the cold on a sidewalk, just seconds from finally celebrating our anniversary.  Traffic zipped past as we each struggled to be understood. 

She thought we were leaving the restaurant and asked us to lead her to the address she was looking for.  We said we just arrived and would lose the money we paid to park.  She offered to pay for our parking if we would help her.  I finally offered to draw a map.  While my husband went to get pen and paper, she told me she had been looking for the Toys for Tots address since 9 a.m. … it was now 2 p.m.  They had been driving around the same few blocks for hours, confused by construction, one-way streets, east-west address changes, and a language barrier. 

I made up my mind to help.  I offered to ride with her to show her the way and she could bring me back.  She said, “No, I couldn’t.  I don’t want to lose you!”  We smiled at each other.  When my husband returned I told him we were going to lead her where she needed to go.  He agreed with a smile and we returned to our car and backed out. 

No, I couldn't.  I don't want to lose you!

We nearly lost her car a couple of times due to heavy traffic and changing lights, but about ten minutes later, arrived at Toys for Tots.  We got out and hugged.  She said, “Thank you, thank you.  You are so kind.  I will never forget you.  This was my first time driving here.”  Her young son thanked us and with a huge grin, jumped out of the car and ran up the front steps. 

Her heartfelt words were an unexpected gift, 
rekindling my joy in the season.  

We left, our Christmas spirit returned through the simple words of a stranger for the gift of kindness.  Our parking place was waiting for us when we returned to the restaurant. 

Merry Christmas to you all as you celebrate this time of year in your own special way.  Writing North Idaho is going to take a couple of weeks off and we will return with regular blogs on January 5.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Joy of Prosody: The Joy of Pastoral Poetry

By Liz Mastin

Pastoral poetry is a huge genre and one can only touch on it in a column. “Pastoral poetry,” according to poet Edward Hirsch, “comes from the Latin word pastor, meaning Shepherd.” He continues, “the Greek poet Theocritus originated the pastoral in his ten poems (“idylls”) representing the life of Sicilian shepherds.”

According to Wikipedia, the ideology of pastoral, is that of “shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to the seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It lends its name to a genre of literature, art and music that depicts such life in an idealized manner, and is geared typically for an urban audience.” Pastoral poetry stemmed from a yearning for perceived earlier times, when man lived more closely to nature. It sometimes seems to be a flashback to the Garden of Eden. “Pastoral is a mode in which the poet employs various techniques to place the complex life into a simpler one.”

Previous to Theocritus, the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, in his exposition “Works and Days” presented what he termed a golden age when people lived together in close harmony with nature; the golden age being the best age. The setting for the pastoral poem is usually a “Locus Amoenus,” or beautiful place in nature. Pastoral shepherds and maidens usually have Greek names, reflecting the origin of the pastoral genre, one famous Locus Amoenus (being) Arcadia, a rural region of Greece and the mythological home of the god, Pan. According to Wikipedia “the tasks of these shepherds with their sheep and other rustic chores is held in fantasy to be an almost wholly undemanding lifestyle which abandons the shepherdesses and their swains in a state of almost perfect leisure. This makes them available for embodying perpetual erotic fantasies!”

Some famous writers of pastoral poetry are the Roman poet Virgil, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, Michel Drayton, Christopher Marlowe, William Browne, Alexander Pope, (and) Alexander Barclay, Katherine Philips and Ben Jonson with their Country house pastorals. But many famous poets, besides, have written the pastoral poem. I enjoyed Katherine Phillip’s opinion that “the joys of the countryside and the lifestyle accompanying it (being the first and happiest life when man enjoyed himself) may be maintained by living detached from material things, and not over-concerning oneself with the world around us.

Virgil believed that a “young poet should learn his craft by writing pastorals before proceeding on to the grander form of the epic.”

Example of a pastoral poem:

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
By Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hill, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds’ swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Come live with me and be my love.

Friday, December 12, 2014

All the World's a Stage

All the World's a Stage

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sleep Tips for Writers

                                                             Dr. Hugh Smythe

Where do you rest your weary head? An unsettled mind will wake you up in the middle of the night. What do you do then? Get up? Stare at the ceiling? Go to another room? Read? Turn on the computer and abandon hope of any decent rest? I know, you are thinking, all of the above.

Have any significant contributions been made to the science of sleep? Yes. My uncle, the late Dr. Hugh Smythe and his friend, Robert F. Clark, created the shaped pillow. Dr. Smythe used his knowledge of medicine to study how mankind has dealt with sleep through the ages. With his electric carving knife and some foam padding he went to work to invent a better pillow.

Do you toss and turn and punch your pillow? Do yourself a favor and get a new one that supports your head and neck. As writers we cannot afford to block any ideas that may flow in the night. You will not be sorry, I promise you.

When writing My American Eden, I took a trip to Plymouth to see what how colonials lived in the mid 1600's. Floored by the short beds, I asked the guide, sitting at her spinning wheel, to explain why people did not lie flat. Pneumonia, the old man's friend, was the answer. Fearing death in the night had weary farmers sitting up. Noting the pillow, as was my training from my uncle, I saw that they used round and quite firm bolsters. The sheets were made of linen, hence where we get the term bed-linens, and it looked altogether Spartan to my jaundiced eye.

The expression, sleep on it, has always made good sense to me. Our brains are over-stimulated, and that condition gets worse by the minute. Sleep specialists always advise not to watch television as an aide to insomnia, as it only makes the condition worse. A long walk, in the fresh air, followed by a healthy diet, during the day, restricting processed foods and refined sugar, dining early, and other good habits really do help. Yet so many nights I am wide awake at an ungodly hour. Warm milk with turmeric and cinnamon, a tip I learned from watching Dr. Oz works wonders. Years ago, I used to refrain from getting up and would lie in bed driving myself crazy running through a litany or worries. Now I get up and read until my eyes are tired, or I listen to sleep tapes I found on YouTube. If I find that I am at a loss for words during the day, and thus am awake and trying to sort out whether a chapter in my novel should stay or get the ax, I often find the answer in the morning. Stephen King was on a vacation in London when he he awoke in the morning with a story in his head. He told his wife he had to write, asked the hotel manager to set him up with a desk and wrote Carrie. The rest is history.

Nothing changed my sleep problem as significantly as a visit to this website:
Having purchased memory foam shaped pillows in department stores I have long been sold on this concept, but the real deal is much much better.

“Through human history, people would sit on soft pillows during the day but set them aside at night in favour of neck support pillows. Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese, Polynesians and Africans all used neck supports made from a variety of relatively unyielding materials, including: wood, ceramics, leather, alabaster and ivory. The bolster used widely in Europe is mechanically similar.”

Good health to ye.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pull and Bloody Pull

Boys in the Boat

Many great accounts filtered down to me regarding Daniel James Brown's account of Boys in the Boat. When a book is recommended that highly, it rarely disappoints. That goes double for this amazing re-telling of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the lads from Washington.

One of the members of the Best Food Ever Book Cub, posed this interesting question: “What made the boat speed through the water faster than any other boat? Coaching? Pocock's design and cedar cut from the B.C. coast? Determination, competitiveness, and will? The Fates?” These are all great questions, and I know the discussion will be very lively as we look for answers.

It is my personal belief that champions are born, and champions are also made. What kept me turning the pages of this book that topped the New York Times bestseller list, is the recreation of a time and a place. A quest plot drives the action as we are literally pulling for every member of the crew. From hard working circumstances and the depths of the depression, these young men prepare to make themselves champions. The coaching is superb. There are words of inspiration for us to read and tuck away in our minds, on our blackboards, and in our diaries.

“One of the first admonitions of a good rowing coach, after the fundamentals are over, is “pull your own weight,” and the young oarsmen does just that when he finds out that the boat goes better when he does. There is certainly a social implication here.” George Yeoman Pocock P. 149

Reading of all the various obstacles overcome by the crew members, the grueling conditions in which they trained, the brute strength they were able to call upon when needed, makes this book an inspiring read. How I wished I had a rowing machine in my basement, or that I could get out on those glassy early mornings in my kayak or my canoe once again. I longed to feel my back muscles stinging, and I wanted to watch whirlpools in the water. I longed to glide along driven by my own steam. There is something so satisfying and immediate about the whole mode of travel that I wanted to feel all that beauty again.

Certainly the boys from Washington had an inner toughness that we long to see again. I can remember that in my youth the hockey players who worked in gravel pits and on farms in Ontario, gaining strength while putting food on the table for their families. Can true grit be found in a gym? I am sure it can, but I have always wondered if overcoming adversity as a child adds to what goes into the  making of a champion.

“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They're the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them, civilization is out of whack. And that's why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it. That's what he gets from rowing.” George Yeoman Pocock P.357

If you have a reader on your Christmas list, or like me, you give books to everyone, Boys in the Boat will be a highly valued addition to any library.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Books on Your Holiday Gift List?

She’s 12; she reads voraciously; she has eclectic taste in genres; she reads above her grade level; she’s ready for Gone with The WindThe “she” in this case is my oldest grandchild. She is receiving this book for Christmas because (A) it is one of my all time favorites,  (B) she is ready for the subject matter and (C) she is old enough to do research on her own about the Civil War to better understand the setting and meaning of the book. I am excited for her to receive it but more excited to talk to her after she has finished reading it. I am also giving her another book, a blank one, A Private Reading Journal. I wish I had kept a journal or log of all the books I read starting when I was twelve. It would be fun to look back ands what I thought a book when I was fifteen, 25 or 65 years old. 

Do you give books as holiday gifts? I have friends who devote their gifts exclusively to books and have done so for years. One buys the book she decides is her favorite from the past 12 months of reading and gives it to the adults on her list. This is tricky finding a book that will appeal to all. Another loves searching, contemplating and then buying the right book for each person on her list. Both these friends read many books and belong to several book clubs so they have a wide variety of books from which to choose. Sometimes it is a classic that makes the list, other times, a new hardback book. Another idea is a gift card to a bookstore and the receiver can choose his own selection.

Here are some web sites for you to peruse to find the right book you would like give. books on writing tips for writers notable children’s books 2014 by American Association of Library Services for Children   children’s lists of best books 2014 chosen by children for ages 5 to 12.

Here are some other gift suggestions for the book lovers on your list. All are available by clicking on this link: 
Selection of soothing music

Book or e-reader holder

Woman's tee shirt

Lighted magnifier
Gift basket with book related goodies

Monday, December 1, 2014

Goood Mooorning Vietnam!

“GOOOOD MOOOORNING VIETNAM!” In this movie Adrian Cronaur, aka Robin Williams, talks about Lyndon Johnson visiting the camp.
            “Excuse me, Sir. Seeing how as the VP is such a VIP…shouldn’t we keep the PC on the QT, ‘cause if it leaks to the VC…he could end up an MIA and then we’d all be put on KP."

These are a textbook perfect example of acronyms.:VP-vice president; VIP-very important person; PC-press conference; QT quiet; VC-Viet Cong; MIA-missing in action; and KP-kitchen patrol. 

For writers these acronyms provide a quandary. How do we use them? What is capitalized, how do I print it when my character is saying an acronym? Is this acronym known or understood in another country? There is no universal agreement on the use of acronyms or on written usage because the topic is too broad, used many different ways and may mean something else in another context. The answers I researched said YOYO (you're on your own.)

Acronyms, also called initialisms, are words formed from the initials of other words: laser, sonar, scuba, AIDS, and NATO.  Additionally there are many sub categories of acronyms.

1.     Pronounced as a word containing only initial letters
MoMA (Museum of Modern Art in NYC), LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries)

2.     Pronounced as a word Necco (New England Confectionary Company), URL (Uniform Resource Locator)

3.     Pronounced as words or letters depending upon the speaker: IRA (individual retirement account, also spoken I-R-A meaning the same or I-R-A meaning the Irish Republican Army), FAQ (frequently asked questions), SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test), AARP (American Assoc. of Retired People which dropped the full name in order to appeal to all adult people)

4.      Pronounced only as the names of letters ABC (American Broadcast Co.), DNA, IBM, GQ Magazine (originally Gentlemen’s Quarterly), USA, NAACP, BP (British Petroleum now British Products), AT&T (New York stock exchange abbreviation for American Telephone and Telegraph), Seattle’s Best Coffee became SBC when it went national but quickly changed back to its full name, AOL (American Online); DMZ (demilitarized zone)

5.      Pronounced but with shortcuts NCAA can be N-C double A, or N-C-A-A; NAACP can be said as N-double A-C-P;  AAA (American Automobile Assoc.) or triple A; Amateur Athletic Assoc. is said in short cut: three As

6.     A variation called orphan initialism involves cases where the name of an organization changes to match its initials. For example, GAO used to be General Accounting Office and is now Government Accountability Office (imagine what that cost us tax payers for new letter head stationery, business cards, etc.) TCBY used to stand for This Can’t Be Yogurt but a law suit forced it to change to The Country’s Best Yogurt.

7.     Pseudo-acronyms are basically what IM (instant messaging) uses. CULT (see you later), BB4N (bye bye for now) and hundreds of others.

Writers need to write so that acronyms are in the proper context and with clear understanding so the readers know what the letters stand for and how to read them, i.e., hear them spoken in their mind.

“Good Morning, Vietnam” was written by Mitch Markovitz, directed by Barry Levinson with much of Robin Williams’’ material improvised. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo: The Graphics Fairy
Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends in the United States and around the world. We're thankful for you!

From the Writing North Idaho team

Monday, November 24, 2014

Murder Mystery Event: How It All Turned Out

The murder mystery event was a success! (For background, the previous post on this topic is here.).

Quick recap: As a fund-raiser for a local history museum, I wrote an audience-participation murder mystery set in our town in 1920. Along with a core group of actors who carried the story, each guest was assigned the role of a specific townsperson: a pharmacist, a car salesman, a schoolteacher, etc. Throughout the evening, actors and guests mingled and clues and red-herrings were shared. Guests could then vote by ballot for whoever they thought committed the murder. At the end of the evening a winner was drawn from all those who had chosen the true murderer.
Chautauqua Performer meets Suffragette

Here are some tips for doing something similar to promote interest in the history of your town:

*Start with your local historical society and/or public library to read about the history of your town and determine a time period/theme for your story. In our case, the 1920s were a time when a lot was going on, locally as well as nationally.

*Research, research, research. Go through local newspapers, archives, and histories of the period and make note of interesting things that happened. While your story will be partly (or even largely) fictional, sifting in as many true facts as you can helps your audience learn real history.

*Stick with a classic storyline and broadly-drawn characters: heroes, villains, allies, enemies, etc. Go for comedy and old-fashioned melodrama; this is not the time for nuanced subtlety, a depressing story, or incisive commentary on the human condition. People are coming to have fun.

Sheriff and Train Conductor
* When casting roles, let actors play to their strengths and interests as much as possible. Got a guy with an interest in trains? Cast him a conductor! Encourage participants to research their own characters and help them find the resources to do this.

*Have fun with the time period. Since Prohibition was in effect in 1920, we enjoyed calling the wine "punch." A surprising number of people were seen carrying hip flasks. We also urged people to support the Nineteenth Amendment giving women nationwide the right to vote (women in Idaho already enjoyed that privilege--another fun fact unearthed in our research).

*Be respectful of the people you portray and their descendents. Even if the true-life characters in your story lived a long time ago, observe the same standards regarding slander and libel that you'd observe with a living person today. When in doubt, assign an evil deed to a completely fictional character. At the end of our production, we had the actors give a short summary of which parts of their characters were true and which were made up for the story.

Here are a few other miscellaneous lessons I learned from the process:

* It takes a village, or rather an eager team of people willing to take charge of various aspects of a

"Intrepid Girl Reporter" and Sheriff
production of our size. Not only did we need the actors (who in turn rustled up their own props and costumes), but as with other fund-raisers, we needed a venue, food, decorations, music, silent auction, etc. In our case we put someone in charge of the drama/story/theatrical portion (me) and someone else in charge of everything else (the museum director, who did a bang-up job but was also mighty tired), and lots of willing volunteers. Next time, we'll let some of those volunteers take a larger management role.

Obviously a smaller mystery party held in a private home would need less coordination. But at an event on the scale of ours, one or two people could burn out trying to manage all the details.

* Grown-ups still love to play make-believe. I was impressed by how many guests really got into their roles. In spite of being given only a line or two about their character plus a few tips on 1920s culture, slang, and fashion, many guests played their parts with great enthusiasm, and seemed to have fun doing it.

* Guests had fun AND learned something. Not only were funds raised for the museum, but another goal was achieved as well--each guests left the party knowing more than they did before about the history of our area. Mission accomplished!

I hope this series on planning and writing an audience-participation mystery party has been interesting to you. If you have any questions about our event or the process followed to put it together, please post it in the comments.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How to Record Your Own Audiobook: Give the gift of your writing for Christmas

Last year a friend, Rebecca Cook, asked me to write a 30-page Christmas story that she could record as an audio book to be used as a Christmas gift.  I decided to give it a try and the result was a delightful gift we shared with friends and family. 

Rebecca narrated the story and her nieces and nephews gave voice to the elves who bravely faced the computer glitch that threatened Christmas. (They also created the artwork for the CD cover!)  I was lucky.  Because Rebecca records audiobooks professionally, she already owned the required recording software and the skill to edit our book.  

But being a professional isn’t a requirement with the technology available today.  If you are interested in recording an audiobook yourself, just write your story, find a free recording software program on the Internet and start recording.  Asking your friends, students, children, or grandchildren to record different characters makes the book even more special.  You can upload the book and send it to others or make a CD to wrap as a gift under the Christmas tree. 

I found some great advice for writers who want to record their own book on  The article, written by Guy McDowell, outlines the steps needed to make your own videobook.  Check it out at:

A couple of tips from Guy McDowell:
We’re going to talk about taking something that you’ve written or read, and putting it into sounds so that you can either listen to it yourself, or share it with others. We’re also going to do this on the cheap.

Tools Needed
Headphones (The over the ear kind are best.)
Microphone (Preferably one with either foam over it or a pop filter.)
Sound recording and editing software (I like Audacity, but there are other Audacity alternatives.)
Something written (After all, it starts as a book.)
Pencils, maybe even colored ones.

Let’s move forward assuming that you have your recording software installed and have gone through the rudimentary tutorial that probably accompanies it. You’ll probably find that in the menu under Help. Let’s also assume that you have plugged in your headphones and microphone, and tested them out a little bit.

We’re also going to assume that you have chosen, or maybe even written, the book that you want to record. I want to take a little bit here to talk about the book you’ve chosen. Let it be something that, if no one else ever heard your audio book, you’d listen to it at least once a year. Let it be something that, if your descendants should hear it one day, it says something about you and what you believe in. That’s my take on it anyway. Just a suggestion.

Prepping Your Material
Re-read the book, with your pencils nearby. You could use sticky notes or something else if you want. As you go through the book, make notes about how you want things to sound. Think of these as stage directions. I suggest using a coloured pencils so that you have a visual cue as to what you want to do or sound like when you read a certain part. You know, maybe red for anger or blue for sadness. I think you understand where I’m going with that.

Also take a few seconds to just record the ambient noise in the room that you’re recording in. Record the silence. It comes in handy later to fill in gaps or to lead into or out of speech, instead of maybe rustling papers, or coughing.

Check out the rest of Guy’s advice at:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Principles, Perfection, or Probation: Why grammatical purists should leave their red pens at home

Being a strict grammarian doesn’t always pay.  Are your corrections sometimes met with annoyance or even outright anger?  Have you been ostracized for your well-intended corrections?  If so, you may be overdoing it, and now might be the perfect time to step back and reconsider your need to remind others of their bad grammatical habits. 
You might be right, but as Dr. Phil says, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”
 Need some proof being right isn’t always the best thing?  Consider the story about the two young men who undertook corrections that led to their arrest by officials who didn’t appreciate their dedication to grammatical perfection:

In August of 2008, two men were sentenced to probation, banned from national parks for a year, and fined over $3000 to repair a more than 60-year-old, hand-painted sign at Grand Canyon National Park. According to an AP article of August 8, 2008, the two twenty-somethings removed an unnecessary apostrophe and added a comma to the sign during a trip across the United States dedicated to wiping out errors on government and private signs.

The sign, located inside a rustic 1930s watchtower, was printed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, the architect who designed the watchtower and other Grand Canyon-area landmarks.

Authorities learned of their identity from an Internet site one of them operated. The name of their site: Typo Eradication Advancement League, or TEAL. The problem is, what they considered correction, officials labeled vandalism ... and bragging about it landed them in big trouble.

Read the full article:

Still dedicated to being a member of the force? Considering relaxing your standards? Share a comment with us.

Monday, November 17, 2014

4 Reasons Why Grammar Police Make Terrible Writers

The following blog post was written by writer and author Linda Formichelli. Carol Tice reprinted the article on her popular blog, MAKE A LIVING WRITING … practical help for hungry writers, where it garnered 153 fascinating comments.

In Tice’s words, “I consider the occasional mistake the price paid for generating as much content as I do. It happens…and it’s OK. And people who zoom in on that one mistake instead of using the info you’ve given them to go out and earn more have misplaced priorities. Thanks for this post, Linda!"

4 Reasons Why Grammar Police Make Terrible Writers
By Linda Formichelli

The other day I received this email in response to a marketing message I sent out to my subscription list:
Basic grammar forbids the use of double negatives, “…using the wrong set of skills for the wrong job”. An authority on writing must master the rules of writing before they can be taken seriously.
(I so wanted to let this guy know that “the wrong skills for the wrong job” is hardly a double negative, and that some of the greatest writers of all times used double negatives for emphasis — Shakespeare, anyone? But I took my own advice and hit Delete.)

And here’s a small excerpt of a 400-word comment I got a few months ago pointing out two typos in a post:
This the very first article of yours that I have read and I already have an image of you built in my mind. A harried, hair all over the place woman who rushes around to get her work done! Not very flattering, is it.
I DO NOT think that of you, but I could and all because of two little mistakes in your writing! A person’s writing is a reflection of them, is it not? Given that you are teaching writers how to make a living from this wonderful craft, is it not prudent to be as perfect in your advise as possible?
I know other professional writers get all kinds of emails pointing out their typos and grammatical errors. So what’s the problem? People need to know when they’re wrong so they can improve, so why not be the one to let them know — right? Wrong. Here’s why you should retire your Grammar Police badge forever.

1. Grammar Police aren’t perfect

Did you notice the mistakes in these two Grammar Police messages I received? In the first one, he put the period outside of the quote marks. (And I know he’s American, so he has no excuse.) In the second, he wrote “advise” for “advice.” (And there were many more mistakes in the rest of the 400 words he posted.

People in glass houses and all that.

If you want to criticize someone else’s writing, you better make damn sure yours is absolutely perfect. And who wants that kind of stress?

2. Grammar Police waste time

The time and energy you spend policing other people’s grammar is better spent elsewhere— like, say, writing.

I just had to look up the guy who unsubscribed from my Morning Motivations emails because of a perceived double negative, and discovered that he has a book on Amazon. A book with a flabby three-star average rating (out of five stars). And reviews calling the book “boring.”

With all the time he spent getting PO’d about my grammar, writing and sending me an email, and unsubscribing from my list, he could have improved his own writing by reading a writing blog, reading chapter of a book on the writing craft, or editi ng some of his own work.

I guarantee you will never see, say, Stephen King shooting off an email to a writer admonishing her for a typo. He’s too busy, you know, writing bestsellers.

3. Grammar Police have bad attitudes

I love it when people write to me and say, “You may not have noticed this, but I wanted to let you know you have a misspelled word in the title of your post.” That is constructive criticism and that writer doesn’t earn the moniker “Grammar Police.”

I think the term “Grammar Police” refers specifically to people who berate you for your grammar errors — all out of proportion to the severity of said errors. Those who tell you your writing won’t be taken seriously with typos, or who paint a picture of you as a frazzled writer who can’t cope with life.

If that’s the attitude you display to other writers, you’re going to have a hard time networking and making friends in the writing community. And we all know how important contacts are in this industry, right?

4. Grammar Police have trouble writing

People who are sticklers for grammar and who blow up over typos tend to be perfectionists who never get their writing out to the world because they’re too concerned with making it perfect — which it will never be.

When you see a writer who is ├╝ber prolific, you’ll find that they make the occasional error. That’s because they don’t get hung up on getting it perfect — they get hung up on getting it done.

Also, show me someone who gets hyper about grammar and I’ll show you someone whose writing is probably stilted, businesslike, and boring. I mean, “An authority on writing must master the rules of writing before they can be taken seriously”? Snooooze.

Good writers know how and when to bend — and break — the rules. For example, sometimes purposely breaking a grammar rule adds emphasis, or makes a piece of writing more conversational and reader-friendly.

Okay — time to hang up your Grammar Police uniform for good, and instead spend your time writing, writing, writing.

Linda Formichelli has written for over 130 magazines, is the co-author of The Renegade Writer and blogs about writing at The Renegade Writer. Her new book is Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race and Step Into a Career You’ll Love.

MJH: I know I'm occasionally guilty of being a judgmental grammarian and often find myself agonizing over my own writing mistakes. Linda's post and the reader comments lifted a little of that guilt from me. I hope you’ll feel the same after you read the post and then head on over to MAKE A LIVING WRITING to check out some of the comments at the address below:

Be sure to leave a comment for us if you've had a run in with the grammar police or are considering hanging up your badge ! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

I Need a Wife

We are pleased to offer a guest post by Kelly Sullivan

I need a wife. But I am one. In there lies a predicament.  I don’t want a modern wife, a liberated one with her own goals … like me. I want the other kind, like the ones from the fifties who freshen up before you arrive home, mix you a cocktail, clean the house, make dinner – and manage all of the small business details of your artistic career. 
OK, I really just want one who will manage all of the small business details of my artistic career.
Striving to be a better painter takes continual ‘work’ if I can call it that. It takes time. And the better you get, the more you want to put out there so that it is seen, and it sells, and it grows. Unless you are ‘kept’, you need to feed your pigment habit, as well as your family. This forces either economic success, or an alternative income. If those are my options, well... there is no option.
I’m fortunate. I stumbled into a nice career of finger painting (believe it or not). I've managed to create a income as an artist, though my tactics were far from traditional. My success depended as much on my ability to produce a proposal as it did the art I created on site. The balance of business and art were equally weighted, no doubt about it. As the years move on, I’ve become more and more dedicated to classical art, and the study of it.  All I’ve ever wanted was to be an artist, surrounded by peers, making a difference in the world.  My vision has become more focused, and my dedication and passion for it has not wavered.
But all the tenacity in the world doesn’t change the fact that if art is to be your business, there is business to be done. There is as much going on behind the easel as there is in front of it: web sites, blogs, shows, frames, marketing, client contact, press releases, finance and taxes.  It is almost too much for one creative mind to absorb, let alone accomplish. Complicating the issue is that the more time I spend in front of my easel, the less time I want to spend at my desk. But it seems that their demands for attention coincide. One without the other is only half the recipe, and your cake will flop – unless of course you have a good wife. Then perhaps it will show up well frosted. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Writing Subtext: What Lies Beneath

The greatest dialogue in plays, films, or books, manages to impart that which is said and that which has been left unsaid. The elephant in the room, as it were, will keep everyone guessing. A literal definition of subtext describes a message which is not stated directly, but can be inferred. It pertains to the hidden, less obvious meaning perhaps archly delivered by some of our greatest actors.
How is it done? Isn't dialogue hard enough without adding this to the mix? The answer is yes.
Studying the book entitled, Writing Subtext: What Lies Beneath, by Linda Seger I have gained some insight as to how a writer can manage to achieve this. If the audience is let in on a secret, there will be much that can be read into the simplest of statements. A daughter may pretend to like the suitor her father picked out for her, but if we know that she secretly loves someone else, there will be a subtext to all she says. If a mother only wants what is best for her son, but does not want a daughter-in-law who is above her in social standing, she may seem to be welcoming this newcomer, but we will read into her attempts to be friendly. In some cases, such as the world of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the whole of Denmark can be slightly rotten. If the road to power is suspect, the dialogue will be full of subtext. Obviously, Shakespeare was a master at this skill. He would even have a character walk downstage and let the audience in on a few secrets. A sudden windfall, an unlikely suitor, a change of leadership, or even a new invention, can put all known truths under a new microscope. Perhaps everyone is trying to make an adjustment, but no one wants to. There you will see subtext.
A character at odds with the culture about which the audience is familiar will provide many a laugh as the poor fellow bumbles along, unaware of his missteps. Subtext is an essential tool in the comedian's toolkit. In a tragedy, the very elements left unsaid, can be the ones propelling everyone to their doom.
While thinking about this topic, my thoughts lead me straight to a much- loved play, namely, The Importance of Being Ernest. Oscar Wilde states it flat out in Act 1, Scene 1. Two characters, Algernon and Jack, have a discussion while waiting for guests to arrive for tea. Discussing names Jack says, 

"Well, my name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country."


"I have always suspected you of being a confirmed Bunburyist; and I am quite sure of it now."


"Bunburyist? What do you mean Bunburyist?"


"I'll reveal to you the meaning of that incomparable expression as soon as you are kind enough to inform me why you are Ernest in town and Jack in the country."

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious and modern literature a complete impossibility."

By the time the guests arrive, we have learned that both Bunbury and the Jack/ Ernest situation, are used as an excuse. When in town Ernest must leave at once as his brother Jack is in a pickle. When in the country, it is Ernest who calls him away, thereby providing the perfect excuse to escape social functions to which he is less than enthusiastic. Bunbury provides a similar ruse. Through the remaining scenes of this immortal play, all references to these characters are loaded with subtext.
Characters sometimes do not know themselves. Their most basic drives and instincts may be covered up by social convention, or self-delusion. The stage may be full of actors whose roles are at cross purposes. Therein lies the subtext.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In Flanders Fields

The famous poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, penned as a memorial for his slain friend, Alexis Helmer, pictured above, captures the essence of sacrifice. The chilling poem grew to symbolize World War One itself. School children in Canada were tasked with memorizing it, and reciting it at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. This year, as we remember the fallen, we know that they are all together now; there are no living survivors of what is often called, 'The Great War.'
It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. As my great grandfather was a committed pacifist, we can only surmise how difficult it must have been for him to see his only son go off to war. Fortunately, we have access to the letter he wrote expressing his thoughts:
The World Office,
Tuesday 1st February, 1916
My dear boy, I suppose you find it hard to think of yourself twenty-one years ago, but the dear little chap who used to love me so much and put his arms around my neck, and climb up on my knee, and play ball and do all the other little things which you won't think anything of until you have children of your own, are all on my mind. Well dearie, you are a man now and your own master as I have always tried to have you be. I may not have done as well by you as I hoped, but you are all I could wish in the main things, clean, truthful, brave and generous. I think you will have enough regard for the old days to keep these things in your heart all your life.
You are going on a high quest now, not for yourself but for all the world. I have never bothered you much with religion, but I want you to feel that you are at all times in the care of the Master and that He will be with you in times of difficulty or danger. Even though you stand in the shadow of death you need fear no evil for He will be with you if your heart is turned to Him.
The war has interfered with many plans I had for you. You are going to England but not as I expected. I do not know what another year may bring, but we are all in the hands of the Eternal. I hope you won't think of this as a sermon or a screed. It is just a loving word from your old Daddy to wish you all the best things in the world, and to kiss you goodbye as you go away and leave all the old times behind forever. Don't forget, no one will ever love you better than I do. It makes me all the sorrier that I have such a poor way of showing it.
God bless you dear, now and always.
Love, my dear boy, Your loving Daddy

By the grace of God my grandfather lived and came home to raise a family. A recent book, released in Canada last week, depicted many of his experiences in the war. He was at all four major battles: Ypres, the Somme, Passchendale, and Vimy Ridge. He was also a fly boy, and in this book, I saw a photo of him in his leather coat, leather hat and goggles. At one point, his plane was shot down and even though he was wounded, he managed to land it in an obliging field. He said it fell in circles as a leaf comes down from a tree.
His gunner tapped him on the shoulder and asked, "What is going to happen?"
He said, "You and I have had a lot of arguments about religion Wardsy, and in about forty seconds, we will find out who is right."        
                                                  Conn Smythe in flight gear.
Mercifully, they managed to land and as they scrambled out of the plane, they saw a man waiving to them frantically. Feeling they were about to be rescued, they headed for him only to learn to their horror that it was a German. He pointed his gun at my grandfather's chest and pulled the trigger, twice at point blank range. Luckily, the soldier missed and my grandfather later told us that it was the force of his wrath and will that somehow steered the bullets into his coat, passing him by completely. After this brush with death, he was taken prisoner and later escaped. Eventually captured, he had to spend the rest of the war in solitary confinement.
To read of all these tales so many years later, to learn of the horrific carnage, and see photo's of his old friends and teammates from home, many of whom did not return, makes me so cognizant of the merest thread separating us all from life and death.
We have not lost sight of all the brave Canadians who died so far away from home. We pause in silence this Armistice Day, at eleven am on 11/11/ to remember all the fallen on all sides, and pray, as always, for a real, lasting and enduring peace.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields