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RandiLynnMrvos



September 13, 2018

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do 

I had to fire my hairdresser.

It was not only uncomfortable, it involved change.  I don't do well with change.

 Antonio had been my hairdresser for 10 years.  Though the salon was about a 25-minute drive from home and located on a very busy road, Antonio was fun to be around, he didn't charge much, and he did a good job.

My appointments were once a month, but those appointments came to an end due to two reasons.

My husband and I had just arrived in New Orleans for a vacation when I noticed (dare I say?) gray roots.  I was upset.  It had only been a few days after a salon visit.  The color did not cover well this time (reason #1).

I shouldn't have been surprised.  Many of my friends had given up coloring gray because nothing worked.  According to Liveabout.com, covering up gray hair is a special science.  Gray hair is difficult to color because it tends to be wiry and the dye doesn't soak in easily.   It can be resistant to total coverage, making it difficult to drive color into the hair shaft.

What's the big deal with a little gray?

Hair is everything.  It is a huge part of our appearance.  It frames our face.  It defines us.

Hair has been featured in the Bible, in Greek myths, and in a Broadway musical.  It is associated with youthfulness and beauty in women and virility and masculinity in men.  Hair can cement a signature style.  Think: Cleopatra, Angela Davis, Marie Antoinette, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Bo Derek.  

While I don't have a signature style, I could have had one some twenty some years ago.  Back then, I wanted to have pink hair, except my daughter Abby and my husband were four-square against it.  
Some people can pull off pink 

This surprised me because as a young kid Abby liked exotic hairstyles.  Not on herself, but on me.  When we played beauty parlor, she slathered hand lotion in my hair and then pulled strands of it into spikes she called pickets.  Imagine every bit of my hair held in place by twenty colorful elastic bands.

During the time of pickets, I had begun to color my hair.  At first, it was semi-permanent color to add contrast and color.  Not long after, I made the decision to use permanent color to cover the gray that was beginning to show.

Keeping gray hair or covering it is a personal choice and cost plays a big role on that decision.  As reported by The Cut ,"Every year, American women spend billions ($30 billion on color, $22 billion on cut, $7 billion on product) trying to get it just so."

Since I spent a great deal of money on my hair, I wanted it to look good.  When my husband and I returned home a week later from New Orleans, I gave Antonio a call to see if there was another product that would cover the gray.  He suggested that we try multiple products over the following weeks, but he said that there was no guarantee they would work.

Faced with the uncertainty that my roots still might show no matter what we tried, I considered finding another salon.  It was difficult because I wanted to remain loyal to Antonio.  


I wasn't sure what to do until tragedy hit.  My sister-in-law had been diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor.  Four months later she was gone.  Only 60-years-old.  Life is too short.  Time is precious (reason #2).  I thought about the three hours it took to get my hair done—time that could be spent writing as well as doing other things I loved.  So, I began to search more seriously for a salon closer to home. 

The Washington Post reports "finding the right hairstylist is nearly as difficult as finding the right mate. The stylist-client relationship involves trust, communication and loyalty and, just like dating, finding a stylist can be awkward and expensive—repairing a botched cut or a dye mishap can cost you hundreds of dollars, not to mention your dignity   The easiest way is to ask people with a style you like where they go."   

After asking some friends and goggling salons, I tried a place closer to home.  I wasn't sure how it would work out.  With change comes uncertainty.  But things worked out well.  Going to the new salon makes me happy.  The appointment time is much shorter and the color covers gray.  What was difficult was telling Antonio.  When I finally made the call, it sounded like a bad break-up:  

(Me talking:)
"This is difficult."
"I hate that I have to leave."
"We've known each other for such a long time."
"It's not something you said."
"It's me, not you."

I left our relationship hanging in the air because I'm not good at breakups.  Several days later, I asked the receptionist to cancel all of my appointments with Antonio (yeah, it was cowardly).


Breaking from the past and embracing change is not easy.  
Making a new start takes courage.  It takes risks.  Having doubts are part of the process.  But you never know what will happen until you try.  That's the mystery and the beauty of change.

À la prochaine! 















August 29, 2018

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer

Perseverance and a Lap Full of Pups  

Many years ago, I used to save all of my rejections.  

I'd stare at the stack and wonder: Where did I go wrong? Why didn’t the editor like it?  Should I quit writing?  

Those questions cropped up when one of my favorite stories was repeatedly turned down.  I loved this story.  My protagonist owned a Basenji, an amazing 
barkless dog that vocalizes by yodeling.  

All of these rejections made me sad and angry.  I thought the story was worthy of publication.  So, my husband told me not to give up.  He suggested that I write a nonfiction piece on this breed because nonfiction was less subjective.  He made a good point. 

I did more research and discovered many interesting facts.  For instance, Basenjis originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, where they earned the nickname "the jumping up and down dog."  They were hunters and would leap high over the tall native grasses of their homeland to locate prey.

After compiling the information and then composing the article, I submitted "The Barkless Dog" to Wee Ones, an ezine that accepted nonfiction stories for children. The editor emailed me a few days later to say she had never heard of this breed and that the article was fascinating.  She promptly sent an acceptance! 

This was my first published article.  For a writer, nothing feels more amazing.  And yet at the same time, I got panicky.  The editor needed photos b
efore the piece could be published.  

I searched websites and contacted Basenji webmasters across the country for photographs.  And the response was overwhelming.  These people loved their dogs and everyone wanted to share their pictures with me for the article.  

One of the Basenji breeders, Carole Kirk invited me for a visit.  She is pictured above.  Carole stated on her website that she lived in Kentucky, but I thought her hometown was in the eastern part of the state.  Through our correspondence I found out that she lived only twenty miles away! 



A week later, my daughter and I travelled to Versailles, Kentucky, where I met Carole, four adult Basenjis, and a handful of pups—seven, to be exact—for a Basenji party.  Friends of Carole brought their Basenjis, too.

I lost count of the total number of dogs.  All I can say is we were surrounded by yodeling, curly-tailed dogs—all of them wanting to be petted AT THE SAME TIME!  

We spent the afternoon playing with Carol's award-winning dog Chance and her gentle, soft-furred pups.  These dogs were wicked smart, energetic, and entertaining.  And true to their nickname, they did a lot of jumping up and down.  

It's been over ten years since the publication of "Barkless."  When I think of that article, it reminds me that I had been showered with many rewards.  


I worked with a great editor, who even wrote me a thank-you note.  

I learned about a remarkable breed of dogs. 

And I met a gracious and fascinating dog owner and her adorable pets.  

But none of this would have been possible if I had continued questioning my ability.  I would have never experienced the thrill of publication or known the joy of playing with pups if I had given up and not followed my husband's advice.  

Perseverance led to many good things:  an acceptance, a boost in confidence, and a lap full of pups. 






August 23, 2018



Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer


MENTORING 

I didn't plan on being a mentor.

My intention was to write nonfiction articles for children with the objective of getting them published and developing a bio.  After several years of writing and publishing for kids, I had the good fortune of landing a job as an editor.  But during this time, I noticed the children's magazine market was changing.  Magazines were closing and writers had fewer opportunities to publish.  My fellow writers and I had this sinking feeling about the publishing world. 

So, instead of complaining about the situation, I tried to change it.  I created Kid's Imagination Train ezine (KIT) an online magazine that inspires children to read and learn and gives writers a way to reach an audience.  Being the editor of KIT required deciding if submissions could be accepted for publication.  As I read manuscripts, I noticed many had the potential to be published, but the stories or articles needed revision.  Since I understood how writers longed for publication, I decided to become a mentor and show them how to improve their manuscripts. 

In the years that followed I helped a lot of writers get published; however, my very first mentee was the most memorable.  G. Smith, a wannabe published writer, needed a lot of guidance.

Whether he was writing a story or an article, he had to be taught the importance of following the writer's guidelines (the standards writers are expected to observe).  He had to learn how to use active verbs, create conflict, and perfect grammar.  In addition, he needed to understand how to format bibliographies and compose query letters.  Sometimes he got it and other times he struggled.  At times, I wondered if I was getting through to him.  Would he ever catch on?

Though he tried my patience, I applauded his persistence and pluck.  He was earnest and sincere.  There was something likeable about this writer.  Eventually, through diligence and practice he got published.  In fact, he got published in the prestigious children's magazine Highlights, which is not an easy thing to do because the editors only accept outstanding writing.

How did I learn of this achievement?

It's been close to ten years since our initial contact, and we still stay in touch.  Every so often, he drops me a line just to say hello.  He writes to ask me questions.  He tells me about his writing accomplishments and his goals.

Not long ago, he mentioned that he showed my Facebook picture to his mom.  Wow, I guess I really do rate with some people.  I wonder what he told her?

"Hey Mom, here's the lady who marks up all of my manuscripts."

But maybe it's "This is the lady who never gave up on me."

Occasionally, G. Smith shares his rejection letters with me, which is pretty brave.  I know of no one who shares their rejections.  It's so personal.  And yet when he sends one to me, I try to encourage him to persevere because if you want to call yourself a writer, that's what you have to do.

Though I've been mentoring writers for a long time, I never tire of giving writers a helping hand.  Most of them genuinely want to invest the time to learn the craft.  However, there are others who get offended if they are asked to revise.  They have an attitude.  They believe their work is perfect as is.  They have yet to learn that editing + editing + editing = publication.

After all this time, G. Smith is remarkably disciplined.

He edits his work.

He continues to develop skills to reach a wider audience.

Most of all, he never gives up.

G. Smith understands what it means to be a writer.

And I couldn't be more proud.


CWW is published twice a month.

À la prochaine! 










August 7, 2018



Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer


CALL ME ISHMAEL OR BOSSY

Some people may call me a know-it-all.

They misunderstand.  Truth is, I love sharing my knowledge with people.  And that could come across as bossy or pushy.  I like to write how-to pieces because people are hungry to discover ways to solve a problem or learn something new.

I'm not alone.  Lots of people write how-to articles.  Go ahead, and goggle "how-to" and you'll find

how to learn a language,
how to work with unprofessional people,
how to do laundry,
how to walk in heels,
how to make a car repair,
how to fix a toilet,
how to mend a broken heart,
yada yada yada it's all there on the Internet—anything your little heart desires to know.

Writers who want to build their bio can write a how-to article.  These pieces are not difficult to write.  It takes some research and good writing skills.  Here's how to get started:
  • Read your favorite publications to see what techniques writers use to write a how-to article.
  • Choose a topic that interests you and one that will address your audience's needs.
  • Research the topic using reliable sources.
  • Outline the piece keeping important points grouped together.   
  • Begin the piece with a hook:  an interesting fact, a startling statistic, an inspiring quote. 
  • Use a conversational tone. 
  • Tie the ending to the beginning.  
  • Have a second reader have a look at the article and check for grammatical errors.
  • Edit the piece.  

I'm always thinking about new topics for a how-to article.  From my experience, I could advise writers on publishing with an indie press or finding marketing ideas.

But I wouldn't have to narrow my how-to topic to just writing.  The saying goes "write what you know."

Therefore, I could write about:
  • trying to talk a police officer out of a ticket (it didn't work)
  • playing racket ball in a dorm room (I don't recommend it)
  • teaching a cat boundaries (don't waste your time) 

I've lived these experiences; therefore, I would have plenty to write about.

So call me what you will, bossy or pushy, a know-it-all, whatever.  It won't hurt my feelings.  My mission is to inform the hungry reader.


CWW is published twice a month.


À la prochaine! 

July 25, 2018




Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer


YOU SAY CABELA'S AND I SAY CARRABBA'S  

Last holiday season, I gave my hairdresser a gift he didn't expect.

You would think that since I'm a creative sort of person that coming up with presents would be up my alley.  But it's hard being creative year after year.  Though I've known Antonio for a long time, I'm never sure what he likes as a gift.  Since he seems to enjoy eating out at restaurants, I get him gift cards.

This time, I decided to choose something different other than the usual American food restaurant chains like TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesday, and O'Charlies.  I thought he'd like Italian cuisine so while at the grocery store, I bought him a gift card.

A week before Christmas, my husband delivered the card to the salon for me.  Antonio opened it before Jim left.

"Why, thank you Jim," said Antonio.  "I've never shopped here before."

Jim looked at him curiously and peeked at the card.  He had to hold back the laughter until he came home.

At dinner time, Jim told me he gave Antonio his gift.

"Did he like it?" I asked.

"Do you remember what you bought him?"

"Of course.  It was a gift card for Carrabba's."

My loving husband waited for me to say more.

"You know, the Italian restaurant."

"Ah...no you didn't."

"But I always get him a restaurant gift card.  I wanted to get him something different this year."

"You did.  You bought him a Cabela's gift card."  Jim burst out laughing.

"What's so funny.  Isn't it an Italian restaurant?"

"It's an outdoor sporting store.  A place for people who like to hunt, fish, and boat."

I felt so embarrassed.  Antonio is not an outdoorsman.

He wouldn't wear plaid or flannel outdoorsy clothes.  I've only seen him in black polo shirts, black jeans, and black tennis shoes.  He would never shop there.  Well, there goes that gift card.

The next morning, I called Antonio to apologize, but he said don't worry about it.  But I felt horrible.  I wanted to get him another gift.  I drove to Bella Notte (I've eaten here—I know it's an Italian restaurant) to purchase a gift certificate.  Finally, Antonio would have a gift he could use.  Jim delivered it to him a few days before Christmas.

"Did Antonio like the new gift?" I asked.

"He did," said Jim.  "Antonio said we didn't have to buy him two gifts, but to tell you thank you...

and that he loves his plaid shirt from Cabela's."


CWW is published twice a month.

À la prochaine! 












July 12, 2018



 Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer 



THE DEADLIEST CRAB 


"Want to go crab fishing?" asks my husband.

That's my cue to join him to watch an episode of the Deadliest Catch.  Or as I like to call it, the Deadliest Crab.

Deadliest Catch follows six sea captains and their crew as they hunt for elusive Alaskan crab.  Viewers can always count on drama.  Sea captains battle:
  • arctic storms with hurricane-force winds and 40 foot waves
  • ice floes
  • snow blindness
  • crew management 
  • accidents that cause serious injury or death 
  • fatigue
  • health issues (back issues and conditions brought on by stress)
  • equipment failure which may lead to fires, oil leaks, power outage, or loss of steering 

Deadliest Crab
On top of all that, the captain must find crab. That's tricky because radar doesn't detect crabs resting upon the bottom of the sea. 

Many captains must rely on intuition to locate the crab.  Others refer to logs which indicate the location and numbers of crabs caught in years gone by.  And captains will use  devices that mimic the sound of a crab-feeding frenzy or rely on smelly crab farts to lead them to rich crab grounds.



Crab fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.  It seems like once a season, Deadliest Catch airs footage of the United States Coast Guard searching for crewmen of capsized vessels or retrieving injured fishermen from a deck—a feat in itself as swimmers lower a rescue basket from a helicopter through rough wind onto a rocking ship.

Sea captain Josh Harris says, "It's not a sport for the weak or the weak-minded."

From time to time, a little levity peppers the show with the crew pulling silly pranks like filling a fisherman's boots with water and then freezing them or moving a captain's boat (unbeknownst to him) to another dock.

When an episode gets bloody
however, (say like when a steel crane smashes a forehead) or gross (or when a wound is lanced or part of a finger is lost), I'll look away while my husband replays the scene to be sure he hadn't missed any gore.

I may have writely challenges (marketing Maggie, submitting to agents, producing Kid's Imagination Train, writing two blogs) but these are nothing compared to fishing the Bering Sea.

Writing for children is demanding (ask any children's author) but it's not usually deadly.  With writing, you may face rejection, but you don't run the risk of getting bloody and gory...

and you never have to be on the lookout for crab farts.  

CWW is published twice a month.

À la prochaine! 



July 2, 2018

 

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer




ONE AND NOT DONE 


I never used to be a Wildcat fan.

Pretty shameful being that I graduated from the University of Kentucky.

But over the last few years, I can't get enough of UK basketball.  I think what attracted me to the game is our charismatic coach John Calipari.

Though Calipari has taken six teams to the NCAA Final Fours and led UK to win the championship (2012), many criticize him for supporting the principle of one and done—having a basketball player play one season and then be eligible to get drafted for the NBA.

According to the wildcatbluenation.com "The one and done situation is good for players whose talent is certainly ready for the NBA. Kentucky Basketball has allowed many players in the last 7 seasons to fulfill a dream. They are able to support their family by playing the game they love.
No one should question a decision made by an 18 year old kid that is NBA ready to leave school and get paid to play. Kentucky has offered these types of players the opportunity for a fast track to the pros."

But because of this doctrine, Calipari has his work cut out coaching a team largely comprised of freshman.  

For that, I admire him.  He seems to care about his players and wants them to do well, despite his frequent rant "OUT"—meaning have a seat on the bench and contemplate what you did wrong.  Time-out on the bench is usually not for long.  Players always get multiple chances to get back into the game.
That's the way I wish writing was like, having multiple chances to think about what went wrong (with a submission) and then go back and get it right.  Usually a writer gets one chance and one chance only.  Rarely do writers get a second chance to submit an edited version of their work to a publisher or an agent.

With Kid's Imagination Train ezine however, writers get multiple chances to edit their manuscripts.  They learn how to revise their work so that it can be published.  Like Calipari, I want them to do well.

Kid's Imagination Train writers are not one and done's.  Our writers submit again and again to KIT after their first acceptance.  In fact, some writers have been with our little ezine for over five years.

I admit some writers publish once with us and move on to the pros (Highlights, Ranger Rick, Boys' Life).  They exemplify UK's latest slogan: succeed-and-proceed which now replaces the three-word mantra.  But most of our writers are loyal and recognize they get a privileged opportunity to work on their game.





CWW is published twice a month.

À la prochaine!