December 1, 2018

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer


I'm a venter.  I am vocal about things that bother me.  Just mention submitting and you'll get me going.  Submitting to agents and publishers is frustrating.

It wasn't always like this.

Twenty years ago, a writer would simply send a submission in a 13 x 9" envelope with a cover letter and SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to an agent or an editor.  Within about three months they'd receive a response in the mail.  Writers would get a definite yes or a no about their manuscripts.

Now days writers submit electronically, and most publishers respond only IF they are interested.

Professional writers put thought, care, and time into every submission.  And, we want to hear back.  Instead, we wait three months wondering if our submission has even been received.  We wait three months wondering if our submission has been read.  We wait three months wondering if someone likes our work.  We wait three months and hear nothing at all.

Whenever I used to discuss submitting with my mother-in-law, she would answer with an expression that rhythmically and rhetorically rolled off her tongue, "What are you doing to do?"  Which meant: there's nothing you can do.

But that was not me.  There was something I could do.  I could vent about it.

Given the submission situation, I have found that I'm not alone.  Other writers feel the same way.  They're not happy about the way submitting has changed.  They vent, too.  And with all of this venting, you may wonder if it is healthy.  So, I did a little investigating, but I found that the subject of venting is complicated and thorny.

Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University and the lead author of the 2002 venting study says, “When people vent their anger, they want to hit, scream or shout, and it feels good to do that, and so they think, Oh, it feels good it must work,” says Bushman.  “But it also feels good to take street drugs and eat donuts. But just because something feels good doesn’t mean it’s healthy.”  

David M Reiss, M.D., a San Diego-based psychiatrist weighs in.  He states, “There’s certainly an advantage to acknowledging your emotions and being able to express them.”  Reiss believes there's a right way to vent.  The key is finding the right person.  “It has to be someone who is not just going to join you in the anger but is also going to help you to come to terms with it and help you calm down,” he says.

According to Psychology Today, there are positive and negative features to venting.  While venting can increase level of distress and antagonize others, it can discharge negative emotion and can help you feel better.  Dr. Leon F Sheltzer, Ph.D., an anger management specialist says, "Generally, it’s better to let things out than hold them in. And doing so feels almost akin to problem-solving—in the moment, at least. Venting your frustrations alleviates tension and stress."

For me, venting allows me to express my frustration and to let of negative energy.  Regardless of what some experts say, I think it's healthy to let off steam.  I'm all for venting.

Especially when I don't hear back from an agent about a manuscript that I love.














I'm glad to get that off my chest.

À la prochaine! 

November 1, 2018

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer


I love learning how to speak French.  But little did I know that through the love of French, I would meet a French-speaking dog.  To understand how that happened, let's journey back in time.

My love of French began in the 10th grade.  In class, our instructor taught us present tense verbs and vocabulary, nothing terribly difficult.  At sixteen, I was hooked on French.  But unfortunately, the next year in French II, I learned very little for two reasons.  One, our French teacher took a leave of absence, so ill-equipped substitutes tried to fill in.  And two, I sat next to a drop-dead gorgeous guy with blue eyes and an impish grin (you could say I was a bit distracted).  When college rolled around, I tried to fit French in, but my schedule was too tight and Chemistry classes were way too demanding.

Luckily, later in life, I found foreign languages were offered at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, my hometown.  After registering for class, I flipped through the grammar book.  The lessons and exercises were overwhelming.  I wanted to quit even before taking the first class.  My husband encouraged me to give it a try and I'm glad I did.  My first teacher Monique was from Normandy, France, and though she could be intimidating, she was an amazing French teacher. 

Monique moved away from Lexington after I had taken three years of French with her.  A young woman from Kentucky stepped in.  Erica majored in French and lived in Deauville, France for a while.  I take classes with Erica at the Carnegie Center as well as a reading class held at her house.

At Erica's, only four or five people attend.  With fewer people than the Carnegie class, we have more time to read and to speak French.

Erica offers us coffee or tea and snacks like chocolate candy bark or raspberry cookies while we read Le Petit Nicholas, the hilarious series that centers on the friends and family of a young boy named Nicholas.  Sophie, Erica's dog joins us.

One time, I brought dog treats for Sophie.  Elle les a adoré—she loved them.  However since then, whenever she sees me climbing the steps to the house (or if she hears my car pull up) she goes bonkers, barking and dancing with tush and tail shaking.

Once, I forgot to bring a treat.  Oh là là!  So, Erica slipped me some dog vitamins to give to Sophie.  That was not what Sophie had in mind, but she ate them up anyway.

As you can see from the photos, Sophie is a beautiful, mixed breed.  What you may not know is she's très intelligent.  She understands French and English.  She may even speak in French.

This is what I imagine she might be saying when she sees me at the door (with the English translation in blue.)

Bonjour.     Hello.

Qu'est-ce que je sens?     What's that I smell?  

Avez-vous des biscuits?       Do you have treats? 

Tu ne peux pas me tromper.     You can't fool me. 

Je sens des biscuits!  Je sens des biscuits!  Je sens des biscuits!     I smell treats!  I smell treats!  I smell treats!

Je sais qu'ils sont dans ta poche.     I know they're in your pocket.

Je ne bouge pas avant d'en avoir un.     I'm not moving until I get one.

Je vais aboyer, mendier et m'asseoir à tes pieds.     I'm going to bark, beg, and sit at your feet.

Je vais mettre ma patte sur tes genoux.     I'm going to put my paw on your lap.

Je vais te regarder.     I'm going to stare you down. 

Vous n'aurez pas de café jusqu'à ce que je reçoive un biscuit.     You will not have coffee until I get a treat.

Vous n'aurez pas de chocolat jusqu'à ce que je reçoive un biscuit.    You will not have chocolate until I get a treat.

Vous ne pourrez pas lire votre livre en français jusqu'à  je reçoive un biscuit.      You will not be able to read your French book until I get a treat.

Puis-je avoir un biscuit?      May I have a treat?


Avec du sucre sur le dessus?      With sugar on top?

Un biscuit, un biscuit, un biscuit!  Merci.     A treat, a treat, a treat!  Thank you.

C'est délicieux.   It's delicious.  

Je suis une heureuse chienne.     I'm a happy dog.   

Très heureuse.      Very happy.

After having treats, Sophie snuggles on the couch next to Erica.  She naps while we read.  And then an hour and a half later, Sophie leaps off the couch to say au revoir...

but she has one last question.

Apportez-vous des biscuits la semaine prochaine?      Are you bringing treats next week?

J'adore des biscuits!

À la prochaine 

October 11, 2018

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer


I'm a graduate of the University of Kentucky, but I'm not much of a football fan.

Basketball fan, oh yes.  That's a different story.  I'm glued to the television whenever the Cats play basketball.  Football is harder to watch.  The team hasn't had a winning record in years...and then along came Benny Snell.  

Snell is like a bulldozer smashing through defenders when he carries the ball—every time he carries the ball.

A commentator explained why Snell is so driven.  Benny Snell envisioned playing for Ohio State.  Being an Ohioan, he wanted to become a hometown hero.  But his dream did not pan out.  During recruiting, Snell was told that other players were faster and more talented.  

In a Herald-Leader interview, Snell revealed that he got discouraged at camps. “I found myself at camps being the best one and still guys were getting the running back MVPs and all that, but I was the best one,” said Snell.  "I knew I was. So, from then all the way until now, getting a low ranking as a running back, me not being productive, me being at Kentucky, I’ll forever keep this chip on my shoulder and keep running hard.”

The doubters are the ones Snell remembers before every practice and then during every game.  That's what fuels him, gives him an edge.  He thinks of it every time he plays a game.  He is determined to be great and to give everything he's got with every single play.

“It’s something I think about all the time, but when I’m about to go out before a game, I think about, ‘OK, deep breath, now it’s time to go,’” he said.

Many players never make it to their dream schools.  The difference is, few use rejection the way Snell does.  Snell takes rejection and uses it for the best. 

This might be easier said than done.  But others think it's possible, too.

For instance, Brett Berhoff, contributor for the Huffington Post believes that good things can come from rejection.  He says don't take the rejection too seriously or too personally.  He makes several suggestions:  

  • Treat rejection as a learning experience.  Think about how you can improve.  What will you do differently? 
  • Use rejection to carve another path to your goal.  Take an optimistic approach.  Develop a positive attitude.  
  • Transform rejection into opportunity.  While rejection is associated with negativity, it can be used to generate positive action.  Utilize that energy and emotion with the next opportunity. 

Best-selling author and acclaimed speaker  Margie Warrell  is a firm believer that rejection can open other doors.  Warrell says, "It is vital to your long-term success not to let fear of future rejection keep you from putting yourself ‘out there’ and risking more of it," she says.  "As a little-known first-time author, I must have submitted my first book to over 30 publishers before I finally landed an international publishing deal." 

Warrell believes the more you put yourself out there, the better the odds you will achieve what you want.  She says that if things don't go as planned, stay open-minded and act on the feedback.  Use the feedback to move forward.  

Warrell's comments remind me of the struggles many writers face.  More often than not, writers hear "I'm afraid I must pass" or "It's not a good fit for me."  It can be defeating.  But even the best-selling authors like Theodore Geisel, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, and J.K. Rowling were rejected.  That did not stop them from getting their books published.

It takes courage for writers to continue to put their work in front of publishers after rejection.  They must channel the energy of the rejection to learn, to revise, and to submit again. And again.  

No matter what you are trying to achieve, you can use rejection to motivate yourself.  That's what Benny Snell does.  And it's working.  As of the first five games (and I might add, all wins) Benny Snell has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and has broken UK's all-time rushing record.  Snell never gives up.  Ever.  

Remember this running back when you get a rejection.  Don't quit.  
Fire yourself up.  Be like Benny Snell.  Give your next attempt everything you've got.  Rejection is like stepping stones to your success.  Don't let rejection go to waste.  Use it.   

À la prochaine 

September 27, 2018

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer


I was bullied at school.    
She sat behind me  
 on the school bus 
reached forward, 
and yanked,  
waiting for a reaction, 
a response,
a flinch
which never came;
so, she upped the game,
made it a challenge,
(but she and I both knew there was really no challenge)
and reached forward again, this time
more maliciously
more malevolently
 and pulled out strands of walnut-colored hair
that were never hers to touch

When I think back on the situation, I get angry at my thirteen-year-old self.  Why didn't it occur to me to change seats?  Why did I think that avoiding confrontation was a show of strength?  Why did I think that if I ignored her, she would quit?  (she didn't)

If the topic of bullying comes up, I realize that I am not alone.  Many of my friends and acquaintances had been bullied.  They tell me they were teased about their physical appearances and were called names.  One of my friends showed me her yearbook.  In it, bullies wrote cruel nicknames and drew crude pictures. 

Nowadays, we feel freer to talk about bullies and what we endured.  Author, blogger, and speaker Geraldine Deruiter is open about being bullied.  She writes that she could never feel empathy for a person who made her life hell.  She thought he deserved an awful life.  Then, Geraldine learned from a friend that the bully had been dealing with pot and was killed in a robbery gone wrong.  He suspected he'd be attacked and slept with a hammer under his pillow.  Dead at the age of 25.  "I think of his anger, his struggles in school, his unhinged rage, all at the tender age of 11."  But Geraldine admits, "I see the error in thinking that a troubled child somehow deserves a terrible fate.  Adults told me to ignore him, and he’ll go away.  In the end, they were right." 

It's been over 50 years since I was bullied on the bus ride to school. Bullying leaves lasting mental scars. I have sad and bitter memories.  It could have been worse.  According to, frequent victimization at a young age can lead to adult psychiatric disorders needing treatment.  Victims of bullying are prone to psychosis, panic attacks, anxiety, and drug and alcohol abuse.  Researchers report that more than 20 percent of children who have suffered bullying are prone to depression serious enough to require medical help by their late 20s.

I was bullied in the workplace.  

At first, he would lash out unpredictably
until the assaults became a given,
unavoidable and inescapable.
Rumors of an unhappy marriage can make
anyone mean and nasty I suppose, 
still it never felt good
being on the receiving end of wrath,
and made to feel stupid
and inferior
at work in front of a group of peers.  
Cruel and unkind punishment 
dished out
for the crime of asking a question.

Workplace bullying can be defined as repeated and abusive conduct that humiliates, threatens, or intimidates one or more persons by one or more perpetrators.  The difference between schoolyard bullying and workplace bullying is the abuse is less physical and more verbal and psychological.  In the workplace, the bully tends to be manipulative and controlling while attempting to become more powerful by putting others down.  

According to, bullying is frighteningly common and takes an enormous toll on our businesses.  Research from Dr. Judy Blando (University of Phoenix) has proven that almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying, whether as a target or a witness.

"Bullying is tricky to define," says Mental Health Campaigner Dr. Praga Agarwal.  "What it definitely is not is a one-off event. That would be classified as harassment.  Bullying on the other hand is deliberately intended to dominate, cause distress and fear in the intended victim. Bullying often happens in private settings and by a person in authority and is difficult to find material evidence for.  Bullying doesn’t happen 'by accident;' it has to be a deliberate action, and even though perpetrators might say they 'meant no harm' when reprimanded, bullying often involves a planned campaign by the bully with the likelihood of negative intent."

Dr. Agarwal continues, "When I was bullied, initially it never even occurred to me that it was bullying. Gradually, it made me more and more miserable, increasingly worried and anxious about going into work, and just unsure of my own abilities. And, this is what workplace bullying does. It knocks the self-esteem of even the most resourceful and confident people, wearing them down so that they are less trusting of their own instincts and judgement and consequently unfit to work."

More bullies.   

Emotional bullying is seen in adult relationships and workplaces, too. defines it is as any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity and self-worth.  Emotional abuse includes criticism and the refusal to be pleased.  People say it's not abuse because there's no physical harm being done, but words do in fact hurt.

A former actress and award-winning author Katherine Mayfield says, "Emotional abusers may also invalidate the perceptions of the victim by denying reality when the victim confronts the abuser, saying “I never did that” or “I never said that,” or by telling the victim she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.  People who abuse and bully will not accept responsibility for their actions.  Abusers may also refuse to listen, refuse to communicate, or withhold attention from the victim, in essence giving him 'the silent treatment.' Withholding any kind of praise, encouragement, or support is also common."

God help the emotional bully.  He is what he is.
He blames you, insults, argues,  
refuses to listen,
gets defensive 
and the beauty of it all is 
he judges without the expectations of being judged in return. 

The emotional bully is what he is.
Power and arrogance are part of the package.
It comes with the territory.
He will not change.
In his wake there is no apology,   
respect, empathy, or compassion.

An emotional bully rarely changes.  He is what he is.
He challenges you,
erodes self-esteem,
squashes confidence,
puts down and discounts reason.
After a conversation (or is it a confrontation?)
he brushes you away.
Yet, you are resilient.
Stronger than he will ever know.
The emotional bully is what he is.
But he will never leave another scar.

À la prochaine 

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, 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


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


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


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."

" 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 


"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


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 "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! 

June 15, 2018

Surprisingly audacious reflections of a humble writer


I should have never tried to drug drugged a stray cat.

Putt-Putt is the black and white stray cat that we feed and care for.

Our family thought it would be a good idea to take him in for a check-up with our veterinarian.

The big question was, how do you catch a cat that doesn't want to be caught?  A friend suggested that I give him a sedative.  I thought that was brilliant.

I explained the situation to my vet and he approved a mild sedative.  The following morning, I crushed only a quarter of the tablet and put it in his food.

Within five minutes his eyes were glassy.  I gently slipped the cloth laundry bag over him and pulled the drawstring.

Well, that was easy.  Putt-Putt only had to sleep for a few hours until his appointment.

And then, Putt-Putt must have realized something was not quite right.  No ground beneath his paws. No blue skies overhead.  He went berserk.  Lord have mercy, this cat was on a mission to escape faster than Harry Houdini.

I called my husband's cell.

It was 6:00 am.

"Jim.  Hurry.  I need you to go get the pet carrier."

"What?  Where are you?"

"I'm on the deck with Putt-Putt.  He's trying to get out of the bag."

Putt-Putt was not trying to get out of the bag, he was DETERMINED to get out of the bag.

My loving and devoted husband knew ahead of time what I had hoped to accomplish.  He scrambled out of bed and dashed into the garage for the carrier and began to climb the steps to the deck where I had one unhappy supposedly-drugged cat.

He arrived just in time to see Putt-Putt slice the bag and tear it to shreds with his claws.

No problem, he'll probably calm down and sleep it off.  I mean, he's doped up.  Right?

Putt-Putt took off like a bcat out of hell.

I hadn't counted on him getting agitated and scared.  I expected him to take one long cat nap.

Then an enormous amount of guilt swallowed me up.  Here was this sedated cat that I love disappearing to who knows where and it was all because of me.

I had visions of my beloved stray being hit by a car.  Chased by a dog.  Carried away by a hawk.
If you've ever seen the movie The Proposal with Kevin the dog (replace Kevin with Putty) you'll know what I mean.

I searched the neighborhood and called for him throughout the morning meanwhile swearing I would never ever try this stunt again.

By early afternoon, Putt-Putt returned to sleep on our deck. Unharmed.  When he awoke, I had a big dish of sedative-free cat food waiting for him.

As for getting him in to the vet and having his health checked out, I'm not sure that's going to happen.

All ideas sound good theoretically at first.  The same is true with writing or any other task.  Some ideas work, others don't.  You've got to try and see.

But if the idea sounds questionable from the very start and it includes a cat, it's probably best to scratch it.

Listen to Randi Lynn read Dopey and Sleep, but not Happy...

CWW is published twice a month.
À la prochaine