Writers Anyone?

Published September 13, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Sometimes I view my writing as a silly folly.  Truthfully, I don’t  know what it means to be a writer.  What does a writer look like, act like, or think like? Can I play the part convincingly? I went to a writers’ Meetup group to find out.

In the corner of a Barnes and Noble, a group of writers set folding chairs in a circle.  Some of them brought copies of their work to share, others came to listen and critique.  The group’s moderator, a quiet and thoughtful man, invited members to introduce themselves.

I took notes.  Here were people who wrote poetry, short stories, screen plays, memoirs, essays, and novels.  None of them admitted to being a blog writer (including me).  I wondered why.

For this meeting, writers brought flash or short works (1000 words or less).  I brought a blog entry that fit the specs. For the next few hours, we shared and critiqued each other.  The process takes courage, love, and spot-on feedback.

Toward the end of the meeting. the moderator reminded members to give him their web addresses.  So that’s why no one admitted to being a blog writer – having a blog is a given.  Gosh, I’m  dumb. The moderator wanted to promote them on the MeetUp message board.  Nice perk, right?

I know I have a lot to learn about being a writer.  But at this Meetup, I learned that writers are real people just like me.

If you’ve ever tried a writers’ group, what was it like for you?

Thanks for stopping by!

A Chicken in Every Plot

Published September 10, 2012 by Ms. Nine

By mazaletel (Flickr: the ladies) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

During Labor Day weekend, my husband decided to build a chicken tractor.  What is a chicken tractor and why did he want to build one? Simple answer – someone at work talked him into it.

“It’s a mobile home for chickens,” he explained, “a coop and a run on wheels.  The chickens will perform magic by changing a patch of ground into fertile garden space within a few weeks.  We’ll move it so the chickens will make lots of garden plots.  By spring, the plots will be ready for planting,” he told me. “What do you think?”

“Go chickens!” I said. “Let’s do it.”

“Great.  I’ll take some time off work.  We can build it this week.”

The fact that we didn’t know a cluck about raising chickens didn’t deter our enthusiasm.  How hard could it be to build for chickens?  After all, we’ve been building from scratch for years.

We researched building plans, inventoried our own stock of scrap materials, and foraged in hardware stores for materials we needed.  Within a few days, we were ready to start building.

When my husband and I build together, my job is “the holder and go-fer”.  This means I hold off the distractions (kids, phone calls, and visitors) and get necessities (food, beverages, and music to maintain the work rhythm).  Occasionally, I’d hold a board in place for my husband to nail, but usually someone else does the heavy lifting (a daughter’s unwitting boyfriend trying to make a favorable impression).

Sadly, after years of observing my husband, none of his skills has transferred to me.  I can’t even swing a hammer.  Unfortunately,  all other conscripts have flown away leaving me holding the screws and everything else.  My poor husband has no idea how limited I am regarding basic carpentry skills.

“Hand me the square. It’s on my workbench.”

His workbench is not my domain. It is littered with tools, boxes of screws, deely-bop-its, and buckets of nails –  a Home Depot garage sale on clearance.  I needed a hint. “What color is it?”

“Yellow.”

Ah, that’s better. It’s easy to spot yellow in a grey area.

He placed the square on a piece of wood to mark a line.  His pencil broke.  He cussed.  “Get me a pencil. No. Get me a pen.”

What were my chances of finding a pen on his workbench?   I scrambled into the house to retrieve a box of pens on my desk.

The pens didn’t write on the damp wood.  He cussed again.  “I can’t figure out the angle for these rafters. Get me the angle guide.”

I handed him a metal object shaped like a triangle. “No, not that,” he said.  Eggs-asperated by my lack of  nomenclature knowledge, he huffed, “I should have said the ‘adjustable’ angle guide.”

By now my husband thinks I’m a wing nut.  His instructions become more explicit.

“Go get me a half-inch socket. Tool case. Third drawer. Round objects – calipers on the side.”

During the next few days, I handed him screws, nails, boards, held up things, plugged in power tools, and picked up things he dropped.  I cheered when pieces fit together and cussed when they didn’t.  I cracked chicken jokes and made him laugh.

More than a few days later, we managed to build the basic frame.  Our next step is making it mobile.  I have a feeling we’ll nail this thing hens down.

Okay, no more fowl jokes.

For now, we’re thinking of names. Yes, we’re going to name our coop.  Any suggestions?

By VanTucky (Own work) [CC-BY-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for stopping by!

FaceBook, Smart Phones, and Fishing

Published August 31, 2012 by Ms. Nine

I’m not an expert with social networking, but I have a Facebook account to connect with people I’m closest to, and I have a blog to connect with folks on the web.  To my husband, a social network means a company picnic and his face on a billboard… I never expected there’d come a day when he’d be schooled.

When he returned from fishing, horns tooting and “Whoopie!” shouting, Marie and my husband flaunted their prizes and took pictures with their phones.

“Baby Beth, hold this up so I can take your picture,” Marie told her daughter.

“I don’t wanna.  It’s icky,” Baby Beth said.

“Oh, common.  I’ll help you,” said my husband.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

After taking several “good ones” with their smart phones, my husband and daughter compared their catches.

“I’m posting my shots on Facebook,” Marie declared, deftly tapping her phone.  Within seconds, the picture of Baby Beth’s grimace holding an icky fish was shared with the world.

Marie hopped to the computer and logged in. “Mom, come look.”

“Oh, Lordy!” On the nineteen inch monitor flashed a picture of my granddaughter struggling with a  dead 4lb. bass.  At this very moment, our entire family could see them on Facebook.  Ah…the wonders of the modern world.

“These are great. How can I print these out?” my husband asked, looking over my shoulder.  My dear husband, bless his heart, does not know how to use the features on his smart phone.  Marie, bless her heart, did not want to teach him how people pass around pictures nowadays.

“You need a Facebook account, Dad.  I’ll set one up, if you want…”

He sighed, shook his head, and left.  It was not his thing.

Marie and I seized the moment to introduce him to social media and all its glorious splendor. While he was outside cleaning the fish, Marie and I zip-lined him to the twenty-first century.  We opened a Facebook account for him, uploaded his pictures (a profile, too!), and sent “friend” requests.

After dinner, Marie braved a Facebook demonstration on his smart phone.  She had synced his accounts and showed him how to upload pictures and access his email.

During her lesson, he held his breath and concentrated.  Yes! He’s taking it in, I thought. Within minutes, his eyes glazed.  He blinked repeatedly.  Oh, no.  Marie had overloaded his microchips. The program is not responding.  Do we wait or end program now?  We waited.

It worked!  We squealed as he accessed Facebook and patted him on the back as he opened his picture files.  I can’t say he was delighted, but he grinned at our enthusiasm.

The next day, he slammed his phone on the table. “I hate Facebook.”

“Why?”

“My phone’s been vibrating all day. People keep leaving messages wanting to be “friends” on Facebook.  I’m too busy for that crap.”

I took his phone and tapped off  the notifications. Poor guy.  He’ll still catch fish, but he won’t be using the networks of the twenty-first century.

 

Have a great weekend. And thanks for stopping by!

When the Wind Blows

Published August 27, 2012 by Ms. Nine

By NOAA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As Hurricane Isaac threatens the Gulf, I am reminded of the devastating effects of nature.  There’s something feral about hurricane winds.  Your animal side responds to its howl.  Can you outwit nature? Subdue it? Do you really have dominion?

“Mom, can we stay with you tonight?” It was Rachel.  She, her husband, and their infant son lived in a mobile home surrounded by trees. “We’re supposed to evacuate on account of the hurricane.  Mike’s on his way home from work, now.  I’m scared, Mom. ”

“You have time.  But please, honey, come as soon as you can.  We’re getting ready for it.   Bring everything you’ll need for the next several days just in case….” I said.

That night after the wind knocked out the power, we listened to news on a battery operated radio.  My daughters, all of them, huddled in the living room and clung to every word of the emergency broadcast…A loud crash broke the concentration.

Armed with flashlights and rope, my husband and son-in-law left the house to investigate.  The girls held hands and prayed.  As I watched the men though the window, their flashlights illuminated blurs of their movement – the struggle to tie rope to the posts and tether themselves, their blown faces like distorted images in a fun house, the rain slamming them sideways.

When they returned, the girls threw questions at them.  What happened? Did you see the barn? Are the horses okay? What was that noise?

“The sycamore, the one by the driveway, toppled over,” Mike reported.

“It’s okay,” my husband said, “it didn’t hit the propane tank.”

At this point, most of us were exhausted.  We were tired of listening to the wind, the tinny radio voices, and the pelting rain.  I blew out the candles and brought out blankets and pillows.  We dosed.

In the light of dawn, the brightest light I had ever seen, we stumbled awake and gathered outside. I heard a scream.

In the blink of an eye, our yard had become a strange landscape.  Toppled trees and branches obscured the view of the street, the barn, and the pond.  A large oak lay across the front field.  The top of  an old cedar had hurled like a spear into Marie’s ragtop.  She was still screaming.  She loved that car.

We comforted each other and checked on our neighbors.   All the people on our street were without electricity too, but no one was hurt.  For the next several days, I would bond with my neighbors in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.  We held grilling parties to share thawing food, passed around generators for our well pumps, and took turns with chain saws to clear the road of fallen trees.  A friend fixed Marie’s car.

Within a few weeks, our lives returned to normal, but we would never be the same.  We learned about the power of people and the power of nature.  United in humanity, we do have dominion.

Open House for 3WW

Published August 22, 2012 by Ms. Nine

3WW prompts: amuse, excite, sincere

The voices in the hall expanded like air in a balloon.

“Bonjour, everyone, bonjour,” she announced to the parents and students waiting by her door.  “My name is Madame Jolivette.  I look forward to meeting each of you. Come in.  Make yourselves at home.”

Madame’s arms gestured a sincere invitation as pupils and parents filed through the doorway.  Faded posters of La Tour Eiffel, La Seine, and L’Arc de Triomphe paired with charts of conjugated verbs wallpapered the room.  She sighed.  This may be my last Open House. When I retire I’ll go to Paris and stroll along L’Avenue des Champs-Élysées…

A chubby boy wearing a collared shirt eyed the pastries on a sideboard.  Madame raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips.  Ah, croissants and éclairs never fail to excite them.

Parents and students mingled, munched French pastries, and chatted.  Madame overheard.

“They say French is a dying language,” a father said.

“Not true.  All international treaties are written in French,” piped another parent.

“Used to be. They’re written in English nowadays,” another argued.

“Why would the board approve this course, then?”

Mme. Jolivette interrupted, “I’m sure the answer will amuse you…Let me tell you a story…”

Thanks for stopping by!

The Wizard and Blueberries for 3WW

Published August 8, 2012 by Ms. Nine

CC Wikimedia

3WW  prompt: crumble, uneasy, drawn

“Hey, do you know where the Wizard’s Cauldron is?” Faith asked the driver across from us.

We had an address but couldn’t get a handle on the pick-your-own blueberry farm. I rode shot-gun and navigated.

“It’s that-a-way,” the driver shouted, pointing toward Route 158.

The light changed and Faith U-turned. “Didn’t we already drive this way?” she asked. The familiar landmarks, a liquor store, an empty shack, and a set of run-down mobile homes, made me feel uneasy.  Then again, we had driven by so many streets; any one of them could have evoked a déjà vu.

“Okay, now watch for a sign,” she said.

“I’ve seen it.”

“What? Where?”

I looked at her. “In the haunted forest right before the witch’s castle.  It said I’d turn back if I were you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly. We’re not going back empty-handed. Carol told me to look for a small sign next to a warehouse.  Is that a warehouse?” She pointed to a row of garages clumped together like bad teeth.

“Yeah, could be,” I said.

She lifted her foot off the gas without ramming the brake pedal, an improvement in her driving I could only attribute to magic.  To me, this was proof of our proximity to the Wizard’s Whatever.

“Look! There it is!” she squealed, wrenching a hard right.  I never noticed the sign as my head hit the roof when she ignored the curb. She stopped her new Ford Focus behind the ramshackle warehouse.  Another sign propped against the wall was harder to miss.   I read the primary-grade print in purple letters.

Pick your own. $1.00 a pint. Leave money in jar. Use honor system.

I twitched.  A pint? How many blueberries are in a pint? Can you pick a half-pint? What if we didn’t have the exact amount of money? Who makes change? I’d never experienced self-service like this. It felt strange, but I followed Faith down a path between the wind break.

Hidden from the road, acres of blueberry shrubs dotted an open field. I could spot the blueberries from yards away. They hung like mini-ornaments in splendid clusters.  They glistened with the promise of blueberry crumble and all else that is holy.

Within thirty minutes, we had drawn a gallon of berries from the Wizard’s Cauldron, stuffed two bills in the jar, and flitted..

During the drive back to town, Faith described the recipes she would use, who she would make them for, when she’d make them, and why.  “I’m going to make Bobby a pie.  I’m old fashioned.  I think if he tastes my cooking, he’ll love me even more.  Isn’t that a ridiculous sentiment?” She turned to me for what, reassurance? Too bad she didn’t see the bakery truck barreling down the wrong side of a country road.

“Faith! Look out!” I grabbed the wheel. She kicked the brake pedal and screamed.

I’m sure a scenic road becomes a kaleidoscope of pretty colors when viewed from the widows of a spinning car.  I can’t say.  My eyelids and cheek bones instinctively formed a seal, protecting me from all visuals, beautiful or otherwise.  My ears, however, were blasted with the audio of Faith’s screams.

Like a windup toy, the car lost its energy and stopped.

“Are you okay?”

I nodded. “Are you?”

“I’m a mess. That truck! Where did it go?” Faith fumed.

“Drove away.”

“We’re lucky no one got hurt. Hell, we’re lucky to be alive!” she turned to look in the back. “Look, the blueberries didn’t spill.”

Faith thought it best if I drove the rest of the way. I looked in the rear view mirror at the peculiar black circles staining the road. I shrugged, shifted to drive, and punched it.

I was sorely in need of to-die-for blueberry crumble.

Don’t you love 3WW…Thanks for stopping by!

The Stein and Ms.Nine

Published August 3, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Note: I’m re-posting this in case you haven’t seen it.

It’s inevitable. Throughout time, writers have used technology to write – movable type, ball point pens, the electric typewriter, and the ultimate writing machine – the word processor.

What if writers of the 20th century like Hemingway, Faulkner, or Fitzgerald used the technology of today?  Would they have accomplished more?  What would 20th century writers do with word processors, the internet, or blogging?  There’s only one way to find out.

I invited Mr. Steinbeck into my imagination for an interview.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation…

Ms. Nine:  Welcome, Mr. Steinbeck.  Thanks for spending e-time on my blog today.

Mr. Steinbeck:  Please, call me ‘the Stein’; it’s my tag.

Ms. Nine: (the Stein??  I could NEVER!)… >cough< …I’ve invited you here so writers could benefit from your perspective on being a writer in the 21st century.

Mr. Steinbeck: Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.

Ms. Nine: Uh..okay, if you say so… This is my first posthumous interview and I’m a little nervous… So here’s my first question.  How do you feel about using a word processor?

Mr. Steinbeck:  I hate computers.  They know so much more than I do.  Using a computer forces a writer to think harder, faster, stronger.

Ms. Nine:  Would these modern tools have helped you write?

Mr. Steinbeck:  After I won the big P for The Grapes of Wrath, it was tough getting back on track.   I mean, I still had more writing to do.  Maybe if I had a word processor I would have won that Nobel Prize a lot sooner.  Who’s to say?

Ms. Nine:  Would you have finished The Acts of King Author and His Nobel Knights?

Mr. Steinbeck:  You had to mention that thorn in my side.  I’m not making excuses, but in my day writers had to set priorities.    Yeah, maybe a word processor would have helped.  But back then writers believed in the perfectibility of man.  We didn’t write frivolously.  We wrote – wrote – to bring awareness of the economic and social injustice of the time.  I was making a statement!

Ms. Nine:  This brings me to my next topic – J. Edgar Hoover, the League of American Writers, and the Cold War Communist witch hunt. Do you think using social media and the internet would have made a difference?

Mr. Steinbeck:  If I could have tweeted about what happened to Charlie Chaplin and the Smothers brothers, the resulting public outcry might have stopped all that Communist brouhaha.   I am clever with words.  But remember, if I could have accessed social media, so could McCarthy and Hoover.  The ability of social media to shape collective consciousness is astounding.   It flows in all directions.

Ms. Nine: One last question – would you have used a website to promote your work?

Mr. Steinbeck:  At this point, I have grown beyond my work, walked up the stairs of my own concepts, and emerged ahead of my accomplishments, all achieved without a website.  Ironically, now that I’m dead, I have at least a dozen.

Well, there you have it – a 20th century perspective on writing in the 21st century.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Thanks for stopping by!

 Why write?

Published July 26, 2012 by Ms. Nine

I would never post anything my kids shouldn’t read. In fact, my writer’s soul wants them to read my posts. I want to share my words with them like I did every day when they were little.  My daughters live close by and we talk often on the phone. But my blog posts, especially the stories about them, are special memories set to the speed of light. Yeah, kind of mystical and magical…

“Felda, did you read my blog today?”

She chortles. “I didn’t have time today, sorry.”

“Audra, what did you think of my post today?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t read it. Yet. I’ll read it later. I promise.”

“Heidi, did you like my post?”

“What post?”

I shrug off their indifference and stop asking.  It doesn’t matter whether they read it or not, the story is alive on the web.  I’ve not used their real names, but they’ll recognize themselves nonetheless. And they will read those posts eventually….

Today, my phone rings.

“Mom, I called to tell you I laughed when I read your blog story.”

How cool is that! I get to make them laugh and they call me to let me know.

I hope everyone has found a way to keep those family stories alive.

Light as a Feather

Published July 23, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

Just when I think I’m a goose feather in the wind, I wake up and discover that I’ve become the down in someone’s pillow.  I have no idea how this happens, but somehow my writing drifts in the wind and lands on somebody’s head.  Luckily, it’s light as a feather.

Thanks to Vikki for nominating me for the Illuminating Blogger Award.  I enjoy visiting her blog and  her perspective on writing.

The rules for acceptance are:

1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you 

2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back 

3. Share a random thing about yourself

4. Select five or more nominees and notify them on their blogs.

Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.


Here’s my random thing:  Once I taught mathematics to students in a psychiatric hospital.

Please visit these worthy blogs for inspiration and enlightenment:

Susan

Cyronette

Brian

Chris 

C. A. Husted

                                        

                                                   photo by kat@1bydesign.com

Thanks for stopping by!

 

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