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All posts for the month May, 2012

Published May 31, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Speaking of Motivation…
Here’s a nice post from Polly Blog.

POLLY BLOG!

Everyone wants something.  I want a new pair of winter boots, a hot tangerine computer bag, a holiday in Hawaii and a summer house in the Gold Coast.  Materialistic, sure.  But hey, they’re my genuine wants!

Your characters, however, are not just average people.  ‘More money’ isn’t a justifiable want for a billionaire unless there’s a reason behind it.  That reason will keep the reader turning the page, wondering if they will actually achieve their goal of getting that want.

So what is a want?  The online dictionary offers up these choices: need, desire, wish, goal, crave, demand.  So, realistically, let’s take a few examples.  In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker wants to get off Tatooine and have an adventure.  Simple.  Princess Leia wants to blow up the Death Star.  Indiana Jones wants to find the Ark of the Covenant.  Ben Gates (National Treasure) wants to find the Templar…

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Rewrites

Published May 30, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Today I’m going to do something I thought I’d never do – post my WIP.   Writers need feedback, so I’m asking for your critiques.  This is the second rewrite of my opening scene.   Please post comments and tell me what you think.   What works?  What doesn’t?

     His pick-up truck sucked the miles along U.S. Route 9 like a thirsty kid pulls soda through a straw.  His truck’s high beams on the deserted highway illuminated the Burma-Shave signs. Their messages took on a personal relevance.  If these…Signs blur…And bounce around…Park your car…And walk to town.   He hadn’t slept in days.   At four o’clock in the morning, the empty highway placated his rattled nerves.  He had driven the last hundred miles without being followed.   Still, David checked his rearview mirror and pushed his foot forward on the gas pedal.  Don’t lose…Your head…To gain a minute…You need your head…Your brains are in it.   He had a plan to protect his family, but he needed Louise’s help.    

     By the time he parked his truck two blocks away from Louise’s driveway, the sun was rising over Manhattan, but along the row houses of Poughkeepsie, the porch lights wouldn’t turn off for another hour.  He closed his eyes, but couldn’t close his mind to the dread that haunted his thoughts.  I’m sorry, Louise.  I didn’t want to involve you.  But you’re the only one I can trust.  The whole town has gone mad.  You have to help Rachel and the kids…The kids…Oh, God, they’d better not touch my kids.  

     In his dream, it was Sarah’s fifth birthday.  His wife, Rachel, was tying a blindfold on Caleb for pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.  Instead of a donkey’s tail, his son was holding a rabbit’s foot.  He saw Dr. Stone pouring Kool-Aid into plastic cups and handing them to the children.  Dr. Stone?  No! Suddenly, Sarah’s new pogo stick became a rifle.  He grabbed it and aimed it at the grinning doctor.    

     Sunlight, like an air to ground missile, struck his eyelids and exploded him to attention.   He scrambled out of his truck and took note of his surroundings – a woman in a house dress walking her poodle, a postman on foot, a kid on a bicycle throwing papers – an ordinary suburban scene.  It felt like the Twilight Zone.  This can’t be happening!  As he walked the two blocks to Louise’s house, his pace quickened.  I’m being paranoid, he told himself.   Still, he didn’t use the front door, but approached the house from the side, the entrance to the kitchen shadowed by a row of lilac bushes.

     He knocked. A woman wearing a pink checkered apron opened the door. “David!” she embraced him warmly. “I didn’t see you drive up.” 

     She frowned when she noticed him looking over his shoulder before going inside.  She poured two mugs of coffee and set them on the table, gesturing for him to sit.  As he did, he opened his mouth to apologize for involving her, but Louise spoke first.   

     “David, I have the medicine you asked for – streptomycin.  And just like you said, my doctor didn’t question me when I told him it was for Rachel.  But you still haven’t told me the whole story.  Don’t tell me Saranac Lake doesn’t have any streptomycin.  I know Rachel needs it, but why did you have to come all this way to get it? Any why all the secrecy?” she asked.      

     “Louise, she’s not getting any better.”

     “So why the cloak-and-dagger, David?  Shouldn’t you be talking to the doctors?  They’re the experts.”

     “Louise, I don’t trust the doctors at the sanatorium anymore.  I don’t trust anyone in Saranac!”  He ran his hands through his hair.  The panic and despair in his voice was uncharacteristic of her easy-going brother-in-law.

     “David, tell me what’s going on,” she said, tapping her spoon on the rim of her coffee mug.

     “What I’m going to say will sound like the ramblings of a lunatic,” he muttered, keeping his voice low. “The doctors at the sanatorium have been experimenting with some kind of new drug and I’m pretty sure it’s not for TB.”  

     “What makes you think that?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

     “Last week I drove to the old camp, the one by Miller’s Pond, to deliver the usual batch of medical supplies.  When I came to the front door, I saw the TB patients through the window.”

    “Isn’t that where Rachel went for treatments?  The hunters’ lodge that the sanatorium converted to a cure cottage?”

     “Yeah, that one.  I rang the doorbell and waited there on the porch.  I saw patients lying in hospital beds with IVs attached to their arms.”

     “So what? It’s a cure cottage, David, that’s what they do there. What’s so unusual about that?”

     “That’s not the weird part.  When one of the doctors came to the door, he told me to bring the delivery to the back.  There were too many packages, so I got back in the truck and drove it to the back to unload.”  

     “And?”

     “Flashing lights and weird sounds were coming from a corner room. I stayed in the truck for a few minutes and watched through a window.” David continued, “And that’s when I saw some of our neighbors.  Louise, they were acting so strange!”

    “What were they doing?”

    “At first it looked like some kind of party – pink flashing lights, heavy drum beats, music.  They were all laughing and drinking what looked like fruit punch.  Some were dancing,” he took a breath.

    “Sounds like fun, David,” she rolled her eyes, her skepticism over-riding her good manners.

     “Oh no, I’m sure the party goers thought they were having fun, but…You remember Martha Stone, that prissy lady who parades in mink coats all the time?”

     “I think so, the one we snickered at in church when I visited at Easter?”

     “Yeah, that’s her. Well, she was eating some concoction of wiggling worms, dirt and all.”

     “Come on, David. That sounds like a party game – Truth or Dare. Haven’t you ever played?” Oh dear, he’s gone over the deep end, she thought. 

     “I’m telling you Louise, this was no party game.  One of the doctors was sitting in the corner taking notes.”

      “Taking notes on how to have fun, I’ll bet.”

      “Seriously, Louise,” David continued, “Oliver Burton, the guy who owns the hardware store?  He was dancing in his underwear.   And Julia, his wife, was snipping off her hair.  Jacob Mills, the hunting guide – he was vacuuming the rug.   But the strangest thing, the thing that disturbed me the most was Peter Campbell happily sawing at his left toe.  Louise, he was cutting his own toe off – and smiling!”

    “You’re kidding, right? Jacob Mills, that scrubby old mountain man – vacuuming?” Come-on, Peter Campbell cutting his toe off? She didn’t buy it.

     “Louise, please, I’m not kidding around!”

     “Okay, so what do you think is really going on, David?”

     “Some kind of mind control experiment! Before I handed off the supplies, I noticed the shipment labels. Some packages came from Langley, Virginia – that’s CIA, Louise!”

    “That is odd. Why would the CIA be shipping medical supplies to Saranac Lake?”

     “Because they’re not medical supplies – they’re mind control drugs!” David declared. “I started asking questions the next day.  Julia had a new hairdo – short and wavy.  When I asked her where she had her hair done, she said a new operator in town fixed her hair.  Louise, there is no new beauty operator!  I asked Jacob Mills where he was last night and he couldn’t remember – that, coming from a man who knows exactly how many nuts and bolts he’s sold on any given day?”

     “What about Peter Campbell?”

     “I made a stop at his house, too.  He had his slippers on and blood was seeping through the side of his left foot.  When I asked him what happened to his foot, he told me a log probably fell on it.  Probably? Look, these people had no idea what happened to them.”

     “David, maybe they were too embarrassed to talk about it, or maybe they were too drunk to remember,” Louise offered. “I wouldn’t want to tell you anything either if I woke up at a cure cottage with a hangover the next morning.”

     “I didn’t see any booze there, Louise.”

     “Alright, David.  What if those people were under some kind of drug influence,” Louise argued, “that doesn’t mean the sanatorium or the CIA is behind this.”

      “I also spoke to one of the doctors who were there that night. I asked him how his patients got any rest with all that racket. You know what he said? He told me I’d better mind my own business if I wanted my wife to continue getting free treatments.  So I told him where he could stuff his treatments – they weren’t helping Rachel anyway. I told him his patients didn’t look any better either.  Then he poked his finger in my chest and told me to shut my trap and stop asking questions if I knew what’s good for me.  Louise, he threatened my family!”

     “Oh, David! What are we going to do?”

     “Here’s my plan…” 

 

Thanks again for reading.  And please, tell me what you think.

Ironing out Irony

Published May 29, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

The artful use of irony can stab your readers in the heart (you murderer!), make them twist their heads (they never saw THAT coming!), or make them giggle in delight (what a punch line!).

Irony is a tricky idea, especially when there are multiple takes on the term.  Straightening the strands of irony requires conditioners, wide-tooth combs, and maybe a little heat.  To make it manageable, let’s start with a master.

Think William Sydney Porter, the embodiment of situational irony.   After his release from prison, he wrote for the New York World as O. Henry in an attempt to break away from his past.  Yet many of his stories were written while he was incarcerated.   The irony that hallmarked his stories and threaded through his life,  also signed the guest book at his funeral service.  Somehow the church double-booked O. Henry’s funeral with a wedding.  Can you imagine hearing The Strife is O’er, immediately followed by the Wedding March?  You have to appreciate the irony in that.

Can you find the irony in this?

“Please, please, PLEASE, don’t tell Mom about this Sunday,” Sarah begged her brother.

“You think I want her in on it? Don’t worry.  It’ll be great not having Mom at the around,” Mike reassured her. “I’ll even bring the Dos Equis.”

“You can count on me to keep this a secret,” piped Julie, the youngest sister. “I’m going to invite my newest bad-boy.  This is one Sunday I plan to enjoy.”

Sarah cranked up the music as she and her co-conspirators danced in the living room to Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It.   The smiling dancers reveled in the anticipation of a Sunday that wouldn’t be another every-Sunday-is-Mothers’-Day family gathering.

That’s why on Wednesday Sarah punched Mike’s number after listening to this voicemail:  Sarah, this is Mom.  Mike’s wife told me she can’t come over for Sunday dinner because she’s going to your house instead.  Why didn’t you tell me you wanted to cook on Sunday?  How wonderful!  I’ll see you then.

Mike answered on the first ring.

“Irene has a big mouth,” Sarah said.

“Don’t blame her.  You know Mom has a way of sniffing out secrets.” Mike continued, “I say we go ahead as planned, despite the interference.”

“Mom’s gonna have a heart attack!”

“So what.  We’ll tone it down while she’s here, then ramp it up after she leaves.”

“Okay, baby brother, but any and all fallout is on you.”

Click.

Late that Sunday afternoon, as the dinner turned cold Sarah remarked, “Mom’s late. Let’s start without her.”  Suddenly, as if on cue, there was a knock at the door.  Unknown to Sarah, the knock at the door did not herald the dreaded visitor.   Before Sarah opened it, she forced her painted lips into a grin.

“Mom!” she said, without noticing the knuckles of the knocker, immediately drawing some embarrassment from the policeman who shifted his weight from side to side.

“Are you Ms. Wainwright?”

“Yes.  Is there a problem?”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Wainwright, there’s been an accident involving your mother.”

Thanks for reading!

For more on irony, the art of the unexpected, check out this cute site: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/irony

Catching Ideas

Published May 25, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Do you ever see ideas float around waiting for a place to land?  I do.   Today they caught me sitting on my deck between dawn and a dark roast.   They twinkled around me, an amorphous entity, swirling and swarming like gnats.   Then they contracted and crystallized into a Memorial Day memory, a snapshot I fashioned into words that became this: 

It’s 1970.  Since Memorial Day falls on a Saturday, a worker can expect an extra day’s pay.   To a high school girl like me, this doesn’t matter because there’s no holiday pay for part-timers.  What matters to me is the jewelry shop where I work is closed, so I’m not working this Saturday; I’m going downtown with my friends.  We’re gathering with other protesters in front of Morin’s Diner to sing Give Peace a Chance, loud and continuous, as the bands and old battalions march by during the Memorial Day parade. 

Suddenly, the ideas that formed a single snapshot fragment and float away in separate balloons, each with its own label –  Woodstock, Vietnam, Moon Landing,  the Monday Holiday bill, and more, hundreds more.  I could catch the strings that dangle from  any one of them before they float out of reach (if I wanted to).  For now, I’ll let them go.  And that’s okay, they’ll be back.

My point – you don’t have to scour the universe looking for ideas to write about.  Relax. Let them find you.

Happy writing and happy Memorial Day week-end.

Thanks for visiting!

The Stein and Ms. Nine

Published May 24, 2012 by Ms. Nine

The writer married technology a long time ago.  Think about it.  They’ve always walked hand in hand – the invention of movable type, the ball point pen, the electric typewriter, and the ultimate machine – the word processor.  I thought it would be fun to consider writers of the 20th century like Hemmingway, Faulkner, or Fitzgerald using the technology of now.  Would they have accomplished more?  What would they say about it?  What would John Steinbeck think of word processors, the internet, or blogging?  To satisfy my curiosity, 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-face 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 – I 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 and the League of American Writers.  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 that Communist brouhaha.   I am clever with words.  But remember, if I could’ve had access to social media, so too would 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?

 

 

 

 

 

Fifty Shades of Gravy

Published May 23, 2012 by Ms. Nine

No, this is not a recipe blog.  I just couldn’t resist the title as I remembered a vocabulary lesson I taught years back.   As I recall, the lesson went like this…

     “Ms. Nine, why do we have so many words that mean the same thing?” Mark asked.  He folded his arms and jutted out his chin.  Mark’s preferred mode of communication was body language.  Words got in his way, especially vocabulary words.

     “Hmm…can you explain what you mean?  Try using more words,”   I said. 

     He huffed. “Okay.  Like pulchritude means beauty, right?  And spondulics means money.  Well, beauty and money is all I need.  Forget pulchritude and spondulics,” he declared, drawing giggles from the girls in class.

     I sighed.  No one loves words more than an English teacher.  I couldn’t stop myself from throwing him off balance a little. “Mark, have you ever had red-eye gravy?”

    “Huh?” he pinch up his face. “I don’t know.  Is it… like…a gravy?  I’ve had gravy.” More giggles from the girls.

    “Oh?  What kind of gravy have you had?”

     “Um… beef, turkey, and chicken.  Oh yeah, and lumpy.”  The class roared with raucous laughter.   

      The class was paying close attention to our conversation, now.  Ah, the teachable moment has arrived.  “How about sauce?  Have you ever had sauce?” I asked.

    “Like, spaghetti sauce?”

    “Yes – spaghetti, or brown sauce, velouté, or béchamel?  There are different kinds.”

    “Hmm…Okay, gravy and sauce, two words with similar meaning, I get it.”  He thought a minute before he continued, “So if I say pulchritude instead of beauty, I’m talking about physical beauty, right?  And spondulics isn’t exactly the same as cash.”

     I smiled. 

The right word, like the right gravy, complements the course a writer serves up.   The important thing to remember is that synonyms are not interchangeable.   Precise and purposeful wording is like perfectly spiced sauce.  You wouldn’t substitute cinnamon for turmeric, now, would you?

Perfect Protagonists

Published May 22, 2012 by Ms. Nine

You’ve created the perfect protagonist.   He’s attractive, has a strong moral code, no physical limitations, and is highly successful.   He’s hard at work saving the world, rescuing the girl, and doing the right thing all the time.  But he’s exhausted.   So are his readers.  But he’s so perfect he won’t even tell you how tired he is.  Give your protagonist a break!  Perfect protagonists aren’t perfect. 

Let’s say the protagonists has to do something, something he’s expected to do.  But this time, this one time, the protagonist just can’t perform.  Is the world going to end?  Is someone going to die?  Then try letting another character take up the slack.

Like this.

     “Hey Yogi,  look over there.”  Marvin pointed to the six deer grazing under the mulberry tree.  “Go get ’em!” 

     The shade under the back porch and Marvin’s chair rocking had lulled Yogi into a state of semiconsciousness.   The black lab perked up his head.  His sloppy eyes fixed on Marvin’s.  He panted, but didn’t  follow Marvin’s finger.  Instead, he rested his head back on his paws.

     Marvin sighed,  “Come on, Yogi.  I can’t cotton to these deer going after my corn.  You know I can’t afford a fence – you’re all I got.”  He wanted to yank Yogi up by his collar, give him a nudge, a kick even.  But Marvin was a practical man.   Yogi  had worked the fields all day chasing away the deer and countless rabbits.  After doing his job for seventeen years, that old dog’s gotta be tired.

     “Alright, Yogi.  I can see you ain’t moving off this porch.”  Marvin stood up from his chair and put down his beer.  “I don’t blame you, not one bit.  So I’ll do it this time.”

     Yogi picked up his head again and wagged his tail a little as Marvin ran, arms wide, making loud turkey calls.   The deer scattered off,  just as if Yogi had chased them himself.  

See?  It’s okay to let another character take charge.  The perfect protagonist needs a break!

Writing Recipes

Published May 21, 2012 by Ms. Nine

     When you share your favorite recipe, don’t forget to serve it up with a good story.  Nothing enhances the flavor of good food than the story behind it.  If you’ve ever read the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe (now an urban legend!), you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, here’s the link Neiman Marcus $250 cookie recipe

      Today, think about your special recipe.  What’s the story?  Here’s mine.

     Twenty-five years ago a Vermont newspaper featured an article about New Orleans Jambalaya.   Absentmindedly, I read the list of ingredients aloud, “Hmmm – shrimp, spicy sausage, chicken, tomatoes, cayenne pepper… That sounds good, doesn’t it?”   

     My husband put down his coffee. “Yeah, make it for dinner tonight, why dontcha.”

     “But it’s meatloaf night,” I protested.

     “Well, golly gee whiz! What was I thinking? Of course, nothing compares to your meatloaf, Dear.”

    “Okay, Buster. You’re on.  But I’m warning you – this is hot stuff.”

     Hot stuff, indeed.  That evening, the aroma of sautéed garlic, peppers, and onions wafted through the neighborhood.    Add the shrimp and the whiff of it spawned many a rumor.

     “What’s she done now?”

     “She wants a new car.”

     “She definitely wants something.”

     “Forgiveness.”

     “She’s pregnant again…”

      After that night, I swore I would only make this dish for special occasions.   The last time I cooked this up was for my step father’s 80th birthday.  It sure put some pep in his step!

     Here’s the recipe and a caveat.  This stuff draws a crowd, so make a lot.  Like sex, there’s never enough.

                                                New Orleans Pasta Jambalaya

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 2-inch strips

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cups each chopped green and yellow peppers

½ cup chopped onion

½ teaspoon minced garlic

3 ½ cups (28 oz can) crushed tomatoes in puree

¾ cup chicken broth

½ pound fully cooked spicy sausage cut in ¼ inch slices

¾ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound cleaned medium shrimp

8 ounces dry pasta, cooked and drained

2 to 4 drops of hot pepper sauce

In medium bowl, toss chicken in flour. In large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat; sauté chicken for three minutes.  Add green and yellow peppers, onion, and garlic; sauté for three to four minutes or until crisp tender. Add tomatoes, broth, sausage, black pepper, salt, and cayenne; stir to combine thoroughly.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.  Add shrimp and continue to cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until shrimp are pink and loosely curled.  Serve over pasta. Makes 8 servings.

Using Poetry in Memoir

Published May 18, 2012 by Ms. Nine

     Have you started writing your memoir yet?  Don’t worry, only death knows your due date.  Don’t be like me, though, or your memoir will become a permanent WIP.  For today, I’m sharing an excerpt from A Child in the ‘60s, my childhood in New England.    In this piece, my brother and I were scouring the empty field after the circus left. We were looking for loose change.  Even though we didn’t find any money, we found an item of great value.   What if the item became the speaker in a poem?  Check it out at the end of this excerpt.    

      ….“Hey, look what I found!”  Ricky’s exuberant squeal echoed to the Ten Mile River and back.  Of course, all the other scavengers’ heads poked up like prairie dogs.  A few scrambled over to inspect the find and turned away groaning in disbelief and disinterest.

      Ricky discovered two rubber cables about forty feet long that smelled like tires.  “These were used to hold down the elephants. See how thick and strong they are?” He spoke with the imagined authority of an eight year old boy…

     “Hey Ricky, we can use these elephant cables to make a swing in the oak tree! We could swing as high as we wanted and not have to worry about tipping the swing set over!” 

     Eyes widening, head nodding with the vigor of a puppy’s hind leg scratching at fleas, Ricky instantly liked the idea.  By the time he and I dragged those cables home to the oak tree, our hands were black….

     “Okay, Di. Who gets to go first on the swing?”  Oh, the dreaded “who goes first” question. Every child knows many ways to resolve this dilemma. There’s the toss the coin method (we didn’t have any), the Rock Paper Scissors method, the eeny-meenie-miney-mo method, the fist fight method, and honest-to-goodness trickery.

     Until that moment, I hadn’t considered how I would construct the swing.  Now I realized the easiest way was to get my brother to do the stupid stuff – like straddle a limb thirty feet from the ground and tie two tent cables to it.  For those of you who doubt, a ten year old girl is a highly trained negotiator.

     “You go first, of course.  After all, you found them, even though it was my idea. But first we have to figure out how we’re going to do this…. The only way we’ll have a swing is if we do it ourselves…Ricky, do you think you can climb up the tree and tie the cables to that branch?” I pointed up. Way up.

     “Sure! I’ve climbed the tree lots of times. I’ve even gone way higher than that branch! I know I can do it, Di!” He was practically begging me to give him the go-ahead.

      A child never thinks about danger or putting others in danger…. I accepted his confident yes and shared with him the next logical step in the plan. “Great! While you’re doing that, I’ll look in the barn for a piece of scrap wood for the seat.  Be careful on that branch. ”  

     It was easy to find scrap wood in the barn… [Dad] never threw anything away “just in case”.  Thank-you, Dad.  When I returned with a sturdy three foot plank, two black rubber cables dangled from the oak tree... Together we tied the cables to the plank, twisting and positioning the knots to make the seat level..  Astonished and pleased at our own creation, we glanced at each other and grinned. Was it as safe and sturdy as it looked?  I didn’t admit it to myself then, but I felt relieved that Ricky was trying it out first.

                He reached up and grabbed the cables, hoisting himself onto the seat…  He pulled and stretched, pulled and stretched, until he soared high enough to see the tops of our neighbor’s chicken coops behind the hill.  I watched him with envy for the immense joy he was surely feeling.  I consoled myself knowing that my turn was coming, even though the length of a “turn” had not been negotiated.  Sure enough, within five minutes, he vomited from too much velocity and motion.  Red-faced and silent, he ran to the house.  I yelled for him, but he kept running.  I wanted to call out “Don’t tell Mom!” as I watched him slam the door, but the swing was empty and it was, after all, my turn by default.  With mixed feelings, I latched on to the swing as it unofficially became mine.

     Throughout my years on 975 South Main Street, I would spend more hours on that swing than any other place.  And it wouldn’t be the last time my brother would stretch himself out on a limb for me.

 

A Second Chance

I can’t stretch any more

The wind snaps the flaps of the tent

pulling me from both ends.

Crack!

I’m down now, in the dirt.

Part of me hither, then yon

Bendable but unmendable.

Useless thus abandoned

 

I’m dragged by tender fingers

Parts of me taken by two

Who? Where? Far from elephants

 

I hang in split symmetry

Soft fingers still hold me

Back and forth to the sky

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Now write that memoir!

Editing Memories

Published May 17, 2012 by Ms. Nine

     Don’t you just love memoir writing? You go back in time, revive a dormant memory, and recast it into something that’s fresh and vibrant.  For kicks, you share your newly minted recollection with others, people who were there with you, way back when.   You believe they’ll be delighted, but they’re puzzled.  They look at you and say, “Hey, that’s not how I remember it!”

     New research indicates that the act of remembering can alter our memories.  This means that each time we remember something, the memory changes.  Memories are malleable, dynamic, and fluid.  How Much of Your Memory is True? 

     Whoa! Does this mean that each time you take a trip down Memory Lane, the place looks different?  Yup.  So if you visit Memory Lane often enough, be safe.  Take along a road map – your memoir.  It’ll keep you from getting lost and help you untangle the remembering of your memories in the future.   

     So do it now.  Try writing a memoir about a “first” … a first kiss, a first car, a first job…. Next year or next month, you’ll remember it differently.  But when you read it again in the future, you’ll know exactly how you remembered it today.  

     Post a comment and let me know how it works out!

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