Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A thought for the new year...

Although I gave up making resolutions years ago, I still look forward to the new year. I can't help wondering what it will bring.

When I was very young, it was the hope that this year I would meet the man of my dreams.

After the wedding, when our family failed to grow, it was the hope that this year the pregnancy test would turn out positive.

When the children arrived, my hopes were for their health and safety, and to meet the milestones of walking,  talking, and finally the first day of school.

When the children were older, I told myself that this year I would get the job/promotion/career path I wanted.

When the children (now adults) left home for jobs and families of their own, I wondered if this was the year we would be given a grandchild.

And even later, I hoped I would find in retirement the time to do all the things I didn't have time for when I was working and raising a family.

You see the trend. I hope for the good things, the positive, even when I know the coming year will be littered with the inevitable setbacks, failures and disappointments, and illnesses.

But I put this thought aside, shove it out of sight, refuse to consider any but the rosiest of futures. I think I am hardwired this way, or it's something in my DNA. This is going to be a good year.

I wait with eager anticipation for whatever is going to happen, to happen. It is like an unopened gift, the contents of which will be only gradually revealed, to be known fully only at the end.

I hope it is the same for you, and that the coming year will be filled with blessings and wonder.

Happy New Year!


Monday, December 23, 2013

                                      Wishing all of you

                              A very merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Little Pitchers and Christmas Traditions

I was reading a magazine article that suggested Christmas is a good time for families to sit around the table and share stories as a way of bringing generations together.

I was immediately catapulted into Christmas Past when our family did that very thing.

With caveats.

One Christmas (or more likely, a composite of Christmases, the details of each having merged into one memory), after dinner had been eaten, and the food and dishes cleared away, the adults sat around the table and talked. I say the adults, because children then were seen and not heard. The children were me, my sister and baby brother, and our cousins.

We had traveled by train to Mom's parents' house in upstate New York.  After breakfast on Christmas Eve morning we walked to our aunt and uncle's house, across town. It was so cold the snow squeaked when we trod on it and our breath froze in a mist in front of our faces.

We went to my aunt's because Grandma's house was too small to host the entire family and although I don't know for sure, she probably had to work. Grandma was a waitress and proud that she had a job in the Depression. I can see her now in her white uniform with a hankie peeking  out of the breast pocket. The hankie would be edged in pink or purple or yellow lace that she crocheted in what spare time she had.

But we did all get together that afternoon and evening. Grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and cousins crowded around a table and shared a meal, after which the children were told to "go in the other room and play."

We pretended to obey, but our ears were cocked toward the kitchen where, after many cups of coffee and a few bottles of beer, the laughter grew louder and occasionally turned into guffaws as one tale after another was told: Do you remember when...?

This was how our family history was passed down -- unguarded stories and little pitchers with big ears.

Someone finally noticed it was getting late and the children needed to go to bed. We were once again bundled up to face the icy cold starting with leggings and adding jacket, galoshes, muffler, cap and mittens. We were so well padded we could have rolled down the hill to Grandma's, but we rode back  in someone's car (I have a fuzzy memory of riding with my sister in the rumble seat, but that was probably another occasion). The sky was clear with the glittering stars reflected in the ice crystals caught in the tree branches.

Once inside Grandma's kitchen, our outdoor clothing was removed in reverse order, by which time we were wide awake again. A bedtime snack of cocoa and cookies appeared. The goodies were not home made. Although our mother began her baking a month before Christmas, neither of my grandmothers had, to my knowledge, ever baked a cookie in her life. These were store-bought cookies from a tin, which were a treat to us because we didn't have store-bought at home.

Tucked in bed at last, we were given the conflicting orders to go right to sleep and to listen for Santa's sleigh.

I don't know if we'll sit around the table and tell family stories this holiday. I am pretty sure, however, that if we do the younger members will stay at the table and add their own.

Traditions aren't meant to be carved in stone.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Good advice

Writers get lots of advice. They get advice from other writers, from readers, from friends and family, from critique partners, beta readers, and sometimes from editors and agents (sent with rejection letters). We get advice from writers' magazines and blogs. We get advice from guest authors and agents at writing conferences and writers clubs. We get advice from countless books.

When I first started writing, I bought books by the score. At first they were craft books: how to write dialog,  plotting, and scene setting. Then I bought books that were focused on weaponry (in case I wrote a mystery) or the history of vehicles (what kind of carriage did an nineteenth century woman ride in?) or period fashion.

When I got nearer to my goal, I bought books that listed agents and publishers. These books also contained advice: how to write a query letter, how to write a synopsis,  how to format the manuscript.

Knowing the mechanics is good. If you can't spell and don't know when to start a new paragraph you are not going to attract anyone's attention except in a bad way. Knowing your facts is good. Readers pick up on mistakes and love to let you know about it.

I hope I have internalized all the advice I have read or heard over the years. After awhile it begins to blend together. That said, there are two pieces of advice I do try to follow.

One is to write every day. I do this, but not always on my work in progress.  I write two blogs every week. I write letters to family. I actually put them in an envelope and attach a stamp, because not everyone in my family owns or wants to own a computer. There are days when all I write is a grocery list. But I write something.

The other advice I heed is to be persistent. To keep writing even when I see no tangible results. To sit down and resume writing immediately after getting a rejection. To write when people ask when my next book will be out and I can't give them an answer because I haven't finished the current one yet and my others are either languishing on some editor's desk or have been filed away for future work and revision.

There are days when it is hard to follow either bit of wisdom. Days when my own best advice to myself is to give up and find a real job or a more fulfilling hobby.

Do other writers have days like this? And if so, how do you get over them?

Yeah, I know.

Sit down and write.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This year the phrase "Christmas will be here before you know it" has a special urgency. We just finished the leftover turkey for gosh sakes, and I need to be thinking about another holiday already?

I bought stamps today and thought it strange when the clerk asked me if I wanted Christmas stamps. I laughed, thinking he was jumping the season.

He wasn't.

I think the timing took everyone by surprise. The grandkids haven't a clue what they want. I needed to get their wish list yesterday, as the Amazon drone isn't ready to swoop down with my order  just yet.  So it will take the usual five days, not a half hour from order to delivery.

You'd think the rapidity in which the stores removed the turkeys and pumpkins from their decorations and put up tinsel and garland would have given me a clue. My argument is that they are always weeks early and one needn't pay any attention until closer to the actual date.

The problem is, we are closer to the actual date.

I don't know if I can do it. I'm used to having a week or so to ease into Christmas preparations. My mental clock isn't set for this.

I know I can't be the only one. Maybe we of the slow-reaction type can band together and declare Christmas will be observed January 1 this year. That way, since the kids will all have been up late the night before to welcome the New Year, they won't be waking us up at the crack of dawn to open their gifts.

Sounds good to me.