Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Heart Song

This year for Christmas I gave my children a very personal gift, a gift of self. I gave to them a small piece of the fabric of my life. I gave them the beginnings of my personal history.

A personal history is never really finished until you die, so it’s always a work in progress. It can be a daunting task to compose your life’s story and put it on paper. The children have been asking for a couple of years. I didn’t have time. I didn’t know how to begin. I wasn’t ready. My life isn’t interesting. Sound familiar?

In February, when friend-husband and I were on the road home from Arkansas with our son’s family, I found the perfect time. I am an early riser. There isn’t much to do in a crowded hotel room, especially when you don’t want to disturb sleeping people. I found that I could hang out in the bathroom with the light on, the door closed and the lap top on my lap. We were on the road for ten days and soon I had woven a small piece of the fabric of my life.

After we were home, I didn’t work on my history with much consistency, but over time I did flesh it out a bit. I added a detail here, an experience there, here a tweak, there a tweak, everywhere a….

Much of my life is ordinary, but some of it is unique, and all of it is mine. I found satisfaction in sorting through the details of my life and processing my thoughts and feelings. I decided to share some of those thoughts and feelings with my family and I wove them into my story. I wanted to give my children more than a time line with facts and figures. I wanted them to know my heart.

My history is not really chronological, though there is a chronological thread running through it. I began with a growing experience from my high school days. My birth is recorded not first or even second. I wanted my history to be interesting reading, and my birth is not the most interesting part of my life. I included some thoughts about my parents and grandparents; not just the facts, but snapshots of their personalities. I mentioned things I learned from them.

There is a bit of a balancing act going on when you write your history. Should you tell all...or only the good. I didn't want to whitewash my history. Every family has unsavory stories. Mine is no exception. I wanted to include some of those not so nice details, not to hurt anyone, but to honor the truth and to bring clarity into our lives. We can all learn from experience, if we are not afraid of the truth. I told the truth, but with kindness, and without blame.

Since my history is a work in process, I decided not to bind it. Instead I had the copies punched and placed them in binders, so that I can add to it. I considered leaving the pages unnumbered, so that pages could be added throughout the history and not just at the end. After waffling a bit, I decided that page numbers were necessary for organization. What if the pages were spilled somehow?

Though I wrote my history as a gift for my children, the magic part is that it became a gift to myself. I found gratitude as I considered the gifts in my life. I found clarity as I considered patterns in my life’s path. I found healing as I considered the challenges I have encountered. I found direction as I considered my goals and dreams. I entitled my history Heart Song, and prefaced it with this poem.

Heart Song
by Linda Kay Garner

I’ll share with you my favorite song; a song of love and laughter.
I’ll sing to you of dreams come true; and happy ever after.
I’ll share a song of sadness, of sunshine mixed with rain.
I’ll sing to you of gladness; I’ll share a song of pain.
I’ll share a joyous melody of every warm sweet memory.
Let’s you and I share harmony of home and friends and family.

I’ll share a song of miracles. I’ll sing a song of change.
This is the music of my life. This is my own refrain.
I’ll share with you my secret thoughts, my hope and my desire.
I’ll dance to memory’s music, as you snuggle by the fire.
And as you turn the pages, perhaps you’ll sing along.
This is the music of my heart; This is my heart’s own song.


Friend-husband’s mother died this year without recording her Heart Song. We long for a small piece of the fabric of her life.

Maybe this could be your year. Maybe you could begin now to record your story, your thoughts, your hopes, your dreams. Maybe you could give the gift of self. Is it time to listen to your heart and make some music of your own? It could be fun. Are you ready to sing your own Heart Song?

Linda Garner

Friday, December 26, 2008

Things I Have Learned in 2008

2008 has been a good year for me. As I’ve looked back, I am impressed at the changes that have happened in my life. Some good, some bad, but all worthwhile. Since 2009 is coming, with a nice clean slate, I thought I’d share with you some of the things that I have learned this year.

First, don’t cook marshmallows in the microwave. Some of you may be saying, “Duh!” But you see, for Thanksgiving this year, I was in charge of the yams (the delicious kind with a bag of brown sugar poured in, topped with a dozen or two marshmallows). Since I was running late, I put them in the microwave. My microwave is still sticky. Need I say more?

Second, get a critique group! I am in three groups right now, and I love all three. I cannot tell you how helpful it is to have someone look at my work and say, “did you really write this,” or “this is totally working for you.” I have made lasting friendships from these groups, not to mention I have learned that it is impossible to mount a horse backwards without your knowledge (there is a horse's head in the way, silly). If you don’t have a critique group…GET ONE!

Third, teenagers can be more fun then adults let on. I have a teenager right now, and can I say -wow- what an amazing child. And you should hear the comments I get from my teenager’s friends when I start singing in the van during carpool. Priceless!

Fourth, go to as many writer’s conferences that you can (or can afford). I have met agents, publishers, and actual published authors. I have worked with award winning writers that have taught me more than I would have if I had not gone before. Some even know my name – hee hee hee. They know my name. *sigh* If you attend certain conferences, the agents who also attend will take time to read (yes read) your ms. Sweet!

Fifth, I’m never going to loose those last five pounds. So I’ve decided that this year, I will loose one pound and smile at my treadmill as I enjoy my pound of fudge. Okay, I won’t go that far, but come on people, I’ve gotta keep it real!

Sixth, join a local writer’s group. I didn’t think I would enjoy this as much as I have, but I joined a state writer’s league which meets once a month. Wow, those are some knowledgeable people. I’ve learned how to get my name out there, how to start a blog, and I have even met publishers that attend the groups. Pretty awesome.

So as you can see, 2008 was a worthwhile year for me. I can’t wait to see what 2009 has in store for me. I hope it comes with a totally fit body and a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream. *fingers crossed, fingers crossed*

Happy New Year’s everybody! =)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let the Healing Begin

I received an early Christmas Gift last week. Brandilyn and I are delighted to announce that our book, Some Secrets Hurt, will be published next year. I cannot stop smiling. I can hardly think of anything else. I invite you to share our joy.

Our book will be published by Shadow Mountain. We anticipate an August release.

Brandilyn and I had a most delightful visit with Chris Schoebinger and Gail Halladay. Chris is the Children’s Book Director and Gail is the Marketing Director. They were completely gracious, and ever so kind and complimentary. They made us feel very special and important.

The most important news is that they love our book. They are excited about marketing it and they feel it will make a difference. That is exactly what we hope for. We have a sense of purpose as we reach out to protect and inform children. Our message will strengthen and empower children and parents.

We are astounded at the growing number of wounded children, who often become wounded adults. Our message to them is one of hope. We ache for them, and we send them our encouragement and love. We hope that our book will strengthen them as they move out of the shadows.

Let the healing begin.

Linda Garner

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Magic of Reading

This week I had the privilege of sitting down and talking to the teacher of one of my children. During the process, she handed me a book to take home for my toddler to read. Ha, ha, I thought, like my toddler is going to read a book. After he read the book without my help, I threw open my front door and burst into joyful singing. Okay, well, not quite that dramatic, but I did laugh myself silly. My toddler can read. He just blew me away again tonight by reading his second book without my help. (Without help! Yikes)

But there are kids I do help. Once a week, I have the opportunity of helping elementary school children read. I am always surprised at the wide range of abilities the children have. Some are struggling with the first lists of words, while others are flying though the lists as though they have been reading for years.

I was not so lucky to be one of those speedy readers. When I was a teenager, I would sit at my desk in school, praying for the bell to ring so I wouldn’t have to read out loud to my class. I can not tell you how terrifying that was for me, waiting, as one by one, my peers read out loud inching closer to me.

No, I did not have dyslexia nor did I stutter. My head just wouldn’t get on track with my mouth. Long story.

Then I stumbled across a book, by accident mind you. My brother’s were always quoting, The Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll. That’s when I found Alice in Wonderland. A magical world was opened up to me. A world that was so bizarre, I gobbled it up. This lead to other worlds with each new book I picked up.

Now I am writing the worlds, making up the characters. * dramatic pause * And it all started with the magic of reading (please read with a sigh).

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to see my child start out at such a young age with the magic of reading that took me years to appreciate.

It makes me want to explode in chorus (yes, sing along with me):

“Twinkle, twinkle little bat,
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the sky,
Twinkle twinkle—”
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll – sung by the Dormouse at the Mad Hatter’s tea-party.

Oh, Lewis Carroll, if you could see me now! Next week I will be performing a tap dance. Bring your cameras.

I will be posting on Friday next week, since Thursday is Christmas. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!! Hohoho.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cover to Cover

Cover to Cover, that’s the name of a book club I belong to. We meet once each month over lunch and talk about books. Of course we are great friends and we talk about lots of other stuff beside books, but sharing books gives us a wonderful excuse to get together. Reading with my friends has broadened the scope of my reading.

We don’t all have the same interests, but we include a little something for everyone. We like variety. Each year we like to include a classic, a children’s book, something current, an old favorite…you get the idea. We decide together what books we will read and set up a schedule, a different book each month. We meet in a friend’s home. The lunch is potluck and the conversation flows freely.

In December, when everyone is extra busy, instead of having a book to read, we each bring a Christmas Story to share. Anything goes. It can be a novel, a picture book, a short story. This is a fun tradition. It warms our hearts without overwhelming us.

I’ve been wondering which story I would like to share when we meet later this week. There are a lot to choose from. I am reading The Sprit of Christmas, a brand new book by Jennie Hansen, Betsy Brannon Green, and Michele Ashman Bell. It has 3 short stories, one by each author. I happened to have a delightful visit with Michele at a book signing on Saturday in Seagull Book. After visiting with Michele, I bought this charming book as an early Christmas gift for myself. Perhaps I will share one of these new stories, or Michele’s picture book, A Candle in the Window. This story is a tender one, based on an experience from her Grandmother’s life. You’ll love the story and the pictures are gorgeous.

Do something nice for yourself today. Buy yourself an early Christmas gift, and read it…Cover to Cover.

Linda Garner

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas

If you have been watching marathons of Christmas movies, eating stacks of holiday cookies, and caroling like there is no tomorrow…Well, good for you! You have welcomed in the Christmas spirit.

I, unfortunately, have not found it yet. I have had my fill of transmission problems, hospital visits, dentist appointments, broken furnaces and dishwashers, oh the list still goes on. Where did the spirit go?

Well never fear, there is hope! Being inspired by the last post by Linda Garner, I cracked open my Internet (like it was an old book), and looked up Christmas stories. Look what I found!

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree, by Colleen Monroe

Christmas Jars, by Jason F. Wright

The Christmas Sweater, by Glenn Beck (love him!)

The Purpose of Christmas, by Rick Warren

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss (Let’s face it, I read this all year.)

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore (Classic!)

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

The Christmas Story, by Watson & Wilkin

Anything by Richard Paul Evans

A Christmas Thief, by Carol Lynn Pearson

The Joy of Believing, by Ardeth G. Kapp

The Christmas Story in Luke

Christmas is a time for sharing, caring, and remembering the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior.

Sometimes it is true, I need a little push into the season. What better way then to slow down, grab a good book and read. Savor the moments with a cup of hot cocoa (or a pint of peppermint ice cream).

By next week, I hope you will see me with my red bag over my shoulder passing out oranges to all my wee neighbors (Have you read Christmas Oranges, by Bethers & Sowards – grab your tissues people, tear jerker). Besides, it’s been so long since I’ve actually read A Christmas Carol, by Dickens. Ghosts and Christmas, what more can a girl ask for?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Gift of Reading

A few years ago when we became greatly outnumbered by our grandchildren, we started to wonder how we could afford to give something special to each of those kids at Christmas. We have 19 grandchildren with one on the way, and we have 2 kids that haven’t even started having children yet.

Giving books was a great answer for us. There are wonderful books for every age and interest and the price tag is quite affordable. We have such fun choosing books for the children and we can start the process early in the year and have things ready early. We love fostering an interest in reading. The gift of reading will last a lifetime.

To make this even more fun, we delay the opening of the books until after Christmas. We have a special gathering a few days after Christmas. We share some fun food, and then pass out the presents, one at a time, youngest to oldest. Everyone watches with anticipation as each child unwraps their book. We all ooh and ah. Then follows a magic night of reading. Kids read to grandparents. Parents read to children. Children read to each other. Everyone shares in the magic. Instead of getting lost among the piles of presents on Christmas morning, the books are the center of attention, and so are the people we love most.

Share some magic with those you love this Christmas. Give the gift of books. Give the gift of reading. Give the gift of time. It’s magic.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Write, Revise, Rewrite, Repeat

Well, as I promised, I wrote a Thanksgiving post for you all to read, but it was so long, I decided to revise it. Therefore, here is the short version:

I am thankful for all the friends and family I love,
For all the stuff I have been blessed with.
Thank you all for making my life worthwhile.

Thank you for revisions (this list was a much less painful list to write then my previous one).

Speaking about revisions, I am in the middle of revising my YA novel. I had written a great piece and loved it. Actually, I loved the ending and the beginning of it, but the middle was, well…lacking that special zing. So, I reread it from front to back (thanks to the advice of my dear friend), and realized that the book ended too soon. There were still things to work out, more plot to scheme through, and *sigh* more love triangles to meander around.

Along with revisions, comes cutting out chapters and changing plot lines – An incredibly painful process (with lots of tears and ice cream cake). But this is all for a better written book. If a book is worth writing, it is worth revising. Even, if you have to take out chapters and chapters to make it your masterpiece.

On the other hand, if you want to read a terribly written book that should have had a lot of revision, I have just the one for you. It is even signed by the author (sorry, no author from this blog).

So, if someone comes along and says, “Hey, I loved your book, except that one part,” it is time to think about revision. Believe me - it will help make the world a better, better place.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Share the Magic

Recently *Friend-Husband and I spent an afternoon in the Springville Art Museum enjoying Unbound; their display of original picture book art by Utah Illustrators. What a delightful event. I think you should go.

Picture books are my first love. They are such a magical blend of words and art. It’s fun to share this magic with someone you love, especially if that someone is a child. I have spent many a pleasant afternoon cuddling on a couch with a grandchild and a delightful picture book.

Twenty seven artists are represented in the display. Their original framed art is displayed with a bio about each artist. It was great fun to read about each of these talented artists whose picture voice brings a special kind of magic to the words. Each page in a picture book is a work of heart; a special blend of love, hard work, and art. It is also a treat to see the diversity in the art, from water colors and oils to computer designs, and every combination between. Some illustrations are in vibrant brilliant colors, others are soft pastels. Each picture has a personality as real as my own.

After soaking in each of the fabulous illustrations on the wall, Friend-Husband and I found a cozy spot on a comfy couch in the same room and read from the same picture books which were also provided.

Some of our favorites were: Mrs. McBloom, Clean Up Your Classroom, written by Kelly S. Dipucchio and illustrated by Guy Francis; Martha Moth Makes Socks written and illustrated by Cambria Evans, Fanny’s Dream written by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner, Armadilly Chili written by Helen Ketteman and illustraded by Will Terry, The Frog with the Big Mouth written by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Will Terry, The Alphabet from Z to A (With Much Confusion on the Way) written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Richard Hull.

The display is at the Springville Museum of Art, 126 E. 400 S., Springville, Utah, and runs through December 28. Admission is free. Every Saturday at 11:00 a.m. through Dec 27 there is a Story Hour featuring one of the artists. The picture books are also available for sale in the Museum Gift Shop. The museum hours are different each day so check the web site http://www.sma.nebo.edu/. You will also enjoy looking at the Unbound blog; unboundsma.blogspot.com.

This is great day for magic. Share some picture book magic with someone you love today.

Linda Garner

* Friend-Husband is a term my Mother used in her writing, when speaking about my Father. I was a little jealous that she thought of it first. Mother has been gone for 6 years and isn’t using it any more. I thought maybe she wouldn’t mind if I picked it up now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank you Weezer

I know this doesn’t sound very Thanksgiving-ie, but I wrote it last week. So next Thursday’s post will sound very thankful. Thanks for understanding. Oh and Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble, gobble.

If you haven’t heard the new song, Pork and Beans, by the rock band Weezer, you’re missing out (and the YouTube video is a hoot).
“What?” you say, “does Weezer have anything to do with writing?” I will tell you, but first I want to contemplate rejection.

Did you know that Stephen King got so many rejection letters that he nailed them on a spike under a board in his bedroom?[1] When he tried to get Carrie published, the publisher said, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”[2]
Dr. Seuss’s work was rejected over fifteen times before he found an editor to look at his work.[3]
Madeleine L’Engle was rejected by twenty-six publishers before A Wrinkle in Time was picked up. It is in it’s sixty-ninth printing.[4]
J.K. Rowling was rejected by nine publishers for Harry Potter.[5] Nine times!!!!
Rick Walton writes one-hundred children books a year, only to get a handful published.[6]

What does this mean? Anyone who is in the writing field or publishing field will tell you, rejection is a part of writing. It is at every turn. Critique groups, publishers, editors, …the list goes on and on. But take heart you are not alone!

This brings me back to Weezer. Weezer was working with a label who wanted them to write catchier songs, make themselves more marketable (according to them), and rejected many of the songs they had been working on.[7] Weezer left the label and, with the inspiration of the meeting that day, wrote the hit Pork and Beans. Their video had 3.5 million views before even appearing on MTV.[8]

My favorite line in the song is:
“One look in the mirror and I’m tickled pink,
I don’t give a hoot about what you think.”

So, when that next rejection letter comes, grab your pint of ice cream, take a look in that mirror, and remember it doesn’t matter what they say, you will make it! Remember that persistence thing last week?

Oh and one last thought, if you have heard the song, candy does not taste good in pork and beans! Tried it. Just made it crunchy.

Footnotes:

[1] www.lulu.com/static/pr/9_26_05.php
[2] www.debbieohi.com/personal/rejections.html
[3] www.CollegeAndUniversity.net & www.debbieohi.com/personal/rejections.html
[4] www.debbieohi.com/personal/rejections.html
[5] www.debbieohi.com/personal/rejections.html
[6] Told to us at a writer’s conference. Hey, you wanted to know. =)
[7] www.nme.com/news/weezer/36334
[8] http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2008/05/director-behind.html

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spice

Ever want to expose yourself to the world? No, I don't think that going down to the park to play with little children is a good thing. This is about is taking up the pen to write.

Even experienced writers cope with anxiety. Their mouth may go dry, sweat might break out on their forehead, and anything else associated with anxiety may happen. For me, I just go to sleep. Simply approaching my computer is like a sleep magnet.

The things people put in blogs have long-term effects. Hundreds of thousands of people (I hope) are going to look at the way that blogger thinks. Granted, the readers view will conflict with the author’s, but isn't that a good thing? Being able to stand for something adds spice to the world.

Standing strong also adds additional stress for someone who's not used to controversy. "What if the rest of the world disagrees?" they might say. It sounds easy to say, "So, this is my life and my opinion is best. Yours doesn't count." Yet for some, sharing their opinion is like walking on hot coals.

So, why exhibit yourself? Life is much easier when you're doing something for recreation. It’s fun, but when you start to look at sharing yourself with the rest of the world, that hobby takes on a different meaning. What we write reveals our brain and our heart. But to write gives your voice to the remaking of the world. To be silent shows that one does not care.

The advice experts give about anxiety is that the only way to overcome it, is by doing what makes one nervous. The concept of exposing yourself to the world has merit. Everyone’s opinion counts. Add spice by showing your view to all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Voice of Thanks

With only two days until Thanksgiving, today I want to raise a thankful voice. I have been thinking about how blessed we are and yet how much we whine. Well, probably not you. I know you never whine, but some people do. I’ve heard them.

I took a trip down memory lane this week and thought about all the good things in my life. I thought about my Mom and the contrast between her world and mine. Mom lived long enough to enjoy lots of the things I enjoy, but it wasn’t always so. Mom grew up in a world where water was hauled in from outside. If you wanted it hot, you heated it. If you wanted a bath, the bathtub also had to be hauled in and the water heated, one steaming kettle at a time. The bathroom was located outside as well. I heard many a tale of scary late night trips to the outhouse in the dark and cold. Laundry was done on a washboard with homemade soap. It was hung on a line to dry, and then ironed with a little flat iron which, yes, had to be heated on the stove. Eventually Mom got a wringer washing machine which really simplified the chore, but it was still a long process.

My mother loved to write, but she seldom found time when she was young. Cooking and housekeeping were full time jobs which sucked up all her time. We children were the poems she longed to write. Later in her life many helpful servants found their way into her home and then she had time for her passion.

I was a transition child. I remember the wringer washer, the outhouse, the baths in the number ten washtub. I was young when we traded our outdoor bathroom for an indoor one. I remember playing under the clothesline with sheets and undies flapping in the breeze. It made a nice open tent for us to play in. I remember the line dried frozen clothes being brought in to thaw in winter weather. I remember dampening the clothes and rolling them up to wait for ironing day. Today, I rarely iron, and when I do I use a steam iron or a spray bottle. No more dampening, no more rolling them up, and no more ironing day.

I remember when air conditioning meant opening the windows; when central heat was from a coal furnace which had to be lit each morning and the coal shoveled in. I remember when watering day was when the ditch was full of water and you spent the day irrigating. I remember when going to the movies was a big event and when eating out meant having a picnic in the backyard.

I’m glad for these memories because they help me remember how blessed I am. I am thankful for so many little things that we never think about. Maybe they aren’t little things at all. We don’t think about them, because we don’t need to, but that doesn’t make them little. I wonder how much we would think about them if they weren’t there.

Thank you for the sunset you sent me yesterday.
Thanks for sending me a friend who had kind things to say.
Thanks for time to take a walk and breathe the autumn air.
Thanks for my sweet husband and his warm and tender care.

Thank you for a hundred things that bless my life each day.
Thank you for the peace I feel each time I kneel to pray.
Thanks for friendly neighbors who wave and smile at me.
Thanks for this great country and for my liberty.

Thanks for all the little things I never speak about.
For this cozy cottage that keeps the winter out.
Thanks for my kitchen table, these chairs, and for this bread.
Thanks for blankets, bed, and pillows for my weary head.

I thank you for clean water when I thirst and need a drink.
I thank you for sweet music and for books that make me think.
I thank you for my hands and feet and for my eyes and ears.
I thank you for the laughter. I thank you for the tears.

Thanks for all my memories and sweetness in my life.
Thanks for the adventure that adds a little spice.
Thanks for always loving me and for Thy watchful care.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for always being there.

May your Thanksgiving Day be warm, delicious, and thankful…full of thanks.

Linda Garner

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Persistence

There is something to be said for persistence. This wasn’t the first time I took up the pen and paper. When I was in high school, I tried my hand at teen romance. It was pretty good, I thought. I took it to a co-worker who read the first page and then returned it, saying it was, and I quote, “Okay.” That book found the bottom of my trash bin in a hurry.

As an adult, I thought I would try my hand at children’s books. I wrote two of them. Putting so much of my heart and soul into them, I didn’t dare share my stories with anyone for fear of the rejection I would get. I hid them away beside my bed, only to find a few of the pages in the garbage after an afternoon of cleaning.

Years later, the writing bug bit once again. This time I tired to push the urge away and bury it deep down within the soul of my unfinished projects. The urge continued. I wrote my first novel in years, a fantasy about a girl who learns of a secret power she holds within her. It was totally cool. At least I thought it was.

My second book was about a girl dating the wrong guy. This won me my first real rejection letter. I hung it up in the hallway with pride.

After taking writing courses and attending several writers’ conferences, I have learned many-a-thing. First, you have to learn your craft. Second, you need to read, read, read, read, and read. Third, you can’t give up. Someday, somewhere, somebody will be interested in what you have on paper. If it is a well written piece, it will find a home. The only thing that will make you better and get you published is persistence.

If writing is something in your blood, something you love, don’t give up. There were so many times I could have given up... there were so many times I did give up, but writing keeps coming back to me. It has opened a new world to me, given me new bonds with great people, and a passion for a craft that is so widely felt. I am finally going to have a published piece (thanks Nicole!), and yes, I am giddy with joy. Persistence will get you published. If you have to deal with a few thousand rejection letters, just remember….rejection is a great excuse for chocolate cake and a pint of that really good ice cream!

Keep on keeping on,
Scarlet

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Life's problems

I've been writing as a hobby for several years. Sometimes I find it very difficult to come up with things to write. So, I would write anything that came to mind to get into the mindset I need. I make excellent progress when I do this. However, I find myself writing my personal history instead of the story that I had wanted to write. I found this helped me get rid of the stress blocking me from my writing.

I became curious of why this affected me. So I did a simple search on the internet. I found studies involving writing as therapy. They reported that writing is literally good for your physical and mental health. It helps control blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, and even helps those with mental disorders.

One of my close friends suffered neglect and physical abuse growing up. She wrote a book about what happened. During this process, she felt much better about herself. She eventually published what she had written to give others an insight of abuse.

Writing about your problems in your life isn't easy. Therapists recommend that if things become too painful you should take a break from writing about that part in your life until you're able to cope with it.

I have suggested to some my clients who suffer from a history of child abuse, drug abuse, stress, and mental health problems, that they should try keeping a journal. People report that it has helped them overcome or at least cope with their problems.

This could benefit anyone in my opinion. Simply by my sitting down for 20 minutes to write about my life helps me let go of my problems. It isn't always easy, but it always helps if I put in the time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Children's Voices

I would like to preface today's post with my thanks to those of you who responded to last week’s post “Make a Difference.” Each of your responses was very meaningful to me. My publisher has invited me to share your responses with him, which I am delighted to do. It’s not too late to post your response. Just scroll down this page to the piece entitled Make a Difference and add your thoughts. If you prefer you can respond directly to me at can.u.make.a.difference@gmail.com. My publisher is moving forward, and I believe that my book will be published. Still, it’s not a done deal, and it may be that your response will make a difference.

My 9 year old grandson, Aaron, entered “The Write Stuff Thanksgiving Essay Contest,” a writing contest sponsored by Mimi’s CafĂ©. His teacher used the contest as a writing assignment. Aaron wrote some tender thoughts about his little sister and about modern medicine. Aaron is one of 15 finalists selected out of over 1200 entries. We are thrilled. Tomorrow he will read his essay at a special gathering at Mimi’s, where all writers will be honored and fed, and three winners will be awarded a $1,000 savings bond.

I would love to share Aaron’s essay with you. I will need to get his permission, and perhaps Mimi’s.

I am grateful to teachers like Aaron’s who nurture the creative voices of children and to organizations like Mimi’s who lend their support in such a big way. I am also grateful to both for nurturing gratitude, in a world that often emphasizes entitlement, and rewards greed. Encouraging young voices is a noble work. Encouraging gratitude is just as noble. I am thankful to those who taught me be thankful as well as those who encouraged me to write.

In honor of the Thanksgiving Holiday perhaps each of us can make a difference, by encouraging a young voice and planting the seeds of gratitude. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, brother, sister, or friend, you can make a difference in a young life today. Here are some ideas to get you thinking.

1. Gather magazines, scissors, paper, and glue, and allow kids to create a Thankful Collage. The collage can be on a flat piece of paper or it can be glued on a three dimensional object such as a box.

2. Use the child’s name to form a Gratitude Acronym. The child will write his name vertically on the page and then write down something for which he is thankful beginning with each of the letters. For example:

Library
Imagination
November
Dancing
Art


3. Help the child create a simple Thanksgiving Crossword pattern using their name as the basic structure. This is similar to the acronym except that the name letters can appear anywhere in the thankful words. Don’t worry about vertical lines, except for the name. For example:

my Life
spaghetti
angels
my bedroom
U.S.A.

The name letters L i n d a are supposed to line up vertically. In case it doesn't transfer well, I hope you get the idea. It's also fun to use your last name and get everyone involved.

4. Encourage a child to write a Thankful Poem. If he doesn’t know how to start give him a simple beginning and let him take it from there. Here are a couple of starting ideas.

Thank you for the good things that come to me each day.
Thanks for friends I see at school and friends who come to play.
Thanks for…


Or

I am thankful for the sun
And for each drop of rain
I am thankful I can run


Remember that poems don’t always have to rhyme either.

If the child can’t handle the writing, you can be a scribe, or you can create together. Feel free to post your poems on the blog, so that we can enjoy them too.

5. Help a child start a Gratitude Journal. Get a small notebook. At the end of each day the child will list 5 things he/she is grateful for. The list can be one word items or detailed sentences. Each day's list will be unique, according to the events of the day. This is such a great habit for kids and adults. I highly recommend it. It encourages us to look for the good things in our lives, and appreciate our blessings.

6. Encourage the child to think outside of the box. The Thankgiving Day box usually has 4 predictable sides; home, family, food & clothes, friends. Good things to be sure, but let’s encourage the kids to dig a little deeper and think of something a little more personal; a little more specific.

Recently I had this sort of talk with some kids. We talked about digging deeper and giving more personal answers. It was really fun to hear what they came up with. Some of the especially meaningful ones to me were music and hands. The music girl even named a specific song that had touched her life. What profound thoughts they stirred in my head as I realized how deeply grateful I am for these precious gifts in my life. When was the last time you thought to be grateful for your hands?

Today is a great day to be thankful. Today is a great day to encourage a young artist or writer. You can make a difference.

Linda Garner

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why We Write

First, I want to start by welcoming everyone to our blog. It’s a pleasure and a thrill to be writing on the Internet. We as writers are continually trying to improve our writing and what better way then sharing what we’ve learned with one another.

Last summer I had the privilege to attend a fantastic writer’s conference. Since the conference was quite a distance away, I found a carpool with other writers that I had not known before the event. Each night on the way home, we would compare notes and share what each of us had learned in the different breakout sessions.

One night we somehow got on the topic of why we became writers, why we felt the need to share our work with others, and why we don’t keep our writings and rants to ourselves. We finally agreed that once a piece of work is slaved over and completed, a desire builds within us that makes us want to share our creation with the world.

But writing is not an easy task! Tonight for example, I’ve spent a good part of my night trying to write the perfect query letter for a children’s picture book I have finished. To be honest with you, the query is not that perfect. Most of you know that the query letter may be the only thing the agent looks at. If it is written with misspellings - which you will learn I do quit often (oops, I mean quite - just keep reading the blog and you’ll find out). If the letter is not formatted the way the agent wants, it may be looked over completely. And that’s just the query letter! Not to mention the rejection we get as writers after the query letters and manuscripts come back. I figure, once I hit the magic number of 100 rejection letters I may finally be taken seriously. If you have reached 100, I envy you!

But the truth is, we as writers love to write, love to be taken into a magic world of mystery, fantasy, sci-fi and yes, even non-fiction. There is a certain awe that comes with being a writer, for both writer and reader alike. I guess that is why we’ve decided to start this blog. We are sharing a piece of us with each other. Wow, I hope you’ve brought your dictionary and grammar book, ‘cause I’m gonna need them!

Keep on writing!
Scarlet

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Make a Difference

I love to write. You might say it is my passion. I love words. I love the sound of words. I love putting them together and listening for the music. In a way it’s like putting a puzzle together and making a word picture. I love the color and texture and shape of words. I like how they feel in my mouth and how they slide through the air and how they touch my heart.

It’s really fun when I get paid to write, but that isn’t what drives me. Part of it is the joy and the magic of words. I love how good writing draws people together. The other part is about having a voice, about making a difference. I guess its that part—the making a difference part—that draws me to topics that most intelligent writers would avoid.

About three years ago, I watched a TV talk show about sexual abuse of children and teenagers. Real kids with real stories were interviewed. I was horrified, and I was angry, and I began to write. What I wrote was a children’s story—a picture book—about sexual abuse. It is simple and direct. It speaks of solutions. It gives hope. It encourages children to speak up if they are being violated. It encourages parents and other responsible adults to be watchful. It tells parents what to look for and what to do if the unthinkable is happening to someone they love.

Just as I finished writing my book, I met a gifted artist, named Brandilyn Speth, who shared my passion for making a difference. She was excited about adding her voice to mine in the form of illustrations. I love the clarity that her work brought to my words. Early this spring we felt that it was time to test the market. Because we were dealing with a very sensitive issue, we knew that many publishers would not be comfortable with our book. Thinking of the destructive nature of sexual abuse gave us courage. Wanting to make a difference for children who are being hurt and families that are aching for support and solutions, we decided to move forward.

In early April we sent our manuscript to a carefully chosen publisher. Our manuscript got good reviews. It is being considered for publication. The children’s book director likes the book. He likes the illustrations. He knows there is a need. However, he is concerned about the numbers. How many copies can he sell? I understand his concern. He needs to make a profit. I need to make a difference.

My would-be publisher calls this a “niche” book; meaning that he doesn’t expect it to sell many copies. It fits a small “niche” of the public. I, on the other hand, feel that abuse is rampant and that there is hardly any corner of the earth that has not been touched by sexual abuse. I imagine my book flying off the shelves and into the hands and homes of children who need its message.

Does it surprise you to know that more than 1,100 cases of child sexual abuse are reported everyday? This translates to more than 400,000 cases each year. Ongoing studies continually confirm that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually molested before the age of 18. Additionally some studies have shown that only 10% of sexually abused children are molested by strangers. One survey showed that "... 50% to 80% of child sexual abuse victims are abused by people they know.”

Clearly we need answers, and we need them now. Children need to be taught that they have rights, that they can say no, and that they can get help. Parents need to know what to watch for and how to respond in a crisis. Both need to know that they are not alone and that they can get help. Our book doesn’t have all the answers but it is a good starting place.

If you think sexual abuse of children is a big deal, I would love to hear from you. Do you see sexual abuse of children as a main stream problem? Is there someone close to you who has been damaged by sexual abuse? How interested would you be in a well written book that addresses this sensitive issue? Would you buy a book like this for yourself? For someone you love? Would you buy it is a gift? Would you buy it only if you were in the midst of a crisis, or would you buy it as preventative education? Feel free to respond anonymously, if that is more comfortable for you. You can also respond to can.u.make.a.difference@gmail.com.

When people ask me questions about my book, they often want to know what age it is written for. My usual response is, “What age is it not written for?” You see, children of every age have been sexually abused. Babies are not exempt, nor are teenagers, or the handicapped, or elderly. Boys as well as girls are sexually abused. Adult men and women may carry scars from childhood sexual abuse, that never fully healed. Our book is simple enough for a parent to read to a young child, yet profound enough to influence a teenager, informative enough to provide help to a troubled parent, and powerful enough to reach out to a wounded adult.

Linda Garner