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.