Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Never Give Up

Recently, we found out about winter gardening.  What a fascinating idea.  You can grow a garden in winter.  Who knew?
Winter was drawing to a close, and a reluctant spring was on its way.  Anxious to learn more, we decided to try fava beans—a cool weather bean that can grow in summer if planted early.   It can also grow in winter if planted in the fall and given some shelter from the cold.
We needed experience.  This was a good place to start
We planted the beans around Easter time.  That was late March.  We didn’t soak the beans, but did get them wet before planting them, as the directions suggested.  There was enough wet weather that we didn’t worry about watering them.  They were buried in snow more than once, but hey, they are a cool weather bean, so no worries.
We don’t even know if we like Fava Beans.   Never tasted them, as far as we know, but we like to try new things.  We weren’t sure which spot of our garden they would like to call home, so we planted our eight beans in eight different places.  That’s about as scientific as we get around here.

Weeks passed and nothing.  No little green sprouts appeared.  We checked often.  After six weeks had passed without any results, we stopped checking.  Those beans were not coming up.   Disappointed, we gave up on our Favas. 
Those are not the only seeds I have planted that haven’t taken root. 

I’m not talking about the garden.  I’m talking about ideas, once planted with enthusiasm, that didn’t sprout and grow.  Often circumstances beyond my control kept the seeds from sprouting, or once sprouted, thwarted the tender plants.  Sometimes people didn’t keep their promises. Sometimes there just wasn’t enough sunshine and water to go around.  Disappointed, I have given up on promising seeds, planted with care. 

Last week we began planting warm weather plants.  To our surprise we found seven thriving fava plants, in places where we had stopped checking a few weeks ago.  Six of the seven were over six inches tall.  All seven looked hale and hearty.  We don’t know yet about number eight, but for now seven is enough.
Seven feels hopeful.

You never know when an idea will grow into something significant.  Give it some time, some tender care, introduce it to friends, and then watch and wait.  A seed has its own time table, and so does an idea.

Never give up.

Linda Garner

Monday, May 20, 2013

Critique Groups

I have learned a lot about writing from taking classes and going to conferences, but the place I've learned the most is in my critique group. If you're thinking about creating one or changing the one you have, here are some questions to think about.

 1. Critique group sizes: what's ideal...pros and cons of larger/smaller groups
2. How often should a group meet?
 3.  How does the written critique differ from what's brought up in the meeting
 4.  Should pages be read in advance or read aloud at the meeting? What we do and why we've decided to do it this way
5.  How many pages? This is a function of how often a group meets, oftentimes. Some do a chapter. But groups should also consider how much time there is in an evening to go over things. 
6.  How to balance the need to get through a lot of material with the fun we have together
7.  Supplemental activities like retreats and hanging out together at writing conferences
8.  Support, both in writing and in life's troubles/good stuff
9.  Adding new do you vet them? How do you tell if someone will click with the group?
10.  Critique group it important to have similar goals (like striving for publication vs. writing for fun) or similar genres or commitment levels or ?
11.  Groups can include other activities besides critique. Some groups may choose to have a short lesson or writing activity before starting the critique part
12.  Food--pros and cons
13.  Talk about the skill of giving a helpful, not hurtful critique...balancing positive and negative, etc.
14.  Talk about the skill of distilling what you want to say about someone's piece into a concise comment that all can benefit from, not just the writer of that piece

Monday, May 13, 2013


I have just been listening to Lucy Maude Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books on CD.
Why do we like them so much? Why were the videos so popular? When you read the books, the descriptions are way too wordy. She jumps fro person to person and doesn't keep a single perspective. Sometimes the author doesn't have the main character solve the problem. Someone else swoops in to save the day. The plots of each book are rather rambling. So what is there about those books that we love?

I think it's Montgomery's ability to create memorable, believable characters. We fall in love with each one of them--even if they're not major. She has a talent and gift for doing this. Reread the books and see what you think. Here are a few things she does to enhance her people.

1. She gives them a singular figure of speech that they repeat.
2. She has some people that are very talkative, and others that are shy.
3. She gives them particular thoughts, unique to themselves.
4. She makes them down to earth. They are not perfect. Everyone of them has flaws.
5. She is descriptive of their person and clothing.
6. Some of them have particular actions peculiar just to them.

Read the books for yourself and see what you think.

Happy reading, Christy

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nothing Can Change That

I am rejoicing with the families of the three women who were rescued from sexual slavery this week.  What an amazing story.  What incredible relief for them and for their families.  I can't imagine how they survived and I pray for their recovery. Let the healing begin.  I suspect it will be a long road.

On the heels of this story came word from Elizabeth Smart that challenged my thinking.  Elizabeth spoke out against teaching abstinence.  Elizabeth was raised in a religious household and recalled a teacher who once spoke about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.

Of her horrific experience she said, "I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.'

And that's how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value," she continued.

Commenting on why she didn't try harder to escape, and why the three women in captivity didn't try harder to excape she said, "Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value."

Oh, sweet Elizabeth, nothing could be farther from the truth.  I know we actually agree on that, because she went on to say, "Children should be educated that you will always have value and nothing can change that."

I really respect Elizabeth Smart. I think I understand what she is trying to say.  I would like to add that teaching abstinence is not the problem. Abstinence is still the best choice. There are, however, flawed teaching methods that send incorrect messages. The "already chewed gum" for example.

Those who have been raped may have lost their innocence, but they have not lost their purity. Purity cannot be stolen. It can only be lost through choice.

Those who have been raped may feel worthless, but in truth, they have incredible worth because their worth is eternal. A person's worth does not change because of what they experience, or even what they choose.

We cannot increase or decrease our worth by anything we do, or anything we experience. Our value is immeasurable because of who we are. Our value was created before we were born. We are sons and daughters of God. That value can not be taken from us.

Linda Garner

Monday, May 6, 2013

I Love to Write and Hate it too.

I found this quote on twitter the other day and had to retweet it because it's just how I feel.

Bill Cronin said, "I love to write and hate it too. When I am writing, I absolutely love it. It's when I can't that I hate it."

First thing in the morning I adore sitting down to write. My whole day goes better if I get a few hours to myself to write the thoughts of my heart--or even edit yesterday's work.

It's when I have so much of daily life pressing in on my that there isn't time to write that I hate it. I've just come back from seeing my kids. I had a wonderful trip and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. But I can feel that irritation building inside me. The only way to eradicate it is to write.

So this morning after I get breakfast and laundry started, I will sit down at my computer and write. Never mind that my roses need trimming and the garden hasn't been dug yet and I need to go shopping to get groceries. All that can wait until I write a while.

Writing is my solace, my best companion, and my love. It's a place I can share my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes people listen and sometimes they don't. But I've shared and that's all that matters.

Happy writing today. Have a great, happy, wonderful, peaceful day! Start it with writing.

Christy Monson