On Writing and editing

I’ve volunteered to write something for another blogger.  Someone who actually gets paid to be a blog writer. It’s, like, his job.  No pressure, right?

The challenge is to write about something specific that I did last year, gather quotes from others who did the same thing, and keep it under 800 words.  For someone who likes to talk, and to write, that’s a challenge.  800 words isn’t really that much.  The piece that I wrote on my own, without the quotes, climbed pretty close to 800 words.

I’m now at about 1300 words. Oops.

So I sit here, staring at the screen trying to figure out how to cut and edit, shave and shape, the work.  Funny thing is, I remember writing almost 8 years ago on another blog about how writing and editing is like forging a knife from steel.  There’s a delicate balance of what you want to edit and change.  If you remove too much, it changes the shape of the blade and becomes something different.  If you don’t remove enough, the blade is dull and ineffective.

Sadly, I can’t find that piece I wrote.  The blog isn’t there any more and I didn’t save it on my own.  I was hoping it would inspire me.

Here I sit, staring at the screen, looking for that elusive inspiration.  I could edit the quotes, but I’m even more hesitant to audit someone else’s thoughts.  I’m great at proofreading and finding errors, but I’m not a fan of copyediting.

I’m tempted to let him edit the rest – shave off those 500 extraneous words and get it to something more concise and to the point.  And I’ll probably post my original one here, without the other quotes.

Until then, I’ll just sit here and stare at the screen….

Midwest Homeschool Convention – day 1

First of all, let me say YAY for a gal’s weekend away!  A dear friend of mine and I drove up from TN to attend the MidWest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati.  This is exciting!

We’ve already had an afternoon of workshops and both L and I have felt convicted by what the speakers have to say.  In essence, we are ruining our kids – BUT IT’S NOT TOO LATE!

The first woman we saw was a workshop called “Confessions of a Disorganized Homeschool Mom” and it was like she was speaking TO ME.  Yes, I knew I was disorganized but she made me feel normal for being so.  It was like a weight was lifted off.  Some of the ways to help stay “on track” in our disorganized world are things I’m already doing, but there were other ideas that were totally new and refreshing that I will definitely be incorporating into my home.

The next workshop was on Unit Studies.  I love this concept on paper, but putting it into action is fearful for me.  The speaker, Amanda Bennett, talked about the benefits and rewards related to unit studies and this is the part where L and I were sure we’re ruining our children. Instead of discovering the gifts God has given them to succeed in ways THEY were meant to, we’re making them fit into our expectations of how they are to learn.  Wow.

Lastly was a workshop on writing and helping a reluctant writer.  Since we don’t follow a writing program, per se, this was very interesting with even more nuggets of inspiration.   The speaker, Julie Bogart, is a ghostwriter by profession and just started teaching writing to her children the way she worked writing.  While doing so, she discovered that the “educational” way of teaching writing isn’t the same as the “professional” way of writing.  This lead to her developing her own curriculum called Brave Writer which seems to be very interesting on the surface.

I see some research in my future.

Oh, and did I mention the vendor hall??  There is a ridiculous amount of companies related to homeschooling down in the exhibit hall.  We were in there for an hour and only saw half of what was there.  I can’t wait to get to the other half!

 

 

 

 

Stephen King – Under the Dome

I have a new addiction.  Well, maybe addiction isn’t the right word.  How about passion?   No, too strong.  Hobby, perhaps.  Yeah, that could be it.  It’s reading.  Well, not reading but listening.

I love listening to books.  The beauty of listening to books is that I can get so wrapped up in a story while I’m completing mundane chores like cleaning or cooking and it eats up the miles when traveling.  It’s the ultimate in multitasking.  I’ve read listened to the first 4 books of The Dresden Files (LOVE these!) and had them read to my by James Marsters.  Yes, Spike read to me and it was wonderful!  I was enraptured by The Host by Stephenie Meyer, which was NOTHING like her Twilight series.  I chased lost symbols with Dan Brown.  Daniel Silva, Gayle Lynds, Brad Thor took me on CIA and covert military missions and Orson Scott Card is the ultimate in science fiction.

Which leads me to my latest book, Under the Dome by Stephen King.  I’m only about half way through the 35+ hour narration but it has become my newest favorite book.  It’s not the horrific Stephen King – at least not yet – like Carrie or Cujo, but it has been a great study on how normal everyday people can become horrific.

Stepping aside from the storyline for a minute, one of the things I love about King is his ability to bring in contemporary and even obscure references.  A character was wearing a Donna the Buffalo shirt – I had to laugh when I heard that.  There was a mention of Stephenie Meyer and a reference to Lost, I think.  And honestly, having someone read the story aloud brings the characters to life in a way that reading never could.  But it’s not like watching a movie.  The characters are still built in my mind without being given to me as actors.  Only the accents are different with each character.  This is the first time I’ve even listened to a King book and I have to say, with the right narrator, I think his stories are made for narration.

I would love to be able to sit down with King and just talk to him.  He has such a gift for building characters and stories and leaving teasing little tidbits about what’s coming next.  One of the things that amazes me about him is that he never seems to run out of ideas.  He’s written so many books that one would think his creative river would run dry – and maybe it does on occasion – but yet he still manages to bring out new and creative storylines.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to hang out with him.

Now, if only I could figure out how to listen while blogging and teaching and playing….

The Power of Words

How would you describe something to someone who has never seen what you’re describing?  For example, suppose you meet someone who grew up in the midwest and they had never seen the ocean before.  How would you explain what the ocean looks like?

Sure, you could show that person a photograph, but that won’t convey the vastness that is the ocean.  You might be able to compare it to miles of wheat fields but even those are broken by an occasional tree or grain elevator.

What about mountain peaks higher than 14,000 feet?  How would would describe the Grand Tetons or even Mount Everest to someone who has lived at the beach their entire life?  What if that person had never seen snow?  What words would you choose to tell them what each gentle little flake is like?

Words have power.  The Bible even cautions people, in several passages, about the strength of words and how they should be used.  Words can paint pictures for a person, explain emotions and even cause feelings in others – both good and bad.

How do you use words?  Have you painted a picture for someone in describing a detail of a story?  Have you helped someone feel better about him or herself or have your words sliced through the emotions, causing pain and suffering?

Think about your words the next time you write or speak to someone.  What picture are you painting?

Creative Copy Challenge

I have a new hobby.  It’s Creative Copy Challenge.

I have never considered myself to be a “writer”.  Narrator, perhaps, since I tell stories about our family and such, but not so much the creative writer.  This challenge, though, is quite fun.  The site administrator gives you ten seemingly unrelated words or phrases and you must incorporate all of them into a story.  Long or short, doesn’t matter.  I’ve even seen some people skillfully create one sentence using all the words.

One sentence for me, not so much.

I love the challenge, though, of stretching the imagination and finding ways to create a story using all ten words.

If you have time, you should go to the site and read some of the stories.  They’re all under the comments sections for each challenge.  You’ll be amazed at the variety you’ll find.

Treasure hunting

Yesterday, I was reorganizing a downstairs closet and rediscovered my granddaddy’s old briefcase.  I couldn’t remember what was inside so I sat down to go through it.  What a wonderful treasure chest I had opened up.

Granddad died back in 1997.  I know I’m biased but he was a great man.  He raised 3 boys (two of them twins) alone after my grandmother died when she was 29 years old.  My dad was 4 and my uncles were 18 months.  It wasn’t until about 8 years later that he met and fell in love with the woman I would later call “Grandma.”  She had two sons also and after they were married, had two more children: my only aunt that isn’t married into the family and another uncle.  A true “yours, mine and ours” family.

I really could go on about the history of my family, but that would take waaay too long, so I won’t.  But if you like history and old things, I hope you’ll like what I have to share from my treasure hunt.

briefcase-front

Granddad was a plant pathologist and an expert in his field.  I remember hearing about his travels when I was younger but didn’t understand the significance of some of the locations he had gone to until I was older.  Remember the “Iron Curtain”?  He went behind it at least once that I can recall.  Anyway, his briefcase has the stickers from his travels all along the outside although there is one still in the plastic wrap inside the case that he never got around to sticking to the outside.

back-briefcase

The first thing I found was the “Ode to a cedar desk” poem that used to hang on the wall above my granddaddy’s cedar desk, which I also have.  I think there’s a funny story about how Granddad got the wood for the desk, which he had made, but I don’t remember the details ~ something about a diseased tree that wasn’t really diseased and sure, Granddad could take the tree down and take care of it for the guy.

But I also found a letter that my grandmother had written to her parents back when Granddad was serving in the pacific during WWII.  It’s a photocopy of the real thing and a little hard to read because the copies aren’t clear.  The original paper was so thin, when the copies were made, you can see where the writing from the back of the page came through.  What’s cool about this letter, though, is that she talks about using woolen fabric – scraps from suits and dresses and the like – to make a rug.  She even has a drawing sketched out of what she has planned.  She’s asking her mother to send the scraps of fabric to her as well as some burlap feed sacs (my great-grandparents had a farm).  I couldn’t possibly imagine making a rug.

contents

Granddad was a writer, too. As a professor at a university, he had published many scientific works, but he had also written a book from all the letters he had written to my grandmother during WWII.  He had no idea she had saved them until he found them after she had died.  Again, there’s another story there, but too long to tell here.  Granddad also wrote poems and there are a few that he had typed on an old typewriter (remember what that is?) that I found copies of in the case.  There’s also a copy of one he had hand written.  I’ll probably post some of those later.

There is some of the typical detritus found in a briefcase: bandaids, business cards, a key and a lock (that may or may not match), an old plastic matchbook with wooden matchsticks, an old sewing kit from a hotel that looks like a paper matchbook and three linen handkerchiefs.

quotations

He had an envelope of mostly index cards that he had typed or handwritten different quotations from.  Many names I recognized and some I did not.  I’ll also post a few of those later.

Granddad used to teach a Sunday school class at his church.  One of the things I had found was something he had written, if memory serves, either for the class or for the church.  I can’t remember which, but it’s written as though he’s going to read it out loud to a group of people.  It’s a wonderful message and reminder of what it’s like to be a Christian and I’ll definitely be posting that later.

Finally, I found two newspapers – one with his obituary and one with an article about the letter book he had published – and the program from his funeral.  I had to laugh when I saw the hymns listed because Granddad used to sing… loudly… and sometimes at inopportune moments… old hymns.  One of my favorites was The Old Rugged Cross, which was sung at his funeral.

Thanks for taking this walk down memory lane with me.  I love a treasure hunt.

A plant pathologist is one who knows a great deal about very little, and keeps on knowing more and more about less and less until finally he knows practically everything about nothing.  ~copied

(from one of the index cards in the “Quotations” envelope)

Lucas Bright: Why HomeSchooling is Awesome

I first “met” Lucas Bright last year when his words danced across the screen of Writerdad.com.  He’s a touch snarky, way smarter than your average bear and brings the rhyme like a ten year old well-mannered Marshall Mathers.

As part of my prize from Collective Inkwell, Lucas Bright, through Sean Platt, penned a much needed, new-and-improved About page for me and my new home here.  It’s the perfect housewarming gift.  But, as an added bonus, Sean also has allowed me to revisit  Lucas Bright’s snarky thoughts on how children are taught in schools today.

I hope you enjoy Lucas as much as I do.


Lucas Bright: Why HomeSchooling is Awesome


Hi again, it’s Lucas. I’m just sitting here in class,

considering a conclusion that I didn’t want to pass.


I was diddling some doodles, on my paper with my pen

when I had a little insight that was altogether zen.


The thought was kind of large, at least larger than me,

but it shined a bit of light on the way that things should be.


You may think it silly, but I have some concern

about the way we get our answers and the way that we all learn.


The way our teachers teach us, well it’s based on an old system.

Now that times are changing, I think we should be changing with them.


The methods they use now reward all those who memorize the most.

Learn by rote, take the test and then they’re fit to boast.


But facts and figures fall to fruitless when you’re looking at your feet,

and find that they’re now bopping to a wholly different beat.


It blew in like a cyclone, this redefining shift.

We didn’t catch it quickly. Now we’ve found ourselves adrift.


You see, a system built on answers simply can not grow.

We need creative queries to bring us brand new things to know.


With the Internet inside our palm, answers lose their worth.

The techniques we use to learn deserve to have a brand new birth.


Questions have more value because they teach us how to think;

our thoughts and are behavior share an undisputed link.


Should we absorb the moment of that first shot in a war

or could there be some bigger issues that we could explore?


If we believe that answers shouldn’t come first anymore,

then we’ll develop questions that have not been thought before.


Let’s ponder this example: let’s bow our heads and think.

Take your time, take a breath. Okay, now go ahead and blink.


Let’s flip back in time a while to when Human Beings were new.

Before we had societies, in the dawn of our debut.


We were not committing answers then, with just one thing to solve.

The question we were asking was, “now, how can we evolve?”


First we worked with fire. Then we worked the land.

We had so many questions, and so much to understand.


We created language, art, religion and set Governments in place,

as the entire population spread across our planet’s face.


Now we have computers and answers oozing cheap.

It’s time for the entire race to take another giant leap.


Let’s ask ourselves about our future and discover what is next.

If we start out asking simply, we can soon grow more complex.


The next time that your teacher asks the answer to a question,

raise your hand and say “Excuse me, but I’ve got a suggestion.”


Say, “Answers were for yesterday. I’m looking toward our fate;

a future filled with such potential, I can hardly wait.


Perhaps tomorrow we’ll have a world where there isn’t any war;

no disease, hungry people, or violence any more.


If we start knowing what to ask, our future has no ceiling.

I know that I am just a kid, but listen to my feeling.”


You can be just like my teacher when I told her the word.

She said, “Lucas Bright, that is the smartest thing I’ve ever heard!”



Sean Platt is a dad and ghostwriter for hire who also tweets.