Thursday, July 13, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: Just Another Good Day




Well, what do you say when life is zipping along and you are having a good day? I guess you could say you feel blessed

AND I DO! 

 







  • Workmen are outside our door as I type, building our new pergola. Shade, oh blessed shade, Oh how I have missed you. We desperately need you in the desert sun. 
  • Tomorrow my daughter arrives with two of our grandchildren to stay the week. We'll spend time at the lake trying to stay cool and probably play a board game or two.
  • A blog tour for me at Laurisa White Reyes' blog 


 

"Come celebrate with us" 
To join "Celebrate the Small Things, visit Lexa Cain's blog
Co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge 
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Exploring the Virgina Colony by Christin Ditchfield: Book Review

Exploring the Virginia Colony
Author: Christin Ditchfield

Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Publisher:  Capstone Press,  2017
Ages:  8 to 11, Middle Grade
Pages: 48 

Virginia was the first of thirteen colonies in North America to survive. Other attempts at colonization had failed miserably due to lack of survival skills. However, in 1607, the Virginia Company successfully built a new English settlement, Jamestown. 
 
Under the strict leadership of Captain John Smith set forth in newly established rules, the colonists learned to work together as a team. Smith also befriended area Native Americans, a peace further forged by a marriage between one of the colonists and Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan. Although conflicts did arise, the colonists and the Native Americans learned much from each other, sharing their knowledge and way of life. Ditchfield details the challenges, hardships, and daily life of both groups. 

Meanwhile, the colonists discovered a cash crop in farming tobacco (among other crops), and built huge plantations. Of the thirteen colonies, Virginia would rely the most heavily on slave labor. Kidnapped African slaves began arriving in 1619. By the early 1700s, Virginia had become a thriving colony, no longer dependent on supplies or food from Europe. 

Religion was important to the colonists, as many had fled Europe to worship more freely. The “Great Awakening,” a huge religious revival in the British colonies, brought a resurgence of Protestant faith and inspired the colonists greatly from 1734 to 1750.

During the American Revolutionary War, few battles took place on Virginia soil, but Virginian leaders, among them Thomas Jefferson, helped bring the country to independence. In 1788, Virginia became the tenth state to join the newly formed nation. 

More interesting information can be found in the book's "Did You Know" side notes, mini bios, illustrations, quotes, and "Critical Thinking with Primary Sources" section. A good introduction on Virginia's important role in early American history. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

IWSG: Trusting Myself as a Writer



Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

The awesome co-hosts for the July 5 posting of the IWSG will be Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan!
 
July 5 Question: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?



Just one? Actually, there probably IS one valuable lesson I could share that I have been calling different things over the years, and it has something to do with trusting myself as a writer.


When I first started out, I could go back to high school when I was given the sole job of writing a 'biting' letter to the Tacoma News Tribune about a fight that had broken out between a group of rowdies from our school and another high school. As I recall, we felt justified in our guys throwing the first punch and it was my job as our school's Corresponding Secretary to convince the public in a letter to the editor. Well, my "too nice" attempt didn't pass the scrutiny of our student council. Another student (a guy) stepped up and wrote the letter. NOW, it's very likely I was NOT qualified to write that letter, but I let it define and redirect my secret desire to be a writer.

Fast forward to graduation and marriage at nineteen. I discovered my husband was a poet of a writer (and still is). I learned this reading his letters when he was in the military. Remember the days of handwritten letters? They are so much more romantic than email, but ....that's another story and discussion. When I was finally able to join him at a U.S. base, I took it upon myself to convince him he should be a writer. I talked him into signing up for the Famous Writers Course (title, as I recall). Does anyone remember this course? It was later sited as being a fraud and made front cover news on a popular news magazine. We sought a base lawyer to get out of the contract. Hubby then told me something that has always stuck with me and I have never forgotten.
Writing is "your thing" not mine.

Fast forward to two children later and I am a stay-at-home mom for three years. I took my first Creative Writing course at a local college and loved it. We set up a spare room in the basement with a typewriter and a lovely view out the window. However, nothing came of my writing attempts and we needed the income if we were to ever to buy a home. If writing was "my thing," it had to make us money to work. Translation: my writing wasn't good enough.

I went back to work with the idea I could work and write at the same time. I must say I have heard of writers who make this work, but I could never figure out how to juggle a job with cooking, cleaning, raising children, and family time, let alone job demands. I had a gem of a husband, but he was old school when it came to cooking and cleaning. (He has since entered the modern world :-) Writing fell to the wayside, but I managed to write some, slowing inching forward.

I read a ton of writing books, joined a writers' group (more than one over time), and played with words. I took their constructive criticism seriously and in the beginning listened to everything they said. Every piece I wrote changed a lot, but I realize it was part of the learning process. I had not yet learned to trust my gut in my writing. 

Word got out I was trying to write at work. My boss approached me with the idea his friend had a story I might want to tell. It was a worthy idea, and may have been wonderful, but I passed. I later explored this idea in a college assignment, interviewing the elderly at a local nursing home. I must admit I enjoy telling the stories of others (you have seen this on my blog), and editing too (as a new job became), but if writing  was "my thing," it was time to get my fiction published.


This April, something  miraculous happened. My first work of fiction, The Shells of Mersing, was accepted by Evernight Teen. This novel was written three times, first time in 1998, following
my stay in Malaysia. Writers in a critique group spent time critiquing The Shells of Mersing, some more than once, and I am forever in their debt.

I've read in Books on Writing that this is probably the novel that should have been buried under the bed, lessons learned, but I couldn't give up on it. I loved the story and characters too much, and the settings and locations were deeply embedded in my heart. I had to get it right. In January, I wrote in my journal 'this was the year'. I either would find a publisher or self-publish myself.

Meanwhile, I did a final round of edits and made two dramatic changes to the book. I had been toying with these changes for a long time, but here I was in a new community with no writers group in the area, and to ask my good friend to read for a third time just wasn't an option. I needed fresh insight.    

I asked my husband (remember the poetic letter writer?). He had read the Harry Potter series two times (!).....so I figured at the very least, he knew what youth, adults (and boys) liked to read. I saw this series bring nonreaders to the table in droves, my grandson included. Turns out, my husband is a fantastic reader and has an excellent ear for scene and chapter endings....and redundancy.

I also followed my gut this time, by adding a prologue and a new opening scene. It had started too abruptly before. I wrote the book I wanted to read, and very possibly, learned to trust myself as a writer for the first time.  

I would like to add a bit more. When we write, our motivation needs to come from within. If we seek our personal best in our writing, we are the only competition we will ever need. Not everyone will like what we write or understand our message, and that's okay too. I know those reviews are important but they aren't the end all either. I've read plenty of books that felt so-so to me, but others adored....and vice versa. I am writing for a certain audience, and they are the ones I hope to reach. It all comes back to trusting myself as a writer.