Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Focus - Stay the Course

Josiah, Asher and Elisha with Grandma Sharon
I am back from California after spending 2-1/2 weeks with two adorable grandsons, so Mom and Dad could adjust to the birth of son  number three. Looking back when I first took on 'nanny' duty taking care of my daughter's two children for 3 weeks in July (while Mom finished her Master's degree) and my son's boys in Calif. in August for 3 weeks (while Mom was in China), I realized that I had committed over 8 weeks of my time this year to young children. The need was there and I would not change it for the world, but it was more than challenging trying to meet a book goal this fall (i.e., November), added to the fact I also came down with a case of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough.
Huh?--you might say. A year ago I would have told you this is a childhood disease, but so many parents are opting not to vaccinate their kids these days (Washington and Idaho being two of the worst offenders; I live on the WA/ID border), adults are suddenly vulnerable to this serious respiratory disease. Doctors now recommend that adults get the Dtap vaccine, because--guess what? More and more adults are coming down with it, especially those who work with children.
Well, I have no idea how I came down with it (fortunately, my grandchildren didn't succumb). It is a serious disease and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. It took weeks to recover, and then on top of it--after feeling better and suddenly getting my energy back, I went bicycling and fell, whereupon I broke an already sore and stretched rib (due to coughing) and added to my recovery (more than 6 weeks!). On top of this, a beloved nephew died suddenly at age 30.
The potential setback in my writing was all there, lining up in perfect order, standing there at the finish line yelling and threatening to stop me in my tracks, but guess what? It didn't happen. My faithful writing coach got me through, encouraging whatever time I could eke out in writing as well as exercise. So, here I am with a completed manuscript (80,000 words) in hand, and except for line edits (2 more weeks to go), it's almost ready for review by the writers' group I belong to. I am now researching agents and publishers. I am so excited, and once again have proven that life events do not have to deter you from your writing (or any goal for that matter).
Focus, it is all about FOCUS. Moreover, I also have greatly enriched my life experience, which continues to be an excellent resource for future character and plot development. I can still hear the pitter-patter of little feet and those precious giggles and untold tears. Will their voices show up in a new book? Who's to say at this point--I don't know. But use what you have been handed, I say, and stay the course, whatever sail you have set. Your writing will soar to new heights--at least that is what appears to be happening to me.

Copyright 2011 © Sharon Himsl

Friday, September 16, 2011

Insight by Diana Greenwood: Book Review



Insight
Author: Diana Greenwood
Publisher: Zondervan, 2011
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Age: 15 up, Young Adult fiction


Until now I have never reviewed a book, but I would like to make an exception with
Diana Greenwood's debut young adult novel Insight. I recently met Diana at a writers' conference last spring and just now got around to reading her book. What a delight, I couldn't put it down once I got started. As a history buff, I was tickled to travel down the road in the 1940s in a beat up old truck with the family's main character Elvira on a crowded road trip, complete with campgrounds and a seedy motel, from remote Wisconsin to the shores of California. But it was this young teenager's coming to terms with her father's disappearance in the war that I found so compelling. Added to this mix, Elvira is faced with a distant mother, a cantankerous grandmother, and a little sister who has a strange ability to see the future, along with a kind pastor (their driver) who offers a new perspective on faith. This is published by a Christian publisher, but there are other good reasons to read this coming of age novel. Elvira's struggles in a difficult setting would resonate with young adults anywhere, and there is a heartwarming surprise at the end.


Copyright 2011 © Sharon M. Himsl


Friday, August 26, 2011

A Busy Summer


It has been a busy summer babysitting my grandchildren, my daughter's in July and my son's in August. All in all it amounted to six weeks with these dear ones, ages 1, 4-1/2, 4-3/4, and 6.

Wow, I was quite unprepared being full-time Mommy again, when you consider I went from writing 20 hours a week in my quiet home office and daily lunches on the patio with my husband, but what a wonderful way to get close to one's grandchildren.

I had been insanely jealous of two friends who regularly spent time with theirs, as all are just a short drive away. Mine are 13 hours and an air trip away. I think I may have beat them this summer though on Grandma time. I am now an expert on Thomas the Train, Bob the Builder, Wii Mario, and
Lightning McQueen and all the other cars. Plus, I had a good refresher course on changing diapers, morning routines, picky and not-so picky eaters, playing ball (all kinds), bikes with training wheels, finding playgrounds at the park, story times at the library, and good places to eat ice cream. Whew, what a busy time we had. Chatter, chatter, chatter all day long, and those little feet moved nonstop. 

 While gone, my husband was left in charge of a tree from Home Depot still waiting to be planted, a small vegetable garden, and other plantings. As he is not normally inclined in this direction, I was on the phone constantly, reminding him to water everything. Funny, not once during this process did I remember to ask him to water my house plants or feed my new fish, a sweet little blue betta.

When he arrived in California two weeks later, he was so proud of himself having taken care of everything. It was then, and only then, that I remembered the fish and the houseplants. Ouch! I was sure they would be dead after 3 weeks! But guess what? The houseplants survived and so did the betta. Bettas are amazing!! They are the perfect fish for the negligent pet owner.



 I really need to get the word out. Bettas are for you, if pets aren't your thing. I came home full of remorse, but the little guy was no worse for the wear and was swimming around happily in his foodless cage like nothing in the world was wrong. My daughter had actually recommended I get a betta, when I protested that her dad and I traveled too much. Come to think of it, I do sort of remember her telling me that these critters actually survive in mud puddles in the wild, so I guess his sterile cage complete with colored rock and plastic flowers is a grade up, right? Can you believe it?

Sadly, during my stay in California (and husband's, since he came for 1 week) we received the shocking news that a dear nephew (only 30 years old) had died. It has stopped the family in its tracks and we are all still processing the news. It will require another trip and helping out wherever there is a need. The day I found out, it was my birthday and the family in California was preparing a party for me.

We had the party and it was joyful, complete with mushy kisses on the cheek from my 2 grandsons but it was also bittersweet knowing that our extended family was grieving, a grief my husband share as well. I still remember caring for this nephew as an infant, along with his two little sisters so his parents could take a holiday in Cancun. It's hard to believe his short life is now over, and indeed it was SHORT. The old die first, right? I will grapple with this shocking, sad news for months to come. I know his parents will grieve for a lifetime.

Now after being back one full day, my quiet life with my husband feels like pure luxury. I am eager to start back on my writing and need to establish a solid writing routine again. My writing partner, who I check in with weekly, is already urging me to get started. I only worked 10 hours or so on my book during the six-week period. Although my rewrite is complete, I have been putting it through a thorough check for plot, and character and conflict development, and had found areas that needed another look.

After this revision, I will print it out again and begin a quick line edit (hopefully quick). Then I will send it off to a children writer's group I belong to for review. Meanwhile, I will start the long search for an agent and continue my ongoing study of the e-publishing market. Writing this book has been a long haul but I'm anxious to move on because I have so many other ideas for future books and I can't wait to get started.



Copyright 2011 © Sharon Himsl

Friday, July 1, 2011

Courage, the Other Side of Fear

It has been 10 years since we bought our sailboat. We were so excited at the time, it's hard to believe we are actually thinking about selling it. Looking back through some files, it's easy to see just how excited we were.

“We have our entire lives to become wise and jaded. Let’s be excited about the newness of it. So what if we don’t know anything. It’s fun to have something new to learn. Later we can be the sages and the experts. Let’s enjoy the ride.”

Those were some of my husband's words on driving down to California to pick up our new
Montgomery 15. He was right of course. Not knowing how to sail or what was in store for us was all part of the adventure, and indeed it has been just that - right from the start. 

We had an interesting solo outing on the Snake River that still gives me the giggles. To begin with, it took us well over an hour to attach the rigging in the parking lot (this boat can be rigged in less than an hour, 30 min with experience). That done, we backed 'Duet' down the loading ramp--so far--so good--we thought with pride. The wind was gusting a bit, so we decided we’d pull the sails up after we motored out a bit. But for some reason the engine kept dying, so our confidence level was failing fast by the time we got out to the middle of the river.

Still, we did find the courage to finally hoist the sails. Whomp! Yikes! The wind almost knocked us flat on the port side. Fortunately, our friend who'd given us some sailing lessons in advance, had told us to just deflate the main sail if that ever happened and let the boat right itself. Boing! Duet popped back up like a cork. Of course, by then our nerves were pretty frazzled, but eventually we braved the wind again and before long we thought we looked pretty graceful out there.

After about 3 hours, it was time to dock. GULP—oh boy—were we ever dreading that one. With our motor trouble, we couldn’t begin to imagine what would happen if it died again. Well, of course it did and with the sails down at that point--we started drifting ashore--straight for the rocks!! I jumped out and kept the boat from taking any damage, while my husband cussed the engine. It was then he noticed that the bow line had wrapped around the motor shaft!! Long story short… Never, Never, Never have a bow line longer than the length of your boat.

After this one experience, we had a number of nice camp outs with friends, including one to the San Juan Islands. We may think we're too busy to sail right now, but I do miss the ripple of the water and that whispering wind against the sails. It's slow getting there, yes, but that slow pace is what drew us to sailing to begin with, and there's something else. Sailing takes a certain amount of courage that for me involved overcoming some fears. Learning to guide the rudder in a steady wind was scary, but also empowering, not to mention a lot of fun. At least that's how it turned out for me.

Courage on the other side of fear is also something I'm exploring in the novel I'm writing. I love how life connects with what we write.   


Copyright 2011 © Sharon Himsl


Monday, May 23, 2011

The Shells We Collect . . .

It is interesting . . . the things we collect . . . how they become the inspiration and details behind the tales we write. On my desk sits a small shell collection gathered from a remote beach in Mersing, Malaysia.

I became an avid collector of shells while living in Kluang, Malaysia with my husband for nine incredible months. Some years later I am still impacted by that life-changing experience, and my home has a definite Asian feel to this day (elephants everywhere . . . and more).

The Mersing shells hold top billing on my desk at present. Small and unremarkable to the eye at first glance, they are the basis of a novel I am writing. They sit atop a small box holding a collection of sailing knots and instruction for the novice sailor (also in my novel). The box is titled, "Learn the Ropes," and indeed, since I am still learning the ropes as a writer, it seems perfect.


However, I do know how to sail. For a time I borrowed every sailing saga I could get my hands on. I loved the adventure of sailing and the thrill of learning something new. I finally talked my husband into buying a small Montgomery 15-foot sailboat, which led to a week long camping trip in the San Juan Islands (WA). The sails I take . . . or the adventures I make . . . continue to have their allure.  


Copyright 2011 © Sharon Himsl