Wild Honks, Ferocious Edits

I’ve chosen a new Header photo, this one being very seasonally appropriate for us, since thousands of snow geese are passing through our area right now, loitering in the fields en route. Traveling in flocks of hundreds, the birds make cloud-like smudges in the sky as they approach.

Coming home from the city one day my husband and I noticed a grey, trailing cloud above the trees of a woods a couple of miles away. As we got closer we saw the constantly milling, shining forms of snow geese and guessed there must be close to a thousand birds in that one flock. Fifteen minutes later we passed a field with a big white patch — another few hundred snow geese. And our area is just one small stream among their many migration lanes through the prairies.

As most of us know by now, Nov 1st kicks off another NaNoWriMo. Seems so many bloggers mention the event, for better or for worse. Different sites like The Write Practice and Live Write Thrive are giving out advice, encouragement about how to stick with it, some are even offering plotting kits.

Are you joining the Nano writing frenzy this year? I’ve participated a couple of times but now I should rather dig out the rough draft I churned out in 2014 and edit it properly. Ferociously, even.

My husband recently joined the Jerry Jenkins Writing Guild, a course that offers a number of webinars on how to write and edit. I’ve watched several of the “How to become a ferocious editor” lessons where he takes a first page of a story — any member can submit their first page and he’ll pick one or two to use as examples. He shows you the original, then butchers abbreviates it. He’s merciless, but offers explanations all along as to what should be deleted and why. Part of me is very curious — and part of me shudders — to think what he might do with one of my compositions. I have much to learn!

The trouble is, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Once you learn something about editing you can’t help doing it as you read others’ books. Soon you’re saying, “This should have been cut…this should be reworded…this is telling…this is too repetitive,” etc. Why, I was even editing Agatha Christie yesterday! (I enjoy her Tommy & Tuppence mysteries.)

Have you ever taken a writing course you’d recommend? Do you find yourself doing a lot of editing as you read? Have you ever bought an e-book that IYO needed a major editorial overhaul?


Small Smiles #2

TEDDY in the OR

One day a little boy and his parents left home and drove to a hospital in a far away city. That evening Mom and Dad left the lad to the nurses’ care, for he was to have an operation the next morning. Nervous and very homesick, the boy clung tightly to his only comfort, an old teddy bear. Teddy was a scruff and had lost an eye somewhere along the line, but he was ever so precious to the boy that scary night in the strange place.

The next morning the lad was transferred to a stretcher and wheeled down to the operating room, still clutching the bear. The orderly told him he’d have to give it up; it would get in the way of the good doctor operating. Besides, he wouldn’t want to see poor teddy accidentally get a cut or poke, would he?

As they were prepping the boy for surgery a nurse reached for the toy, but the surgeon shook his head. “Let’s leave Teddy right where he is, shall we?” With a wink at the nurse and the anesthetist he added in a kindly tone, “I think he needs a little attention, too.”

The surgery went well and soon the boy was opening his eyes in the recovery room. First thing he saw was Teddy, still lying in his arms, but now with a bandage over its forehead. The lad lifted his bear up to have a closer look — and two eyes looked back at him.

It Couldn’t Be Done

The Daily prompt word for today is contrast and I don’t have to look far to see a live demo. We have a second office chair in this room, not far from my desk, and at this moment it’s occupied by one of my cats. Totally relaxed and dozing, my black Angus, with his Siamese genes, is a perfect illustration of flexible.

He’s doing what I call “the watusi” — even though I’ve never seen that 60’s dance performed. Or maybe this is a cat version of the hula? His head and top third are facing left, legs totally stretched out. Somewhere in the middle third comes a twist, which brings his belly up to the light. Then the back third faces right, with his extended back legs hanging off the chair.

By contrast, here I sit, stiff and sore. This morning I can’t quite swivel my my neck a full 45 degrees in either direction. Muscles pull and protest when I straighten my shoulders and sit up properly. If I’d try to hula with Angus, arms reaching one way and feet set the other, I’d be apt to lock in that position and need a chiropractor to release me.

Another major contrast between me and my cats is that I want to sleep at 3 am but they want me to open the door so they can go exploring the yard. After all, there may be a mouse out there waiting to play tag. However, having checked out the yard, they soon feel the mouse must have gotten in and they need to sniff around the closet, or maybe the washer and dryer. At 5:00 am this morning I was mentally writing a poem about the cat that wants in, then out, then in. Then I shut our bedroom door — which I should have done in the first place.

This brings to mind another contrast: how soundly I sleep when I go to bed on an empty stomach versus how restless my sleep when I eat half a bowl of popcorn at midnight as I finish off a good book. (Note to self: NOTHING to eat after 8pm!)

That said, I hope you will enjoy this poem about the contrast in personalities. Our world today owes a lot to the few who persevered in spite of the naysayers.


by Edgar Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Wonderful Things…

Wonderful things in the Bible I see…

I didn’t think I’d be able to do today’s Daily Prompt. The third line in the last song I heard?

Well, a song was bouncing around in my brain first thing this morning but initially I couldn’t recall it at all. After a few mental calisthenics the words came back to me.

“I am so glad that our Father in heaven
tells of His love in the book He has given;
wonderful things in the Bible I see —
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.”
“Jesus Loves Even Me”; words & music by Philip P Bliss

Yesterday after dinner at Silverwood Villa (where I cook p-t) the residents and I were sitting there visiting and got into discussing these wonderful things we read in the Bible. We started discussing the Miracle of the Loaves & Fishes, also referred to as the Feeding of the 5000. (This story is recorded in three of the Gospels: Matt 14:14-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:11-17)

We tossed around some questions about the setting. Was the little lad who offered his five loaves and two fish the ONLY one who thought about food. “Did none of the others expect to stay long enough to need food? Did they think the sermon would be short and they’d head home to eat,” Melvin wondered. And I wondered if the boy himself had thought of taking food, or if it was his “helicopter mother” who worried her son might get hungry and sent along the lunch just in case. Or if some others had food, but he was the only one who offered to share?

But the miracle was definitely in the multiplication so that twelve basketsful of fragments were left over. “Like, what size baskets? Who brought them?” We concluded that the situation was “pre-designed” to work out the way it did and show the people God’s ability to provide. And to ring a bell with the people. When Moses led the children of Israel through the desert on their way to the Promised Land, God supplied them with bread from heaven.

I mentioned that even more amazing to me was the account of how Jesus sent Peter to the lake to catch a fish. He tossed in his hook and pulled out (probably) the only fish in the lake that had a coin stuck in its mouth. (Matt 17:24-27) I actually wrote a story about this, calling it “The Lost Coin.” Click here if you’d like to read it.

We can call the Bible God’s Word to man, his journal of musings on human nature, his track record in the history of Israel. It’s bursting with amazing events and miraculous divine help.

And so it the world God created. Awesome — though maybe on a smaller scale. This morning I happened to glance out the window and saw about fifteen or so huge white birds fly over our yard, heading SE. With their long necks stretched out and their feet neatly tucked up, what else could they be but swans?

The last flock of cranes, the ones that arrived a week ago to graze in the fields next to our yard, have been hanging around for most of this week. I went for a little walk this morning and see they are gone now. I frightened some ducks at the slough and they winged it, so there are still some birds resting here before going on.

Mankind produces some “mini-wonders”, too. At least that’s what I was thinking this morning as I tended to my laundry. I thought I had searched my dress pockets diligently so no tissues would go into the load I was washing. But when I took the dresses out of the dryer, at least half a dozen tissues fell on the floor. They had divided by ply, but thankfully they came through relatively intact. So I said to myself, “We should always buy this brand. They wash so well!”

Now I’ve spent twice the allotted time for this prompt (fifteen minutes.) But I do want to mention that health-wise things aren’t going so well with me. If I’d judge by the way I’ve felt this week — hot, sweating, fatigued, short of breath — I’d say my white count has gone up another five points.

I see the oncologist wants to keep closer tabs now; I got a letter from the Cancer Clinic this week saying I’m to have another blood test in January rather than waiting six months. I can always hope it drops again — that little respite this spring & summer was so nice! — but “time will tell.”

Is anyone planning to do NaNoWriMo next month?

If I Perish, I Perish

It was a dark and stormy night…
… Think 10 pm, end of October. No storm, but not much of a moon. It seemed VERY dark…

And I was all alone…
… Well, not quite. My nine-year-old daughter had just gone to bed. But she’d be a very poor back-up in an emergency. My husband Bob was at work and wouldn’t be home until about 11:20.

In a big old farmhouse off down a lonely country road…
…I felt very isolated while we lived there. Our nearest neighbor was about half a mile to the south…we hadn’t met them yet. A quarter-mile to the north the road made a right angle bend and headed for the county road a mile west. So neighbor in that direction for a couple of miles.

In southwestern Ontario…
…on the western edge of a valley, with the impressively named, but tiny, Upper Thames River flowing along in the valley below us. (This detail becomes relevant soon.)

When a knock sounded at my door…
…I was in the hall near the front door, ALL ALONE, wondering who on earth would be wandering around at this time of night?

I stood there in the hall staring at the door, my fears kicking into high gear…
…Thieves? Murderers? I was 27 at the time and a wimpy type. Would I be beaten, sexually assaulted? And what about my daughter?

But what if someone is really in need of help…
…Right then the words of Queen Esther popped into my head: “If I perish, I perish.”
(Read about the circumstances where she uttered these words in Esther Chapter 4)

At that moment some kind of courage infused me. Those words, and the thought of her bravery in the face of possible death, squelched my fears and I reached to open the door. After all, do thieves and murderers usually knock?

And there stood three long-haired young men…
Twenty-ish, kind of scruffy, jeans and jackets. Nondescript — the perfect look for thugs…

Asking if they could use my phone!

(That was me swallowing my fears again.)

The young man doing the asking was polite enough about it, so I swung the door open and he came in. Then I noticed first, how cold it was, and second, they seemed to be kind of wet. So I urged them all to come in.

A bit of back story here:
Up where the road bends toward the left and heads toward the highway, a shady little lane goes off to the right. If you follow it to the bottom, this rather picturesque, abandoned lane crosses the river and goes off to a long-forgotten gravel pit.

Since the river is only a trickling creek all summer, it’s easy enough to walk across the limestone river bed, stepping on flat stones, and check this pit out without getting much more than the soles of your feet wet. Driving across in a car posses no problems at all. Bumpy— but if you take it slow you can cross the Upper Thames and follow the lane on the other side, right into the gravel pit.

In spring, however — or after heavy rains in fall — this creek becomes a torrent. A force to be reckoned with. The young men at my door found this out that night when they tried to cross the river after some serious fall rains had raised the level significantly. They drove in, not expecting that depth of water, and their car stalled midway. By the time they’d climbed out and walked the quarter-mile to my place, jeans wet to the knees, they were…like my tale…a little shivery.

And remorseful. Their remorse increased steadily when the “spokesman” got on the phone and tried to persuade someone among his kith and kin (or a friend) who would come and tow their car out. Finally someone agreed…not very willingly.

I didn’t have the heart to kick them out in the cold again so I made some coffee for them, hoping to warm them up a bit, and fed them chocolate-chip cookies I had baked earlier that evening. They downed quite a few and we chatted as they waited for their ride to come.

They remained respectful and polite all the while. I’m happy to say all three of them were very appreciative and not at all the thieving or murderous hoodlums I’d feared. Phew!

When Bob got home I related the whole story. He found the tale quite interesting and a bit humorous. He knew how fearful I was “living way out there” and was intrigued that when I actually faced a “dangerous situation,” I had all the courage I needed.

What would you have done?

My reply to the Word Press daily prompt

Learn to Smile

by Edgar Guest

The good Lord understood us when He taught us how to smile;
He knew we couldn’t stand it to be solemn all the while;
He knew He’d have to shape us so that when our hearts were gay
we could let our neighbors know it in a quick and easy way.

So he touched the Lips of Adam and he touched the lips of Eve
and He said: “Let these be solemn when your sorrows make you grieve,
but when all is well in Eden and your life seems worth the while,
let your faces wear the glory and the sunshine of a smile.

“Teach the symbol to your children, pass it down through all the years.
Though they know their share of sadness and shall weep their share of tears,
through the ages men and women shall prove their faith in Me
by the smile upon their faces when their hearts are trouble-free.”

The good Lord understood us when He sent us down to earth;
He knew our need for laughter and for happy signs of mirth;
He knew we couldn’t stand it to be solemn all the while,
but must share our joy with others — so He taught us how to smile.

From the book Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

To my Readers & Fellow bloggers

I’m taking a two-week break from blogging while I play catch-up with other things, plus clean up my computer and e-mail files. So you may not be hearing much from me, but I’ll post a few poems and maybe do some reblogs for you to enjoy.