Liebster Award and Writing 101

 

I just like this picture I took of the beach at Oceanside. It has nothing to do with my post.

DSCF1176

I just finished the Writing 101 course through WordPress, and I find myself overwhelmed. There are so many interesting blogs out there !  It was a privilege to able to read the posts of my fellow students. My only regret is that I found myself glued to my computer more hours than usual. So, now that the course is over, I am struggling to maintain the momentum. I have a book to re-write and a blog to maintain, so I will post on my blog once a week, and try to keep to my timeline for the book re-write.

During this course I also attended the annual Spring Spirit Conference held by the North/Central Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) held on May 2.  As usual, it was a great conference, but of course I left with a self-generated “to do” list for writing that will probably take me six months to complete. If you write or plan to write or illustrate children’s books, you should consider joining SCBWI. It is a wonderful support for both published and “pre-published” authors and illustrators.

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by fellow blogger HumaAq who writes a wonderful blog entitled HumaAq – the unique me! Thank you so much. I understand there are several obligations that come with the nomination. I am charged with nominating 11 other bloggers for the award. These are new bloggers who, like me, have fewer than 200 followers. My second obligation is to answer the questions posed by the person who nominated me, and the third is to notify my nominees and pose 11 questions for them to answer and post. Piece of cake, right?

I am finding as I look through all the wonderful blogs I have had a chance to read, that many of them have more than 200 followers and many have  been recently nominated for the Liebster Award. I am going to fall short of the magic number of 11 nominees, but none the less, I do have some nominees in mind.

There is more  information about the Liebster Award at www. wordingwell.com/the-liebster-awards.

And now to the questions posed to me.

1) Why did you start your blog?

I always liked to write, but most of my writing had been work-centered. I had an idea for a children’s book series and worked on that, but I also wanted to do some “adult” writing and a blog seemed a good way to do that.

2) Who inspires you?

Everyday people inspire me. When you realize the burden some are carrying  and the grace with which they do it, it amazes me.

3) Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Probably still trying to finish my children’s book series and get it published!

4) What book are you reading now?

I confess to being addicted to mystery novels, both period pieces and modern. My current reading includes The Edge of Dreams (Molly Murphy Mystery by Rhys Bowen, set in New York at the turn of the century), Paw and Order: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn. Chet is a dog who narrates all the books in this series. It is set in the present day. I like philosophy and science, so I am slowly reading The Illusion of Conscious Will  by Daniel M. Wegner, which combines both.

5) What is your all time favorite movie?

It’s a tie for me. I like LA Story which stars Steve Martin, among others, and featured the music of Enya. I also really, really like A Man and A Woman, a very romantic French move from 1968.

6) If you could choose anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live, and why.

I’ve always like to be exactly where I am at any given time.

7) Do you speak any foreign languages?

I speak some Spanish, but given I live in California, it’s hard to regard it as a foreign language.

8) Do you have any hidden talents?

If I knew them, they wouldn’t be hidden!

9) What career would you choose if you had a free choice?

At one time I wanted to be a historian – still sounds good.

10) What’s your favorite type of music?

I do like classical guitar music, but it varies.

11) What’s your favorite type of food?

A little bit of everything.

My nominees are:

http://www.grubbsncritters.com

http://www.mumbletymuse.com

deannadenny.com

sowgrowshine.wordpress.com

These are the questions I would like my nominees to answer:

1) Why did you start your blog?

2) Who inspires you?

3) Where do you see yourself in five years?

4) What books are you reading now?

5) What are you all time favorite movies?

6) Where in the world would you choose to live?

7) Do you speak more than one language?

8) Who is your favorite author?

9)What would you do with your life if everything was open to you?

10) What is your favorite type of music.

11) What is your favorite food?

 

 

 

 

Prompt 18: Hone Your Point of View: The Eviction

Wow. Police cars – two of ’em. Wonder what they’re doing? Hey, they’re stopping at Mrs. Pauley’s house!  Two police guys and that other guy are going up to the door. Wonder who he is? Never saw him before. Now he’s knocking on the door, really loud and yelling Mrs. Pauley’s name. Those two police officers are standing right behind him. There’s Mrs. Pauley. She looks real scared. She’s crying, but the guy just looks at her and says something that makes her cry even more. Then he hands her a yellow paper. She doesn’t want to take it. She’s shaking her head back and forth.

The guy steps back and the police step up to Mrs. Pauley. She cries some more, then one of the police guys takes her arm and they walk toward the car. The police guy is talking to her, not loud, and she is listening. The police guy opens the back door of one of the care and she sits down with her legs hanging out the side. The police guy gives her some water and she shakes her head yes as he talks. He gives her some tissue and she blows her nose. Then the police guy takes out a phone and hands it to Mrs. Pauley and she makes a call.

The other guy has gone into Mrs. Pauley’s house. A few minutes later a guy in a yellow van comes. He talks to the other guy, then he gets some tools out of his van and takes the doorknob off Mrs. Pauley’s front door.

Mrs. Pauley gives the phone back to the police guy. A green car with a kind of circle sign on the door pulls up and a lady gets out. The lady walks over to Mrs. Pauley and shows her something. Mrs. Pauley nods, the she stands up and they go back to the car and drive away.

The police leave and the guy fixing the door leaves. The other guy goes into Mrs. Pauley’s house.

Nothing happens for a while, then a junky old truck drives up into Mrs. Pauley’s driveway. Two real big guys get out and go up to the house. The other guy comes out, then they all go into Mrs. Pauley’s house.

After while, the big guys come out carrying some of Mrs. Pauley’s stuff and they throw it into the junky truck and go back to the house. They’re taking her stuff!

I’m scared. I don’t know what Mrs. Pauley did. Does this mean they’ll come throw our stuff out and take us away? My mom comes out on the porch.

“Alan. Come inside.”

“Mom, what’s happening?”

Prompt 16: Third Time’s the Charm: Gram’s Gift

Addie Peterson hadn’t been to Gram’s house since she was ten years old. She used to spend most of each summer there, while Mom worked. But, when she was ten, Mom remarried and the new family moved too far away for summer visits.

Addie sat in the beige rental car parked in front of the small gray-white clapboard house. It looks run-down, she thought. The house needed paint, and the once-lush landscape looked as if it had been cooked in the summer heat.

She was more than surprised when she received the letter from the attorney. ‘In Re: The Estate of Adelaid Goutcher. You are the sole beneficiary of Adelaid Goutcher. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.’ It wasn’t convenient. Addie lived three time-zones away from Gram and Gram’s attorney, but it was her duty.

Mom had been furious with Gram that last summer. Gram did not approve of her daughters ‘new beau’ as Gram put it. Mom and Gram didn’t know Addie had heard them arguing. They had sent her outside to the chicken coup so they could talk, but Mom’s raised voice and Gram’s murmuring reply made it clear even to ten-year old Addie, this was no usual conversation.

After that encounter, the marriage and the move, Mom told Addie she couldn’t visit Gram because the trip was too expensive. Addie didn’t believe it for a moment.

She had arranged to have a company conduct an estate sale at the house in a few days. The had already gone through and set up the rooms for the sale. “Everything must go,” Addie told them. “I want it over quickly. There’s nothing  in the house I want..”

When Alice, the estate sale manager, called last week, she told Addie they had found a sealed cardboard box with a note taped to the box. It read ‘Please give this box to Addie Peterson.’

“I know you said you wanted to sell everything, but this is obviously personal and we don’t feel comfortable opening it.”

“All right. I’ll be in town by Wednesday. Put the box on the dining room table and I’ll pick it up Thursday.”

She put her head down on the steering wheel for a moment, the pickup up her purse, slung the strap over her shoulder as she existed the car, then walked briskly to the front door.

The once brightly painted red door looked dry and dusty. She put the key in the lock and entered. Almost without thought, she moved down the hall, then turned right into the dining room. There on the old oak table was a cardboard box with the printed note Alice had described. She looked at it briefly, then pulled off the tape and opened the box.

Inside was a yellowed envelope. Her name, written in Gram’s elegant handwriting, was on the outside. She carefully opened the envelope and took out the note.

Dear Addie,

I know your Mom and her new husband love you very much and will do all they can to give you a happy home. I do miss you. I wanted you to have this. When we worked on it during your summer visits, it brought me such joy. I hope the memory of those times together brings you joy as well.

Love,

Gram

Addie pulled the folded quilt from the box. It wasn’t a large quilt, doll-sized really, but each square was lovingly sewn by hand, some with the neat, even stitches of Gram and some with Addie’s ten-year old fingers.

She looked at each square, gently outlining each one with her finger. The materials had come from a box of old clothing she found in Gram’s attic. Cotton prints and solids and even a few squares of dark-green velvet. Each square was embroidered, some with a small pictures, or a date or a name.

“Thank you, Gram,” she whispered. She gently folded the quilt and placed it and Gram’s note back in the box, then picked up the box and left the house.

Prompt 14: To Whom it May Concern: A Farewell

 

 

DSCF1890

 

Dear Information,

I must admit, when I first met you, I was intrigued. There was so much to you! You entertained me, you made me laugh and you educated me. I found you in libraries, books, newspapers and selected magazines. I even sought you out on television and radio, even though I blush to remember seeking you out on such relatively unreliable sources.

I don’t know exactly when I first began to tire of you, although it may have begun with the coming of the internet. I remember those early days of that horrible sound that accompanied my attempts to connect to the internet using dial-up. So often it failed, but I was in search of you and so I persisted. High speed internet, then WiFi appeared and still I searched for you. The search was faster, but I began to recognize that your quality had begun to diminish. I no longer looked forward to perusing the internet in search of you. Days went by when I avoided the computer entirely.

I could no longer believe that finding out about the latest Kardasian caper, or Justin Bieber escapade truly qualified as valuable Information.

I’m sorry, Information. It does sadden me that any further searches in which I participate will be more focused and purposeful. This means I may not see you as often, but I will never forget you. I hope we can remain friends.

 

Sincerely,

JJ

 

Prompt 13: Serially Found: My Wallet, My Life, Part 2

The alarm went off. Much too early for Saturday. I reached over and hit the snooze button, then I remembered the Friday night disaster. I reviewed the telephone conversation I had had with my husband that night. He assured me he wouldn’t need to use the credit cards and he would be home Sunday instead of Monday. We agreed I would call and cancel the credit cards, and I did so.

Still in bed, I yawned and stretched. I picked up the book I had been reading last night, the latest Sue Grafton novel featuring Kinsey Millhone. Too bad Kinsey  isn’t real, I thought. I could use her help on my missing wallet case. Well, why not. I can still use the same techniques she uses. After all, I’ve read books A-P. I should know something about detecting by now.

I started by making a detailed list of all the places I had been in the hours before I discovered the wallet was missing. An hour later with a list of over thirty items, I moved to the second step of my plan; search for a pattern. The pattern that emerged was that in the hours before the wallet’s disappearance was discovered, it had been in my office, in a drawer, inside my purse. Great. Absolutely useless. No new information there. What would Kinsey do next?

I needed to go out to the school site, the scene of the crime, walk the area and look for additional clues. After all, every detective, including Kinsey, ultimately relied on field work, the hard “grunt” work, searching the scene for hidden clues. That’s why they used to call private investigators “gum shoes”. They get gum on their shoes from walking around detecting.

I got dressed, jumped into my car and tore off toward the school. I was in sight of the empty school parking lot when I heard the siren and saw the flashing lights of the squad car in my rear view mirror. It was Saturday and I was the only car on the road. No question who they wanted. I pulled over and rolled down the window.

“Hello officer. How can I help you?”

“You can help me by giving me your license, registration, and proof of insurance.”

“Yes, of course. Is there some problem?”

“You were speeding. Going 60 in a 45 mile zone.”

“Oh. I need to get those things out of the glove compartment.” As I reached into the glove compartment, it dawned on me there were only two of the requested items in the glove compartment. My license was still missing.

I handed the registration and proof of insurance to the officer.

“I need your driver’s license. Please remove it from your wallet.”

“About that, officer…”

I related the story of the lost wallet and my pathetic attempts to play detective. He didn’t seem particularly sympathetic to my plight.

“You can’t drive without a license. Can you call someone to come and get you and drive the car home?”

“Yes. An excellent suggestion officer. I’ll do that.”

” Yeah. Good idea.” He scowled at me. “No ticket this time. Paperwork wouldn’t be worth it to me.”

“Yes, officer. Thank you, officer.” He watched me leave the car and walk toward the school office. I unlocked the door, disabled the alarm, turned and waved to the officer and closed the office door. Crud. The neighbors I knew were out of town, my husband wouldn’t be back for a day and the rest of my family lived out-of-state. The insurance wouldn’t cover a tow because the car was not damaged. I couldn’t pay out-of-pocket for a tow because all my cash was in my wallet. My stomach growled. That’s it, I’m not going to starve as well. I’ll just have to take the back route home.

The back route wound through isolated country roads, all of them in poor repair. The recent rain would have left puddles and washed out areas, making the route even less inviting than usual. That beat starving and sleeping  in the school office. Forty-five minutes later I pulled into the garage at home. My usual commute was twenty-minutes, but at least I had avoided further contact with Officer Grouch or his friends.

I bent down to pick up the purse I had placed on the floor on the passenger side. In addition to the purse, I felt a leather rectangular object. I picked it up. Yes! My wallet!. I opened it and gazed at my driver’s license. Horrible picture, but a beautiful license! I looked lovingly at my credit cards, my checks, family pictures and cash. It was all there. Somehow, it must have fallen out of my purse and gotten wedged somewhere under the seat where I couldn’t see or feel it. The bumpy back route roads must have jarred it lose.

Now,  all I had to do was break the good news to my husband.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prompt 12: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon : The Interview

P1000285

When I graduated from high school, I decided I would save my parents some of the cost of a University education by completing my freshman year at a local Community College, then I would transfer to the University of my choice. I was a very good student with an excellent record and this was a pattern than many students followed at the time.

Halfway through my freshman year at the Community College, I arranged an interview with my Counselor to discuss my plans and make sure the courses I had taken and planned to take the second semester were fully transferable. I had already filled out my University application for the following fall, and my parents were supportive.

I walked down the dingy corridor lined with glass-windowed office doors. I found number 325, Mr. Peterson’s office, and knocked on the door.

“Yeah. Come in,” a voice called. As I opened the door, the man behind the desk, old-fashioned phone receiver pressed to his ear, glanced up at me, then pointed to a chair. I sat.

He swiveled his chair around, back to me and continued his conversation. “Yes. I’m sure. Go ahead and send me that information. Yes. Uh huh. I see. You’ll still need to send it to me.” For a few seconds he listened intently to the voice on the other end. “Yes. Yes. Just send it to me. O.K. Bye.”

He banged the receiver down so hard on the phone that it rang in protest.

He took off his heavy rimmed glasses, rubbed his eyes and yawned. His long brown comb-over lay flat across the top of his head, undisturbed.

“Sorry about that. I didn’t get much sleep last night. Frantic students. Now, what can I do for you Miss?”

“I’m planning on transferring to the University next fall and I want to be sure I’m doing all I can to make that go smoothly,” I said.

“You what? Why in the world would you want to transfer?” He pulled a file out of the stack on his desk, opened it and flipped through the papers inside. “Looks like you’re doing well. Your grades are good, so why leave now?”

“I want to be a historian and the University has the best program for that.”

“You’ll be taking the same courses here as you would at the University, but it won’t cost your parents so much. How can you do that to your parents?”

“My parents support the idea.”

He stared at me for a long moment.

“Huh. I know why you’re doing this. You’re looking for an Mrs. degree and you think you’ll attract a guy with better prospects at the University.

It was my turn to stare. “I can’t believe you said that.”

“Look. It’s my job to try to keep successful students here for the whole two-year program. It’s better for the students, their families , the school and the faculty. You’re a good student. We don’t want to lose you.”

“You’re not going to keep students if you insult them. After talking to you, I’m more determined than ever to transfer next fall.” I stood, stomped to the door, flung it open and stalked out.

I did transfer to the University that fall. When I signed up for classes, I found an announcement that Course Historiography 235 was cancelled. This was the course designed to teach the techniques of historical research and writing. I did get a degree in history, but I did not become a historian.

Oh, and I did get married, but not to anyone I met at the University.

Prompt 11: Size Matters (In Sentences) : The Family Homestead

When I was nine, my family moved into a house where I lived until I married and moved out. It was a brand new house in a forest of almost-identical homes. A track home. When we first moved in, it was still neighbor to several orange groves. The orange grower slowly sold the remaining groves to developers until the only trees remaining were the stick-thin saplings held up with stakes planted in suburban lawns.

It was a nice house for the time. Three bedrooms, two baths, a fireplace and a two car garage. It had a dishwasher and a washer/dryer in the kitchen. Not a washer and dryer, but a washer/dryer, a two function machine that did not catch on. Technical difficulties, I’m told.

I lived there with my parents and sister. Eventually we added a cat with many kittens and a small dog.

The back yard was substantial. We lived at the end of a cul de sac. The yard was fenced and included a cement patio. My dad built a lounge chair, and my mother put a thick floral-printed cushion on top. A wooden picnic table and benches completed the patio furnishing.

My sister and I each had our own bedrooms for the first time. Three years older, she was glad not to have a room decorated with such juvenile things as dolls and stuffed animals. Her room was sophisticated, in keeping with her status as the older sister, and it was off limits to me. For some reason, she rarely invaded my room.

In the hall-way was a large black telephone seated on a special telephone stand. Our neighbor worked for the phone company and generously installed an extra long cord on the phone. It was so long, it reached into my sister’s bedroom. For private conversations, she said.

We lived in the middle of fast developing Southern California suburbia. Little was within walking distance. To get to work, grocery shopping, shopping-shopping, or my sister’s high school you needed a car or a bus.

My school was one of the few destinations an easy walk away. Like the house, the school was new. I was in the first class to attend. I became a cheerleader. Yes, this is not metaphoric, but literal. As I got older, I learned that admitting that you had been a cheerleader in middle school was not necessarily something to be proud of.  But it was part of my twelfth year and I will admit it here.

My sister completed high school, went to work, married and left home. A few years later I left for college, then married and moved out. Our parents continued to live in the house for a few more years. With the death of my grandfather and my grandmother’s declining health, they sold the house and moved into her more spacious house to care for her.

The house and the neighborhood fell on hard times. A fire in the San Bernardino Mountains threatened it one summer, but it escaped. It was eventually brought down by the loss of hope. Suburbia was not always an easy place to live.

Prompt 8: Death to Adverbs: A Life With Purpose

DSCF1955The epitome of relaxation, she lay flat in the chair on the back deck. Head slumped down on her front paws, back legs turned slightly to the side, one white-tipped paw atop the other. Her stomach rose and fell. Occasionally, her long white whiskers twitched and her paws moved.

Awakening from her sleep, she turned over on her back, stretched, and looked at me upside down through her grape-green eyes. She sat up, yawned, stretched again, jumped down to the deck and trotted down the steps to the garden.

She took up her usual post directly under the bird feeder. it was currently occupied by a mixed flock of gold finches and house finches. They arrived about the same time everyday.

She watched carefully, lying down under the feeder as if she were sound asleep. Her eyes never moved from the feeder, her body remained still and quiet. Her mother had taught her this technique. Passive hunting. It made your prey careless, unaware of the danger that they faced.

But she was young, and a little short of the patience that passive hunting required. When she could stand it no longer, she began to chatter and she lunged at a bird that was still a good three feet away, too far for an inexperienced cat to catch. In frustration, she let out a loud meow, sending the remaining birds into the sky.

Ears back, she trotted away from the bird feeder and threw herself down under the wood chips that surrounded the redwood tree. She began to clean herself. It calmed her. Finishing her task, her attention was drawn to a movement in the grass. She crouched down, then moved ahead in stalking posture.

Pausing, holding still, she then pounced. Her prey flew into the air. She launched herself into the air, snapped at the prey and landed, licking her chops. Success! Nothing like a bug snack to improve the mood of a cat.

If I ever wondered what cats did with their lives, I now knew.