Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Wishes

 Jesus is the only reason for the Season. Over the years I've collected Nativity Scenes from various places.
I will share some of these. They are displayed at my home church, West End Baptist, in Beaumont. More are stored in boxes at home for display another year.
 This silvery gray set was cast from ash that fell during the eruptions of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 in Washinton, State.  Chris and I visited the area on our first road trip to Alaska in 2002.
 This collapsible scene is made from tin. We acquired it in the early 90's in interior Mexico.
 The Manger Scene inside an egg shape was cast from sand from the White Sands proving grounds in New Mexico.
 I beaded these three figures using a beading loom.
 One of my favorites is this ceramic angel I made while an art teacher in the mid 70's. She is an antique!
One of my favorite ethnic Nativities is this one from Alaska with natives in parkas and baby Jesus on a sled inside an igloo.

I decry the commercialism of Christmas almost as much as I cringe at the elimination of "Christmas" for "Winter Holidays". Although we can't know the exact date Christ was born, we can't ignore the true meaning for the celebration of His birth at this time of year.
May You Have a Christ filled Christmas

Monday, December 3, 2012

Writers. What do you read?

Who wrote, "A Man who does not read is no better than a man who can't."
 I think it was Mark Twain.

I don't "appreciate" E readers. I prefer the feel and smell of ink and paper. Last week I sifted through some of my collection of children's books and on a whim looked up a couple of old (although in new condition) books on I was shocked to find a some of the hardbacks listed for $39.95, and $49.95.
Will E books appreciate in value? 
The experts say that more people are reading. I hope they choose print books.

So why, not how, does a writer read? I read for reference as well as pleasure. My shelves are smothered in non-fiction, how-to books. I regularly scan the local library's new books section for what ever "grabs me." Friends recommendations are follow up. Whatever I read, I look for inspiration, ideas and tips.

A friend recommended the author Nevada Barr who writes novels set in National Parks. I have visited many NP so I thought she would be a fun read. To my amazement she is an excellent descriptor of character.

Listen to this:
        "Barth was an African-American with short, black hair sprigged with white and smooth, dark skin. He'd been teetering on serious obesity....His eyes, a beautiful and startling feature, always had a mildly unsettling effect on Anna. they were clear gray-green, the sclera white almost to pale blue. They gave her the same sense she had when being studied by a blue-eyed Samoyed, that there were forces she could not completely understand at work behind them."
       In another setting she shows us more of Bart, "By the looks of what remained of his breakfast-three sausage biscuit wrappers and two of the cardboard packets used to serve up hash browns-he was competing for the heavyweight title.....A lot of green polyester-wool blend had been procured to cover the posterior....At his elbow was an ashtray half full of cold butts."
       I could pick him out in a crowd. Are your characters this vibrant?

        Another character she calls, "a middle-aged man from New Jersey posing as a southern-fried good old redneck."  Powerful.

Barr is equally powerful in showing place. Her heroine struggles "through an infestation of kudzu that smelled disconcertingly like grape Nehi. You stand still too long in this stuff and it'll grow right up your leg. Green shapes, once trees or slow hikers...... (it grows) up to 18" a day in summers."  Even if you are not from Southeast Texas or Louisiana, you get the feel for the area.

I credit Navada Barr with the quotations.

PLAGIARIZE to take and use (ideas, passages, etc.) from another's work, representing them as ones own.

So could a writer use Barr (or another author) for inspiration without plagiarizing? Analyze what you read. What makes strong contrast, "New Jersey posing as... redneck."  Bart's eyes compared to a blue-eyed Samoyed. And powerful visualization, kudzu smelling like Nehi and climbing up your leg.

Writers, dabble in reading for fun and whatever you can take away. Make notes on good writing, study it. Expand your experiences through reading.  Then incorporate into your writing. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Where are you selling your books?

My writer friend, Linda, and I decided to offer out books for sale at the Kountze Big Thicket Days Trade Fair last weekend.  Although not as classy as a book signing in a book store, we met some terrific people, learned a lot and sold some books. 

.Linda enjoyed sharing her writing projects and her "elevator pitch" with passers-by.

We enjoyed visiting with some of the 250 other venders, by taking turns to walk the paved pathways. I had to wait until the traffic cleared a little so I could take a photo of our booth and the path. We are on the left past the shaded booth.

Yes, there was competition, but no other authors were signing there books. The large tent housed a jobber who bought returned books (mostly children's) from the distributor. The books were priced at reduced wholesale prices and were selling well.  We met a family who was selling a large collection of old cookbooks for $1,00.
And food. There are many food vendors. This one across from our booth hand tempting fried pickles, fired cheesecake and boudin balls and the regular fare.
And the people you meet!  The Big Thicket Outlaws, have gang will travel, set up a camp and shot off black powder guns. Their wives call them ROMEOS, retired old men eating out and shooting.

With pictures and notes, I plan to write an article for a yet un-selected magazine. So selling books at a trade fair will (hopefully) pay off in more writing.

December 7-8, Linda and I will be setting up our booth at Larry's Trade Days in Winnie, and we'll be back in Kountze on Dec. 14-15.  Come by and see us!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Are Writing Conferences a Place to Dabble?

You betcha!  Figure in the conference fees, travel expense and time involved to attend a writer's conference and balance that with what you will learn.
Bayou Writers Group of Lake Charles, LA, hosted another well attended conference last Saturday. 
BWG's mission statement "to educate, encourage, and inspite" both new and expert writers said it all in a nutshell for their ninth annual conference. The 2012 theme, "A Bridge to Publication," presented an opportunity for writers to dabble in diverse aspects of writing.
There were motivational speakers for all. Jessica Ferguson spoke on "The power of the made up mind". She challenged us to know we are writers, that we must write and we will write. 
Stella Nesanovich spoke using person and local in poetry.
 Mona Lisa Saloy discussed folktelling ahd poetry.
Brooks Sherman from New York talked about how to get and keep and agent, while linda Yezak discussed the importance of editing.
C. Hope Clark encouraged us all when she spoke on how writers make money. Do I have your interest?
A challenge to writers is the "On the Wall" first page contest. All attendees are encouraged to submit their very best first page of fiction or non-fiction (without names)  to be judged by popular vote. What a great way to dabble in your favorite genre.
As a final educational event, everyone was encouraged to ask the speakers questions. At this time writers had the opportunity to ask each or all speakers to answer questions as varied as "Who is your favorite author?" and "What is your advice for a beginning writer?" The questions were varied and the answers encouraged us.

An added event was a book rrom where the speakers and writers displayed their works for sale. Writers met speakers and made new friends who have become readers as well as writers.

We left the full day of dabbling in the art of writing with handouts, primed with inspiration to get to work on our personal writing course.

I challenge my writing readers to find a conference that speaks to them and to evaluate the cost plus time to see that this equals inspriation to write.

Stimulate those brain cells. Connect dendrites and synalpses to engage your mind and hand. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Are you a Dabbler?

I'm not just a writer, I'm a Jill of all trades and master on none, but I'm happy! I like to write, speak, create handmade paper and book covers, draw, paint, make quilts, jewelry, baskets, travel, take photos, spin dog hair, cook, garden and READ.
I confess my struggle with patience and perseverance to finish what I start to encourage you, fellow writers, to explore your creativity to enhance your writing.

Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, I had the honor of speaking for the Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, LA. My topic was "Dare to Dabble".  Remember the  axiom:
How do you know what you know? Through exploring your experiences, interests and through research.
Here are suggestions:

Brainstorm your interests regardless of your talent or expertise. Free-write a list of the things you like to do, ie. cook, garden, deer hunt, read. Add what you're involved in, ie. kids, grand kids, sports, pets. Randomly write down those things you'd like to explore and learn more about, ie. quilting, bird identification, canoeing.
Now think like a rubber band. Start with a general topic form your list and expand (also called webbing).
Combine your interests keeping in mind "How could this be turned into a writing project? Choose an interest and define yourself as an expert. Learn more. Can you see the potential for an article? A book?

I was traveling  with my two Shelties and met a woman training a puppy for a seeing-eye service, then met another lady who relied on a hearing alert dog. A couple with two standard poodles trained for pet therapy prompted me to get out my camera and recorder. I interviewed each dog owner and photographed the dogs. The resulting article was published. Dabbling with dogs paid off.
Another way to collect your Dabbling interests is by writing each idea on a sticky note. Stick each note to a page in a spiral notebook. As you collect different ideas or notes of your interests transfer those that  relate to a separate page. In what area could you become an expert? What magazines could you write for? How would your expertise liven up your novel?

Expanding your creativity will help with publishing your writing. My novel, Venture in Faith; Texas to Alaska, is set in an RV and involves a road trip similar to the ones I've driven to Alaska. My heroine's adventures are some of mine. Beneath the Surface, a novel, has an frustrated housewife, art teacher as heroine. Quilts, kids and  pets are also incorporated into the plot. 

The creative artist within you demands self-expression, but when all your energy goes toward a writing project  and "writer's block" follows, becomes boring or is no longer fun take a break and dabble.
Nourish your creativity.

I challenge you to dare to dabble, dare to dream. remember no dream comes true until you wake up and go to work on it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are you prepared to Sell?

 It's almost November and time for the November 30 day Novel writing challenge. The idea is to concentrate on writing every day and to complete a rough draft of a complete novel by the end of the month. With books written and published, I'm concentrating on selling. How about you?

I don't think I'm up to writing after this past week of book signing disasters. With Christmas sales looming, I must rethink selling.
The picture above shows my books being held down by a bungie cord with the wind whipping the skirt. I set up at the Kountz Trade Days, but became so wet and cold, not to say worried about rain pelting my books, that I gave up, packed up and went home. Now I'm rethinking how to insure that my tent and books can be protected from the weather at future selling events. A couple of new tarps to reinforce the tent walls and bungie cords to hold everything down, and a small electric heater should get me through the next Trade Days.
I thought I was prepared for signing last Saturday at the Culture Fest in Lake Charles. Indoors. No wind or rain to contend with.  I set up my booth in the assigned location.
I enjoy meeting people and sharing an "elevator" talk about my books. I didn't have a clue about the large stage in the same room until bands (Zideco, Jazz and Rock) competed with my attempts to tell visitors about my books.The activities of Fest were great, but sales were slow. 
When sales are this slow, I slip away from my booth and explore the surroundings for writing ideas.

 This singer explained that her dress's colors represented all aspects of Louisiana. Everybody has a story. I would have liked to interview this lady. Her singing and costume are an inspiration for a character study.
 Young teens performed in many nations' festivities including the dragon dance. From my balcony view I pondered many questions that I'd ask the performers
 I watched girls from many nations prepare for a fashion show. When the music was too loud to be heard, I wandered around with my camera and recorder collecting ideas for writing. Maybe a novel will come of this.
 Another band encouraged this Senior couple to dance. I'd love to interview them. Maybe a story?
Again I was not prepared for selling my books, but I took the opportunity to register a complaint with the organizers, suggesting that for next year venders by placed in a quieter location.
Not only is November Novel Writing Challenge, it is also adoption month. We discovered this kitten under a truck in the neighborhood. We couldn't resist her mustachioed face, and soft fur so we've adopted Lillie. How I would like to know her story.

I'll be speaking at Bayou Writers on Saturday.  Come join us. We'll discuss the pitfalls of signings and selling.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Writing on and off Road

We've arrive back in hot and humid Beaumont, but brought much welcomed cooler weather with us. (As if I could take credit!)
After cleaning out and cleaning up the RV and getting re-established at home I've been on the computer.

While driving, I use a digital recorder to make notes of all those writing ideas floating through my brain cells and it has paid off. I had an article accepted by my publisher in Alaska to be included in an anthology. The name of the book and release date have not yet been announced. I've submitted another article to a popular RVing magazine, and am working on two other Alaska themed articles.

Last night the newly formed Texas Gulf Coast Writers' Group met with Pam Thibodeaux as guest speaker. Pam formed the Bayou Writers Group of Lake Charles several years ago and presented us with many helpful ideas for our new group. Area writers are encouraged to join us at the next meeting: the first Monday night of the month at Barns and Noble on Dowlen in Beaumont at 7:00 P.M.

Monique has helped me set up a power point presentation of the Alaska Mission 2012 to be presented this Sunday night at West End Baptist Church. Last Sunday we shared moose meatballs and Alaskan home made jelly at our monthly pot-lunch dinner.On a later date we will be speaking at East Ridge Baptist in Lake Charles.

Thursday night I will attend a fund raiser banquet for the Pregnancy Resource Center East in Baytown. I will be giving away copies of "Adopting Darrell" in his memory. Books are still available if you contact me by email.

I'm pleased to announce that on Nov. 3, 2012, I will be guest speaker at the Bayou Writers' Group meeting in Lake Charles. I invite writers to come discuss DARE TO DABBLE, a method to foster creativity.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Along the WAy Home

 Summer Camp sessions are over and the church roofing project is almost complete. We winterized the camp and prepare to leave. This gorgeous autumn trail is our final view of the camp. The morning we left the temp was 38 degrees, the sky clear and blue.
 We drove through the town of Tok, past the border guard station and into the Yukon. Along the road side this mama grizzly munched berries while her two cubs scampered out of range of the camera.
 Many miles later we made an obligatory stop at the sign post forest in Watson Lake to add a new sign that includes Nick's and Monique's names and this year's date. The sign count is now over 74,000! up from 6,000 in 1988. The mass of signs behind us is a tiny fraction of the fascinating collection.

 After Watson Lake we left the AlCan (Alaska Highway) and turned south onto the Cassiar Highway through British Columbia to Washington State.  At the southern tip of Alaska, we crossed through Stewart, BC back into Alaska at Hyer. Hyer is the southern most town in AK that can be reached by road. Famous for Fish Creek and Bear viewing, Hyder boasts a summer population of 100 (plus tourists) and a winter population of 45 (plus bears). This group of photographers are waiting on a fenced boardwalk by the river.
 We followed the rambling of a black bear and her cub as they waded the river and strolled and grazed along the bank of a small lake.
Leaving the RVs behind, we road with the Martins in their small Kia to explore the Salmon Glacier. The dark bands along the edges of the ice are the moraines or rock rubble remains as the glacier grows in winter and shrinks during the summer.
 The terrain around Hyder is rocky and drizzling with waterfalls.
 Leaving Hyder we crossed the Canadian border into Bellingham, Washington. We skirted Seattle and took a ferry to Olympic National Park where we were fascinated by the rain forest of Sitga spruce and giant ferns. The air was damp and cool.
 We made many stops along the Washington and Oregon coast. Although there was much fog and mist and the tide was out, the strange rocks and cliffs were a welcome contrast to the Gulf Coast.
Following highway 101 down the California coast we traveled through the redwood forest of huge trees. This Tree House is no longer occupied but has been featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not.

Our California destination was Fresno where my youngest son, Chris, his wife, Maggie, and baby Chris live. Our visit with their family was way too short, but soon we had to begin our travel east through Arizona, New Mexico and finally back to Texas.
Returning to Beaumont is always a shock with temps in the 90s and high humidity, but it is good to be home.
I will be blogging on details of this past six months, travels and volunteer work, as soon as we get resettled.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Palmer State Fair

 We were blessed by two nights of Northern Lights. The hours between midnight and 3 A.M. when it was cold (mid 30s) and clear are the best time to see the aurora. Unfortunately that meant setting alarm clocks, getting out of a nice warm bed into heavy coats and walking outside. The shifting glow was worth the effort. Dale took this picture with a time exposure.
 The church roofing project is complete. The old discarded trusses have been put to good use. The camp received a donation of a dozen of the trusses and lumber to constuct a new chapel next year. We're trying to make the best use of God's blessings.
On Tuesday we drove to Wasilla. The Marins drove their Kia with plans to sleep over with friends. Our gang of three and the zoo with 3 cats and Sassie, took the RV. The morning we drove out the temp was in the 30s, and the air chilly with a mist. Driving south into the Alaska Range we marveled at the new, fresh snow on the mountains. Called "termination dust", this first fall snow is the termination of summer. Notice how the snow is deposited to a elevation line on the mountain side.

Hunting season has opened for moose. Check out these armored hunting vehicles. made for moose.

 Moose are in rut and are not road savy. the Martins stopped as they saw this yearling cross from the forest to their right and into the road. The on coming truck couldn't stop in time and hit the moose. The front fender, bunper, grill and engine were damaged. The moose struggled to its feet, one leg broken, and staggered to the trees. Dale called the authorties who will determine if the animal can be saved, if not, the meat is donated to charitible organizations.
We were so blessed that the moose did not hit the Martin's small Kia.
 The Palmer State Fair is old fashined fun beginning with a lumberjack show. These  two woodsmen are in a log rolling contest. Both ended up in the shallow pond.
I don't care for the rides or for all the fattening, high priced food. I found my attention drawn to native dancers and drummers. The elderly lady is the MC for the drummers and dancers who entertained us with their unusual style of hand dancing. Their feet hardly move while their arms tell  stories. She is wearing a kuspuk and fur mukluks.

 What fun watching kids show their hogs while the attendants try to keep the hogs from fighting. Too much action for more pictures.
 The Alaska fai is known for its huge vegetables grown during the long daylight hours of summer. The champion pumpkin (the lighter one) weighed 931 pounds, a disappointment. Last year's entry topped 1,700 pounds but was disqualified when the judges found a small mouse hole on the underside. Story is that some where in the Lower 48 (not Alaska) a farmer made small holes in his pumpkin and filled it with rocks to make it weigh more. Now all with tiny holes are eliminated. Fair is fair.
 Here is an example of FAIR HAIR. Thie little firls pink "do" should last for the week-end. Not for me!
 I enjoyed the equestrian performances. Roman rider had been working with young girls at a local riding ranch. The peformers were all young people, not professionals. After a long tiring day of looking at quilts, crafts, art, photography, rabbits, and the rides (at a distance) I wallled the entire midway and sniffed at the food vender's booths before I retired to the RV to wait for Monique and Nick.

The following morning we drove back to Delta. The weather had warmed up, but fall is in the air.
We will be heading "outside" this following week after the camp is winterized.

Friday, August 24, 2012

end of summer activities

 Some of my pictures were loaded out of sequence again. Oh, well. On August 21, Delta Junction was  honored to be a stop over for a fleet of vintage, 1942, military vehicles that were reinacting the 70th anniversary of the building of the Alaskan Highway (AlCan) duing WW II. Drivers from across the Lower 48 (the "Outside" to Alaskans) met in Dawson Creek, Yukon Territory,on Aug. 4th to begin following the route of 1942. 70 vehicles traveled in small unit caravans.

I was born in 1942 (no longer a secret), and made my first RV road trip to Alaska up the AlCan to celebrate my 60th birthday in 2002. This yea, the AlCan and I celebrate our 70th birthday.
 Jumping from history to present, we've been working on the outside and inside of the church in Delta. Nicholas and Monique are shown trying to pull up the old carpet that was super-glued to the sub-floor. While the trusses were being installed, we had rain that soaked through the unfinished roof and soaked the carpet.
 One of my jobs has been to paint the window and door trim, after the outside of the logs were spray painted.
 Compare this picture of the exterior of the chuch with the completed roof to earlier pictures. We are now working on the interior.
Here is one of the pictures out of sequence. The sign on the jeep states that this truck was the first vehicle to drive the completed  AlCan from Dawson Creek to Whitehorse. Behind the vehicle you can see a small part of the lines of jeeps, trucks, personel carriers, ambulances, etc. that visited us. Delta Junction is the location of the joining of the newly completed Alaskan Highway and the Richardson Highway.

Last fall the fire marshal informed the camp that it had until this fall to install a vent hood over our two stoves. Dale priced a commercial hood at over $2,000. Friends of the camp offered to donate it if one could be found. Not satisfied with this expense, Dale engineered a hood from two residential hoods at the cost of around $400. Savings for our benefactors and better use of God's resources. He is being helped to install the hood.

 This picture was to lead into this blog. Fireweed is "going to cotton. The seed pods of the fireweed split open to release dandylion like fuzz. When fireweed "goes to cotton" it is a harbinger of winter- 6 weeks remaining of summer, now autumni Already we have had several  mornings of temps in the 30s.
The interior of the church is exposed logs that had to be sanded before they could be resealed. Here Lynne and I use sanders on the logs. Note the dust on the camera lense and the two colors of the logs.

 We took off late one afternoon to pick blueberries. The season is ending, but we were able to collect 17 cups of berries in an hour. Our berry patch is a well  kept secret. True Alaskans don't tell where they pick.
No snakes to watch out for, just bears.
Back in the camp kitchen we turned those berries into jam and vinagarette.
Weekly youth camps are over. The kids back in school. We've hosted two picnics and will soon start to winterize, that means putting all the equipment away, storing food and supplies for winter and draining the water lines. A lot more work is involved than it sounds.
We will also be completing work on the interior of the church, and hope to see the  services resume in the sanctuary before we head out.