The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, August 31, 2015

It's All in the Eyes

          I've been resistant about watching the series Game of Thrones (GOT), in spite of all the hype over the past few years. George R. R. Martin wrote one of my all-time favorite books--Fevre Dream--and it's very different from the series of books that GOT sprang from. I felt like I'd be betraying Fevre Dream if I slummed and watched the Martin television series. 

         I finally succumbed, and now am playing catch-up. (I'm into the 2nd season, so don't tell me what happens in the 3rd, 4th or 5th season, although my son jokingly texted me "Spoiler alert: everybody dies.")

        The character that keeps me captivated is "the imp" played by Peter Dinklage. He provides the most levity, so that accounts for some of his appeal. However, he has expressive eyes that speak volumes. 

        As I work on my WIP (or think about working on my WIP), I hope that I'm making my characters appealing. I hope they will someday captivate the reader's attention. I hope that at least one of them will be memorable.

        Are you into Game of Thrones? Have you ever read Fevre Dream? (Yes, it's a vampire novel, but unlike any vampire novel you've ever read.) And if you avoided a book/series and finally surrendered, what was it--and what was the result?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Close to Your Heart

         This summer, I found a tiny antique journal while traveling in France. It's made of some kind of metal. Silver? Something else? I'm not sure. It's a lovely way to remember the trip and is a perfect way to express how important writing is to me.

Nothing is written inside. Unfortunately,
John Hancock did NOT take notes in this journal when
the drafting of the Declaration of Independence
was done... Otherwise, I'd be retired right now.
Instead, I'm just tired...

          I'm planning on getting a chain so I can wear it as a necklace.

          I love writing.  I love arranging and rearranging lines. I love reading others' words. I love getting feedback (constructive criticism) on my writing. 

          What memento from a trip or an era do you have that you hold close to your heart? Sentimental minds want to know...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Turkey Dogs? Or TurkISH Dogs?

     In about two months a few Love a Golden volunteers are going to Chicago to meet some international canines... to meet some goldens from Turkey, so we can drive them back to St. Louis, so they can soon find forever homes.

     It's an expensive endeavor. The plane fare. The vet care (done in Istanbul). The sending back of the crates. The rental of a vehicle that will hold four people and three extra-large crates.

     But it should be a blast. And soooo rewarding.

     If you click on the link below, you can find out more about the project, along with the problem that's rampant in Turkey. Atlanta has gotten a bunch of goldens already (Lisa and Cathy--yahoo for Atlanta) and many other cities have already gotten some goldens as well, or are in the process of getting some. (I wrote the text for the Go Fund Me page, so I'm gonna keep this short.)

     Clicking on the link will also enable you to--if you so desire--donate to the cause. Every little bit helps.

     Go Fund Love a Golden Rescue Getting Dogs From Turkey

     And if you'd like to see a video about this project that has spread all across the country, check out this piece about the work Atlanta has done so far...

       And if you have a dog or cat, whisper to them, "You're so lucky to be in a loving home..." Because they are.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Farewell to Fo-Fo

        Saturday we said good-bye to our senior, Foley. He was 14 and overnight got to the point where his body and his heart were sending the same message: It's time to go.

          We took our one-year old, Radar, along. I was hoping this would help. It must be confusing to dogs to live in a pack and then one day, a dog leaves and never comes back.

        I don't know if Radar understood what was going on. He's pretty much oblivious to everything unless it's a frisbee or a bowl of food or a leash.

        Foley was with us for 7 years. He was a stray, running in Foley, Missouri and then Love a Golden Rescue got him. We were supposed to only foster him... but ended up failing as a foster (since we adopted him).

        This funny-looking golden was obsessed with tennis balls. Once, when I took him to visit my mom in her nursing home, he tried to pull the tennis ball off the leg of another senior citizen's walker. Thankfully, we stopped him before he was successful.

         I'll miss his belches (he'd come right up to our face and burp loudly). I'll miss his barking (when we left the house--he was alerting the burglars that the coast was clear). I'll miss his amber-colored eyes.

         And this is way later than I planned, but I drew a name for David W. Berner's book, There's a Hamster in the Dashboard.

              The winner is Pat W.  (Email me with your address, Pat.)

             If you have a pet, give them an extra treat tonight... in memory of Fo-Fo.

Monday, August 17, 2015

We All Need a Life Raft

My writing life changed when I became a WWWP--when I became one of the five Wild Women Wielding Pens. The WWWPs is what my writing critique group calls itself. (We had to come up with a name for something that was this good.)
I think I'm in the best group ever. Without a doubt. We laugh, we support, we critique, we prod... and unfortunately, too often, we eat. (Lynn's cake pops and Tammy's BLT bites and Beth's pizza and Linda's birthday cake... well, they all head straight to my gut.) 
Please read Susan G. Weidener's guest post on how a writing group can impact the work you do. And if you don't belong to a group, consider forming one--it can change your writing life. Forever. 
The Importance of Finding a Writing Group
By Susan G. Weidener

You really can’t work in isolation all the time. It’s important to seek out people who love writing like you do. And when you gather together over an aromatic candle and the written word, there’s this sense of possibility that your story matters . . . may actually and truly reach an audience and transcend the voice of one and become that of many.

A writing group is more than an essential element in a writer’s toolbox; it is often a life raft.

Whether we are the creator, or the recipient, we find in a community of writers the support so necessary to take a leap of faith onto the blank page. We sustain and affirm each other. If we’re lucky, we banish our demons of self-doubt through the acceptance and support of our peers.

What makes for a good writing group? Here’s my list:
  • No apologies allowed.
  • A place to work on the craft of writing.
  • A safe setting to explore and practice our craft.
  • Diversity – writers from varying backgrounds and experience levels.
  • Acceptance.
  • A chance to network.
  • A place for renewal and contemplation.
  • A forum to be immersed in the creative process without distraction.
  • A space to carve out time away from the demands of everyday life.
  • A place to take a deep breath and celebrate yourself as a writer.
  • Inspiration derived by sharing with other writers.

After attending a women’s writing retreat and hearing others read their stories, it so inspired me that I decided to start my own writing group, the Women’s Writing Circle. That was back in 2009. Six years later our group is still going strong . . . it remains diverse, ever-changing . . . always interesting, instructional and relevant. Our writers come and go . . . some have stayed all six years, others dip a toe in the Circle and return, or not. We discuss craft to changing dynamics of the publishing landscape.

The goal of a group like the Women’s Writing Circle is to “test drive your voice” in front of a community of writers. At read around, some want critique, some a “listening ear”. Those considering publishing often come to our critiques. We read the pieces in advance, bring notated copies of the work, and then provide criticism and commentary. When we workshop, we read the pieces that morning and then come back in group to discuss. We follow guidelines. For example, we never refer to the person as “you,” but as “author” or “writer”. 

As we explore the rich life that writing awakens, each of us is the Women's Writing Circle. Without the other, our community wouldn't exist.

About the Author:

Susan G. Weidener is a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has interviewed a host of interesting people from all walks of life, including Guy Lombardo, Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Mary Pipher. She left journalism in 2007 and after attending a women’s writing retreat, wrote and published her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, about being widowed at a young age. Two years later, she wrote and published its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, a woman’s search for passion and renewal in middle age. Her novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, completes the trilogy, inspired by and dedicated to her late husband, John M. Cavalieri, on whose memoir the novel is based. Susan earned a BA in Literature from American University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. An editor, writing coach and teacher of writing workshops, she founded the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. She lives in Chester Springs, PA.  Her website is:

About A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story
Newly-divorced and on her own, 40-something Ava Stuart forges a new life. One day, at a signing in the local library for her novel, a tall, dark-haired man walks in and stands in the back of the room. Jay Scioli is a wanderer – a man who has said good-bye to innocence, the U. S. Army, and corporate America. His outlook on life having changed, his health shattered by illness, he writes a memoir. In his isolation, he searches for an editor to help him pick up the loose ends. Time may be running out. He is drawn to the striking and successful Ava. Facing one setback after another, their love embraces friendship, crisis, dignity, disillusionment. Their love story reflects a reason for living in the face of life’s unexpected events. 

Based on a true story, A Portrait of Love and Honor takes the reader from the halls of the United States Military Academy at West Point during the Vietnam War to a moving love story between two people destined to meet.

Twitter: @Sweideheart 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

First Impressions

         Today is the first day of school (with kids). I met five of my students and their families at "Meet the Teacher" night on Tuesday. For the other nine (yes, I only have 14 students so far, which scares me) , today will be the first time they get a chance to start to get to know me.

       One of my students is the sister of a funny student of mine from last year. I don't think she's as quirky as her brother (I like quirky... imagine that!) but her family and I already get along well, which ensures we're going to start the school year off on the right foot. 

       One of my students who I met for the first time on Tuesday is going to be a hoot--I can tell already. Her facial expressions let me know that she is a storyteller. She's got some spunk. She's got a spark. (I appreciate people who have animated faces too--I KNOW, another surprise!)

        I have pencils sharpened. I have the room arranged. And I have a plan.

        I just hope I make the right first impression... I hope I come off as funny, but serious (when it comes to the work at hand)... flexible, but unmoving when it comes to my belief in them... knowledgeable, but oh-so-willing to make mistakes and grow right alongside them.

        I've got a 68,000 word WIP that's sat stagnant for a few weeks. In its first draft form, my first impression of this novel-to-be was,  'It's engaging. The reader will surely connect to the characters. The storyline is clear,' but the first impression was completely off. The shine I saw--at first glance--quickly faded...

        ... And I'm left with reality.

        How much do you rely on first impressions? Is it hard for you to change your opinion after you form a first impression? Do you sometimes have to eat your words after relying too heavily on a first impression? Jump-the-gun minds want to know...