Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chapter 2010

It is almost time to close out another chapter on this crazy book called Life. 

Chapter 2010 had flawed characters, the non-perfect heroes and the villains with a few admirable traits.  I incorporated action, meaningful dialogue and a lot of looking at things in a different way.  There were scenes of loss and scenes of discovery, unexpected twists and turns and foreshadowing. 
Oh, the foreshadowing.

When I read 2010 aloud, it sounds great.  Send me the next thirty pages. 

I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

Tis the season, and I am a gift giver.  Big time.  I love buying gifts, wrapping presents and finding an awesome sale.  I love the smiles, the laughs, the fun that we have opening presents, the games of hide and seek that I still make my adult children play to find certain gifts, and the look on their faces when they open that one thing, that one gift, that makes them say, “How did you know?” 

      Santa told me.   

      But being a gift giver also means that others want to return the generosity.  That is the problem.

I know I must be a difficult person to buy for, because if I want something, I usually just go and get it.  Or, my gift choices are so specific that no-one can possibly get the right size, the right color, the right edition or the right spec’s.  Or I want something that can’t possibly be delivered, such as ‘world peace’ or ‘a body like Jennifer Lopez.’ 

I also have expensive tastes, and I hate to tell anyone that all I want for Christmas is a new Camaro or two weeks in Paris.  My husband, the kindest soul I know, would somehow make that happen and then I would feel guilty when he opened his wife beaters and nose hair clippers. 

Saying, “don’t buy me anything” doesn’t go over too well, either, and the truth is, I would like that perfect gift, that one thing that makes me smile and say “How did you know?”       

This year, however, I have the perfect gift in mind for myself.  It’s inexpensive, easy to find and doesn’t require a truce between world leaders. 
All I want for Christmas?


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

500 Years

My eldest son, a graduate student at GWU, often shares his latest bits of gained wisdom from academia with me.  Last week he told me that a “well-established scholar” had stated that five hundred years from now, the only thing people will study about the twentieth century will be the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler.  Interesting. 
Having a background in Humanities, I hate to say that I agree with this to some extent.  Looking back at history, the small bits that we remember about previous centuries are those that were most reported, not necessarily those that were most important during the time. 
Of course, this led to a discussion of books.  How many brilliant pieces of literature are forever lost from one hundred, two hundred, a thousand years ago?  I don’t believe it is because these great works didn’t have “staying power.”  I believe they have just been lost. 
Five hundred years from now, the books that will be considered the greatest of our time will be those that aren’t lost in the shuffle.  That does not necessarily mean they are the greatest, but our future readers will read---something---and assume that that particular work or author depicted our cultural identity at the time.  What will that be?
My son immediately suggested the Harry Potter series.  If so, our future generation will assume we were all fascinated with magic and will continue to dig into our “history” to find other examples of this fascination so they can “prove” this in some literary journal. 
But, I’m afraid it will be James Patterson.  According to the New York Times, James Patterson has written one out of every seventeen hardcover novels purchased in the United States and of course, his books are published worldwide in several languages.  It’s kind of difficult to lose that many books, even in five hundred years.  What will that say about us as a culture?  Hard to tell.   
But, we might get lucky.  Someday, someone may find a lost collection that will shed a new light on our collective history’s fascination with wizards and crime detectives.  I’m hoping it is something raw and funny, maybe Scott Phillips or Gary Phillips.  Of course, it won’t seem so raw and funny then, which would make the reader five hundred years from now laugh at our innocence.  I kind of like that idea. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Waiting for Rain

In the third grade, my elementary school held a poem writing contest to celebrate Arbor Day.   As much as I would like to say I wrote a poem, won the contest and decided right then that I would one day be a writer, that isn’t what happened at all.  I wrote a poem, that much is true, and it did gain the attention of the judges, as well as the entire school. 

I will never forget standing in line one day and realizing something was going to be different for me.  Teachers were whispering, pointing, and I overheard my own teacher say to another, “Yes, that’s her.”  This is third grade, mind you, when the world is a fair and caring place, where good deeds are rewarded, only bad condemned.  I knew I had done nothing wrong, but for some reason, I had an overwhelming desire to wet my pants.

My teacher had called my parents and they were waiting after school.  We sat in the classroom and listened as she explained that my poem was disqualified from the Arbor Day competition.  Although she had sworn that I wrote it while sitting in her class, the judges did not believe her.  They said there was no way that a third grader could have written it.

I’m not trying to say it was that good.  I described apple trees as pretty and oak trees as witty and they whispered to flowers in anticipation of spring showers.  I’m not even saying I didn’t get any help on the poem, as I pointed out honestly.  I mean, how many third graders can actually spell ‘anticipation’?  But aside from a spell checker, it was my work, and aside from my teacher, my dad and possibly even my mother, no one believed me.  Of course word got around school that I was a cheater and a liar and the rest of third grade was pretty much miserable.  But aside from that, I learned a very important lesson. Life is not fair. 

As a teenager, I wrote for my own entertainment.  Instead of leaving notes for friends or my parents, I would write a little story which frequently brought a smile and often the comment, “You should write.”  My response, “I don’t like rejection.”  Truthfully, it never was the rejection that bothered me, it was humiliation that I wasn’t too excited about, and my only experience with writing had been just that: humiliating. 

Although I know it is silly to hang on to a childhood memory for so many years, the pretty apple trees, thirsting for the first rain of Spring, haunted me for a long time.  How many books have I written that never made their way beyond my own pen and paper?  At least three.  How many stories have I written that I eventually threw away, not wanting to share with anyone else?  Hundreds. 

As my own children were growing up, I made a point to let them know that life is not fair.  However, I would add, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop trying, because one day, you might actually get your due.  When my father passed away in 2000, I found the infamous Arbor Day poem, tucked away amongst his papers.  As I held it, an elementary poem on a piece of gray paper from a Big Chief tablet written in the D’Nealian cursive of a third grader, I knew that by saving it, he was telling me the same thing.  Keep trying, you just might get your due.  I started writing again the next day, and haven’t stopped.  

My stories, essays and articles have since been published in a variety of venues and I have received several awards for my work.  Every time I feel the slightest drizzle, I remember the trees and flowers of my childhood, waiting for the rain that would give them new life.  They have been patient, and so am I.  Life may not be fair, but if you keep trying, you just might get your due. 

And as for the poem?  I wrote every word.