One Page

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

Recently I was reviewing some guidelines from a publisher. They wanted the usual information like my name, contact information, the name of the book I was proposing and the word count. Then I saw it the next requirement was an impossible task, a one page synopsis. I needed to share all the important parts of a 44,000 word book all on one page, all text.

SJBrown1 Goose

To give the publisher a true feel for the book I needed to relay the personalities of the two main characters and a sense of their lives. But there was so much to tell. There are roller skates, a sewing machine, costumes, telephone poles, oh and Betty stepped on a needle that was scary. I couldn’t add photos of the main characters when they were young and innocent, well kind of innocent.

SJBrown2 SistersLittle girls like ice cream, maybe if I took an ice cream break this would flow a little better. I had to remember to mention within the pages there is a race riot, a car crash, a séance, boyfriends, and the police, . Dribbled throughout the book were paper bags filled with mystery. This book is about life, there are airplanes, a hitchhiker, tumbling beer cans, and a circus.

SJBrown3 ElephantAt this point I was half way down the page and there was so much more to tell. This was a bit too long already. How was I ever going to get it all on one page? Maybe if I had a brownie I could figure out how to make this work. Nope, no treats until I am done.
I should have started with the title ”Suburban Sisters.” Did I mention this is a heartwarming tale about two sisters? The girls are good Catholics that attend church. There is a bit of a glitch in their perfect world when stolen money in the collection plate. However I need to let the publisher know that along with the jobs, men in diapers and guns there are touching family moments like Christmas morning, family outings and cute little babies.

SJBrown4 TreesOh crap, I am at the bottom of the page and I’m not done yet, DDELETE, DELETE, DELETE. Maybe a peanut butter cup would help.

The publisher’s guidelines state they respond to submissions in 4-6 months, it may take me that long to get this down to one page. I still need to add details like an ice storm complete with dancing power lines, a truck spewing a chemical fog throughout the neighborhood, fire, oh and a dog that shows up for Thanksgiving dinner. Now this blog is getting to long.

SJBrown5 TurkeyI haven’t even mentioned the girl’s parents yet. So much happens in the 12 years the book covers. Now I needed to DELETE, DELETE, DELETE and DELETE some more. I shortened a sentence here and omitted an event there but I need to add in details about when the girl’s world shatters. So I deleted some more. Two days later it was finished and I celebrated with some chocolate chip cookies.
In closing I will ask how do you tackle a seemingly impossible task. How do you reward yourself when you accomplished your goal?
Thanks for stopping by.

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Four-Sentence Book Review: A Broom of One’s Own

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Posted by Kathy Waller

A while back, I accepted a challenge to write a book review of  Nancy Peacock’s memoir A Broom of One’s Own in only four sentencesStarting well before the due date, I wrote the first sentence of the review over and over and deleted it over and over. Sometimes I wrote the same sentence several times in a row. Sometimes I made up a new sentence. After weeks of torment, I produced the following review.

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I like Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own: Words About Writing, Housecleaning & Life so much that it’s taken me over two months and two missed deadlines to untangle my thoughts and write this four-sentence review, an irony Peacock, author of two critically acclaimed novels, would no doubt address were I in one of her writing classes.

She would probably tell me that there is no perfect writing life; that her job as a part-time housecleaner, begun when full-time writing wouldn’t pay the bills, afforded time, solitude, and the “foundation of regular work” she needed;  that engaging in physical labor allowed her unconscious mind to “kick into gear,” so she became not the writer but the “receiver” of her stories.


She’d probably say that writing is hard; that sitting at a desk doesn’t automatically bring brilliance; that writers have to work with what they have; that “if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love”; that there are a million “saner” things to do and a “million good reasons to quit” and that the only good reason to continue is, “This is what I want.”

So, having composed at least two dozen subordinated, coordinated, appositived, participial-phrase-stuffed first sentences and discarded them before completion; having practically memorized the text searching for the perfect quotation to end with; and having once again stayed awake into the night, racing another deadline well past the due date, I am completing this review–because I value Nancy Peacock’s advice; and because I love A Broom of One’s Own; and because I consider it the equal of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird; and because I want other readers to know about it; and because this is what I want.

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This review first appeared on Whiskertips.

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Kathy Waller blogs at To Write Is to Write Is to Write and at Austin Mystery Writers. Two of her short stories, “A Nice Set of Wheels,” and “Hell on Wheels,” will appear in the Austin Mystery Writers anthology, MURDER ON WHEELS, to be published by Wildside Press this spring.

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The Best Birthday Ever

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander

What does your birthday mean to you? Is it a special day or just a normal day? Do you like lots of presents, cards and cake or do you prefer to keep it low-key? Each of us has our own way of wanting to celebrate our special day and I’m going to tell you about the most memorable birthday I ever had. By the way, tomorrow is my birthday so that’s why I came up with this remarkable topic!file0001936934915

My family lived in a rural town where everyone pretty much knew everyone else. We lived on a corner about two blocks from the school. I was nine years old and this would be my tenth birthday.

I had lots of friends in school and most of them had bicycles. They rode them to school and in their leisure time after homework. I may have been a mite jealous although I don’t remember feeling that way. I begged and begged my parents for a bike. Most kids had started riding at five or six but my father was certain I would be killed if I had one. He came up with so many reasons he didn’t want me to ride that I finally gave up.

castgfdg“You’ll run into a tree. A car’ll hit you. You’ll break a bone. You’ll forget to do your homework or your chores and you’ll be late for meals.” Dad had an answer for every thing I thought of to get a ride of my own – I even offered to go to work and pay for part of it myself. Granted, this was in the 50’s and I believe I received a quarter a week allowance.

My father also forbade all of my siblings and me from tree climbing because we would surely fall and break an arm or leg. Although I usually listened very carefully to my father’s warnings I have to say I may have climbed one or two without his knowledge and arrived safely on the ground. Since my siblings were in on the mischief none of us ever told for fear we’d get a spanking.

My Mother made a very big deal of our birthdays. When the day came we didn’t have to do any household chores and she would make whatever we wanted for supper. She always baked and decorated a cake. I had a few birthday parties, too and they were great because Mom was so creative. We became used to being treated as kings or queens on our birthdays.file3941254091863

My tenth birthday dawned bright and sunny, warm for an August summer. I woke lazily and smiled at the sun that streamed in through my window. My sisters and brother were soon in my room screaming “Happy Birthday Linda,” while they jumped up and down on my bed until we heard one of my parents step on the squeaky board in the hall. We settled down pretty fast but I couldn’t wait to see what the day would bring. I had ordered pizza and root beer for supper.file000679986039

We didn’t have a lot of money with four kids and a stay-at-home mom, but she sewed and painted and created wonderful things for all of us. It was usually a good idea not to get too focused on the latest craze in toys because we knew our parents couldn’t afford them. It didn’t matter. We felt loved and secure and enjoyed anything we received.

My three siblings and I tramped down the back stairs to the dining room where we ate our oatmeal and toast. I was lucky that year because my birthday fell on a Saturday and Dad was home to enjoy the day with us. We were a little boisterous around the table but quickly stopped our antics with a stern look from Dad. I picked my dishes up, took them to the kitchen and started up the stairs to get dressed for the day. I planned to wear a special shorts set Mom had made that I loved but only got to wear on special occasions.

“Linda, come back down here.” I heard my Dad’s firm voice call me.

Coffee and NewspaperI came back to the table, where he was still reading the newspaper.

“I want you to dress in some old clothes. There are a lot of papers in the back yard and I want you to clean them up. Take the old pick (a broom handle with a nail) and put everything in the barrel. I’ll burn them later.”

“But Dad,” I whined. “Don’t you remember? It’s my birthday and I don’t have to do anything today.” (Oops, did I really say that?) flashed through my mind.

“I don’t care if it’s your birthday or Christmas. The back yard needs to be cleaned and since I’m off today I can mow later.”file0001621993863

There was no changing Dad’s mind once he had made a decision and I knew better than to argue and was shocked that he hadn’t reprimanded me for the backtalk. I trudged back up the stairs, unhappy and wondering what on earth had changed.

I put on some old clothes, got the pick out of the garage and began the laborious task of picking up every scrap of paper I could find. There seemed to be more than usual so I muttered and stabbed a little harder than I needed to. When I had almost finished (about an hour later) I saw one last thing under the cedar trees. I tried to ignore it but I knew Dad would get after me for not doing a good job.

I walked slowly over to the line of trees. As I neared I could see this was rather a large piece of paper. I got my pick ready, raised it to stab the paper and suddenly a name leapt out at me. It was my name! To Linda on her tenth Birthday Love Mom and Dad. In shock, I put the pick down and retrieved the envelope from the grass.

The envelope was well sealed but I carefully opened it. It wasn’t a card. I looked at the piece of paper inside. I read it twice before I realized what it meant.

“Go to the garage,” the writing commanded.

I was puzzled but hurried to the old garage and opened the creaky wooden doors. There stood a brand new salmon and white bicycle with a big bow tied around it and a warranty hanging from the handlebars. Down the side it proudly displayed the words Montgomery Ward in white lettering.th

It took a minute for the whole thing to sink in. I looked at the bicycle and caressed the sleek body. I gripped the handlebars and imagined white streamers flowing in the wind as I rode. I pushed the bike out of the garage and across the back lawn only to see my Mother and Dad beaming with joy and my sisters and brother almost as excited as I.

“I didn’t think you’d ever find that paper,” quipped my dad with a smile. “Enjoy it but be careful, ok?”

I nodded my head, lay the bike in the grass and ran up to hug both of my parents. Then it was time to learn how to ride the thing. I positioned my bike on the sidewalk in front of our house. I got on it and although I was scared I wobbled along – right into a big oak tree in our front yard! I fell down on the body and you can imagine how much that hurt. I climbed off, determined to learn. After two or three days I was my knees and elbows were skinned but I was a master at riding that bicycle and I spent after school time and weekends riding my new bike all over our town, my hair streaming in the wind. Oh the feeling of freedom I felt! My friends oohed and ahhed over my new present and we often rode together, riding some of the back roads through the pine trees and anywhere else we could find new adventure.

It was only later that I realized how much my folks had sacrificed to buy me that bicycle. Money was very tight and we wore hand-me-down clothes our cousins outgrew and all the clothes Mom spent hours making for us. I learned my father had gotten home from work that Friday night and holed up in the garage to assemble the bike. In those days they were shipped disassembled. He spent a good part of his night in the garage making sure it would be ready for me the next day. My Mom had some extra cash she had been saving from the sewing work she took in and my father applied for a credit card (something he swore he’d never do) in order to give their oldest daughter something she had been pining for since she was five.

This was the very best birthday I ever had and I rode that bike until I was in my late teens. By then I was much more interested in boys and driving so the bicycle languished in the garage and we finally sold it when my father was transferred again. I remember going in to look at it one last time and whispering, “Good-bye old friend. We’ve had a lot of good times, haven’t we? I hope you’ll make some other little girl as happy as you’ve made me.” A tear rolled down my cheek as I walked away but I quickly dried it and looked forward to the future, no longer a little girl, but a strong confident woman.

I’d love to hear your favorite birthday stories. I’ve carried on the tradition of making birthdays a special day with my children. How about you?

Books by L.Leander:

 

Do You Know Your Heritage?

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Sherry Hartzler did a wonderful post yesterday on listening to your ancestors talk about their lives. She said that hearing the words rather than reading them after people are dead and gone gives you a different perspective on family and heritage. I agree and would like to share with you an event we attended last weekend that is along the very same lines.

I’m not sure if I’ve blogged about this or not but my husband is adopted. It gets babyyvery complicated if I try to explain the story to you but suffice it to say that he was taken in by his mother’s aunt (who he called Ma for the rest of his life). His real mother wasn’t even known to him until he was six or seven and got teased at school. At that point “Ma” sat him on a kitchen chair and patiently explained what had happened and how glad she was to have him for a son. His Ma and Pa were in their mid-fifties when they agreed to take him in as a newborn, so it was like growing up with grandparents. The couple owned a small dairy farm in Wisconsin and my husband was subjected to a strong work ethic and the occasional trip to the woodshed. As an only child he missed out on a lot of the camaraderie and fun siblings have together growing up and instead spent a lot of time with adults and animals on the farm.

ralph1Ralph and I married nearly three years ago and I began asking questions about his family. He had always been teased in grade school and called names. He went to an Indian Mission School (only because it was the closest school to their rural farm). When he went to work his nickname was “Indian” – and although he took the ribbing with a grain of salt he did wonder. It was not an easy path to find out his heritage and it began with the government of our state, who refused to give him a clear birth certificate. I was able to do more research and reached someone who could help. We also made a trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where his grandparents are buried. After a lot of dead ends we found someone who was a shirttail relation and the journey began in earnest. After nearly three years of paperwork, phone calls and emails we got word this winter in Mexico that Ralph is Chippewa Indian of the Chippewa Sault Ste. Marie Tribe. He cried when he heard the news. He kept repeating, “Now I feel like I belong somewhere.”

This weekend we attended our first powwow, at the Oneida Reservation in Greenroyalty36 Bay, Wisconsin. We were totally unprepared for what we saw. Not just the Oneida clan, but also Potawatomie, Cherokee, Ojibwa, Menominee and many other Indian tribes were represented. In full headdress and ceremonial costumes, the dancing was superb and the cadence of the drums mesmerizing. Each clan walked together in the opening with generations of family members proudly wearing the crests, beads, motifs and headdresses of their ancestors. Stories were told and songs were sung. Small children walked with elders. Teenage boys stood tall in their costumes and posed for pictures. Little children were adorable in their tiny moccasins and plaited hairgirl teens two

When we arrived at the powwow we were treated with respect (because we are elders.) We were taken to a prime parking space and a golf cart took us to special seating reserved for the elders (so we would be comfortable under the shade trees.) Often members of the Oneida tribe stopped by to see if they could do anything for us. This is amazing because there were probably three thousand or more people watching and six hundred dancers. We were very impressed.royalty39

So, to add to Sherry’s post about hearing stories from your ancestors, she’s totally right. And the various Indian clans strive to keep their culture alive. They are proud of their heritage and anxious that the rest of the world joins them to learn about their ancestors. They are amazing storytellers and even though the day was  bright the 90’s we stayed to enjoy the festivities.

royalty12And Ralph? He was in his glory. We bought him trinkets and t-shirts and made the day totally about him. He hated to leave but there is another powwow in August at the Menominee Reservation near us so we’ll go again this summer. He can’t wait until we get moved to Michigan so he can join in his own Chippewa festivities and be part of a family. How about you? Do you have traditions or background that is different? Do you have living relatives who tell you who you are and where you came from?  I’d love to hear about it!

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