Weddings & Funerals

Soon after Mom moved into the nursing home, we began to break up her household.  One gray morning, I came across her cameras tucked away in a cabinet.  She’d owned several in her lifetime.  I believe she had kept them all.  In one camera, that cold March morn, I found a treasure – an undeveloped roll of film. moms-film-0213 She had shot it a year or so earlier, most at a grandson’s birthday party.  The last frames were from her granddaughter’s wedding.  They were all priceless Kodak© moments, made doubly so by the circumstances of their discovery.

Mom captured our images on film when we were infants, as we grew, as we dated and were married, then had children of our own.  But as she grew older, it seemed that family gatherings had the most meaning for her.  It is evident in her collection of pictures.

As families age, the cousins we played with in childhood often move away.  Our siblings become engrossed in their own children and grandchildren.  When the last bond that brings a family together passes on, a grandparent or great-grandparent, I believe that something in that family passes as well.

The time comes when we begin to see family members only at weddings, and at funerals.  While there, we take scores of group photos because we know it may be years before we see each other again.  We sit down to talk.  At first, we catch up on our lives – school, work, hobbies, travel.  Then, so soon, the talk reverts to childhood.  Do you remember when…?  What about that time when…? We talk and laugh until our throats are sore and our voices are hoarse.  The next morning we gather for breakfast and talk some more, until that last hug in in the driveway amid promises to keep in touch.

Weddings and funerals are glorious events.  They are a celebration of life, and of family.  I believe Mom knew that.

→ As a writer, romance or otherwise, do you ever include a wedding or funeral in your stories?


Spring is here. Last week I saw my first robins.  On Wednesday,yellow-flowers-0042 a volunteer from the American Cancer Society delivered bunches of daffodils for their annual fundraiser – Daffodil Days.  On Friday, the letters in the google header were shaped like pieces of fruit with a hungry caterpillar eating his way through.  This morning, as I walked through our yard, I saw that the forsythia and weigela now bear tiny buds.   The air has a new smell today, a fragrant fresh scent enjoyed but once a year.  All sure signs that spring is here.

It is fitting that our youngest son chose March 21st for his westward move.  A time of change, of rebirth.  Late this afternoon he leaves for California, flying 2,849 miles across the country to seek his fortune in his chosen field.  Our oldest son and his spouse live there, loved ones to welcome and watch over him for a spell, to acclimate him to his new city.  To provide a roof and bed until he finds his own place.  I’m glad they’ll be together.

We give them roots to grow, and wings to fly.   But it is still a bittersweet time for us.  He’s so happy about the move.  It’s what he wants, what he needs.  But must the country be so very wide?

yellow-flowers-012His move has spurred a wave of spring de-cluttering in our house.  He’s lived away since college but, like many, left rooms filled with remnants of his youth.  We’ve been cleaning, sorting, making way for other remnants he’s accumulated and has now hauled home from his nearby apartment.  Things he wants shipped once he’s established, or stored until…whenever.  Surprisingly, it’s all given me a new energy.  Energy to clean.

Energy to write.  I find myself once more waking in the middle of the night with thoughts of manuscripts yet unfinished, of characters who cry out to be heard.  I stumble to my computer and my fingers fly.   Over the winter, writing has been a struggle.   Manuscripts suffered.  But strangely enough, with our son’s imminent move in this brilliant budding spring, I feel alive.  Reborn.  Maybe his driving ambition has spilled over to his mother.  One can only hope.

Godspeed, my dear son.

2009 RWA National Updates

Studio 16 is again bringing their magic mobile photography studio to RWA National.  From Dallas to Chicago, Denver, and Atlanta,  Studio 16 has helped writers attending RWA Conferences achieve their best look. This year, Studio 16 will be in Washington, D.C.  So…

  1. Do you need a new headshot for promotion?
  2. Do you hate having your picture taken?
  3. Are you going to RWA National in D.C.?

If you’ve answered “YES!”  then you’re in luck.

STUDIO 16 wants you to look your best.  Touch-ups aren’t designed to make you look like someone else,  just soften what is often revealed by bright studio lights –  flyaway hair, wrinkles and blemishes. And, if you want, they can even take off 10 pounds!  (Or at least make it look like you have.)

To pre-book an appointment, and receive 20% off your entire photo package, email Studio before July 12th.  They’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about the process.

kodIn other Conference news, the Mystery and Suspense chapter of RWA, aka/Kiss of Death, opened member registration for the pre-conference tours and the Death by Chocolate party.   The main tour will be held on Tuesday, July 14.  If you are a KOD member who will be in D.C. this July, be sure to go on the members only section of Kiss of Death to register.  Registrations for the pre-conference tours, and the Death by Chocolate Party, should be sent in – now.  In my experience, both sell out early.

For more information on this year’s RWA National Conference, click to go to RWA

→Are you speaking at RWA National?  Is your chapter hosting a member get-together there?  Maybe you can’t attend but are holding an online or an at-home chapter event for yourself and others not attending.  If so, please contact me so I can include it in next month’s update.  Thanks!

Writing Tight

“Substitute ‘damn’ everytime you’re inclined to write ‘very.’  Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~ Mark Twainmark-twain1

I love Mark Twain’s wisdom, and his wit.  With the narrowed eyes and steady arm of a master archer, his advice still strikes like arrows at the heart of writing craft.  Twain understood the inherent energy that results in choosing the right word for the task.  Of writing tight.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter,” Twain wrote in a letter in 1888. “It’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Think about it…the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening.  The first time I heard those words I was blown away with their depth.   How often in my writing do I use a bland, generic word when the story needs a specific noun, or an active verb?

strunk-and-whiteOne of my favorite writing references is, quite literally, a little book – Strunk and White’s THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE.   Aside from understandable advice about grammar and punctuation, the book discusses the simple essense of good writing.  Use active voice.  Omit needless words.  Keep related words together. There are chapters on often misused words, and on words commonly misspelled.

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE is a fun volume to keep on your desk, or bedside table.  To pick up and peruse at odd moments.  It is clear and concise.  I’ve no doubt Mark Twain would have appreciated its simplicity.

→ Who do you look to for sage advice on the craft of writing?  Do you have a favorite quote, author, or reference book?  Please share.

Food History

Sometimes a reference source comes along that is just so helpful you want to shout about it to the world.  Yesterday that happened to me.

As a writer of historical fiction, discovering The Food Timelinefood-timeline1 was a godsend.  Incredibly organized, using a simple timeline with links to a huge collection of other websites, it presents food’s history.  It includes recipes, literary quotes, and lists of resources.  You can learn when popcorn first came on the scene, a recipe for haggis, and tips on how to find an old family recipe.

Of course, the website just had to be designed by a librarian.  Lynne Olver, the site’s creator, is a New Jersey reference librarian with a passion for food history.   Ms. Olver and The Food Timeline have received multiple honors and awards.

Keep in mind — the site is copyrighted.  There’s a paragraph on citations here.

The Food Timeline is free with no subscription, no ads.  Why?  It was conceived and created by a public librarian, a profession that is “devoted to providing fair and equitable access to information regardless of ability to pay.”  What a wonderful statement.  Thanks to Lynne Olver, and all who contributed.

And, in case you haven’t already thought of it, you’ll want to bookmark this one!

→ Have you ever found a site or other reference source so useful that you wanted to shout about it?  Please share!