The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, July 27, 2013

So, What's Your Story?

          Today I went to the Saturday Writers meeting. Kristina Blank Makansi and Jennifer Dunn Stewart of Blank Slate Press were there to talk about queries (Yikes!) Some of the people shared their query letters for critique--I shared my steaming pile of poop query letter. It was not pretty helpful.

        If you are a writer, you'll enjoy this video. And if you are not a writer, but you are constantly amazed by people's unrealistic self-perceptions and their screwed-up views, you might chuckle right along with us writerly folks... 

       I read C. Hope Clark's post about the stories that are left untold. It is my belief that everyone has a book in them. Everyone has a story to tell.  What stories do you have that are not being shared? They will vanish if they aren't told to someone or written down. What stories do your parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles have that will be lost without being chronicled?

       Don't put it off until it's too late...You'll regret it if you wait too long.

       And it's not too late to be a part of Not Your Mother's Book...On Being a Mom. Dianna Graveman is the editor, along with Dahlynn and Ken McKowen. This book (see the cover below) has August 1 as a deadline. If you have a story for this collection, submit it quickly. For other titles, check out for dozens of anthologies that are currently being developed.

My story, "So Far I've Avoided Prison...Pass the Wine,"
has made it through the first round. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Thief...Now a Liar...And a Call for Submissions

            Many years ago I stole a dog. I was wearing my son's hoodie and my husband's hiking boots as a disguise.

           Actually, I tried to steal it, but that night--of all nights--the beagle had been allowed into the owner's house. The next morning, my friend had to serve as dog-nabber. To find out why were stealing the dog or if we succeeded, or if this post is being written by me in prison as I serve my term for committing a felony, you'll have to buy a copy of Not Your Mother's Book...On Dogs published by the folks at Publishing Syndicate.

           Last night during the WWWP writing critique session, I shared a story about a big fat lie I told...for the sake of a dog. I'm hoping that in the near future, Chicken Soup snaps it up.

This is our dog, Foley. He was not stolen nor did we have to tell a lie
to get him. (In his mouth is "Disgusto-Ball," his favorite ball. This was the
ball he found in a neighbor's yard when he was in his first foster home,
and he's quite attached to it, despite it being torn up and...disgusting.)

         If we're writers, we use our life experiences and we relive them as we try to move people. If telling stories and creating poems is not our thing, we keep our memories alive when we share them with our family and friends or we look at photographs from the past.

        What is something you've done that borders on dishonesty?

        And hey! Chicken Soup is looking for "Home Sweet Home" stories. The deadline is November. Fellow writers--get crackin'.     

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No Grape Stomping or Candy Factory

       No, I never had a job stomping grapes, nor did I ever have a job in a candy factory--that would have been the perfect worst job for me--but I did feel like I was a reincarnation of Lucille Ball at times...And thinking about my past employment was inspired by Linda O'Connell and a post she did about the work she's done.

      For instance, my first job was at Dairy Queen. I was 15. I never could do that little curlicue at the top of the cone perfectly, but I was able to perfect mistakes...edible mistakes.

      "Oh, I'm sorry. You wanted a strawberry sundae and not a hot fudge sundae? Just a minute, I'll get rid of this hot fudge one and make you a strawberry one," and then I'd scuttle off to the walk-in freezer with the hot fudge-ice cream creation, so I could eat it later. (We were allowed to eat our mistakes, but I don't think we were supposed to deliberately make them. Every day.)

          I worked a summer for the Youth Conservation Corps on an all-girl crew when I was 17, stringing barbed wire and digging post holes by hand. Once the caretaker killed a rattlesnake in the middle of the night as he walked some of us to the latrine (he hacked it to death with a shovel) , and told us, "Its mate will come looking for it." (I'm sure he was trying to scare us to get back at some of the stupid girls who flushed things down the toilet they were not supposed to flush.) 

         My first job out of high school was at a factory. I ran a machine that put together medicine capsules. The place stunk. If I pulled the two parts of the press together with too much force, the capsules would end up with poked-in spots, and they would have to discarded. There were many times I'd have to dump a whole tray of the capsules into the trashcan. That job only lasted a couple of weeks. (I ended up getting my finger caught in the press and cutting off the tip. After a trip to the emergency room, and making a mess of their press, they thought it was time for me to retire from that field.)

         One of my favorite strangest jobs was selling door-to-door pre-arranged funerals. That, too, was a short-lived job. I could charm my way into the houses, but I couldn't sell a single casket.

      Interspersed here and there were waitressing jobs. I worked at some fairly-nice places (Steak and Ale, and Victoria Station) along with Denny's, but I was a gawk. Once, I spilled an entire Bloody Mary on a businessman there at Steak and Ale for a business lunch. (No tip for me that time!)

       I've been a teacher since 1991, a teacher-consultant for the National Writing Project since 2001, and am now a freelance writer. In fact, I just heard this past weekend that a story of mine has made the first cut for the Not Your Mother's Book...On Family.  (They're still looking at stories, as the deadline has not happened yet, and my story could be booted off before it hits the presses. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed.)  

          What important things have you learned while on your jobs?  What was your favorite job or your most unfavorite job (and why)? Come on...take a trip down memory lane, and take us along with you.         

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Chicken Tonight

         When my daughter was growing up (she's now in her thirties), one of her favorite dinners involved the jarred Chicken Tonight sauce.  I think Ragu made it, and it was delicious. Pop off the lid, cube up some chicken and cook it, then pour on the sauce. It was a white sauce, with a few vegetable bits floating around, and a hint of wine...well seasoned and good-to-go straight from the jar.

        My oldest child and I were bemoaning the fact that this sauce has been discontinued for years. After our talk, I was determined to find a recipe that would replicate the scrumptious stuff.

       I found several online, experimented...and last night I was successful. 

       If you feel like you've been "discontinued" as a novelist because you haven't worked on your book for a while...if you feel like you've been taken off the shelves because you haven't gotten any acceptance letters recently...if you feel like you've vanished from readers' eyes because you haven't blogged in a while--experiment. Check out the calls for submissions. Try something.

       You might find you have started a delicious piece of writing...

Chicken Tonight Redone

1-2 carrots, diced small
1/2 onion, diced
mushrooms (6 or 7), cut into small pieces
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of evaporated milk

Sautee the vegetables until soft but not browned. (I cooked them in a pan and then softened them in the microwave.) Add the mushroom soup and the milk. Add a splash (and then a couple more splashes) of the sherry. Add salt to taste. This sauce, when some cubed, cooked chicken is thrown in, makes a wonderful entré can be served over noodles or rice.