Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Trivia, Traditions and Legends

Growing up, most of us learned the rhyme (or a similar version of it):

Thirty days have September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
but February stands alone
with twenty-eight, in line
Till leap year makes it twenty-nine.

Procrastinator that I am, I'm happy to have an extra day to meet a March 1 deadline tomorrow. Other than that, Leap Year/Leap Day has its own special trivia, traditions, and legends.

Did you know that:

* According to Irish legend, St. Brigid of Kildare approached St. Patrick on behalf of all women to complain they had to wait for marriage proposals from men. St. Patrick agreed that each Leap Year, specifically on Leap Day, the tables would be turned and women could propose to men.  

* In some countries, Leap Day is also known as "Bachelor's Day."

* In Scotland, a woman proposing on Leap Day should wear a red petticoat under her skirt--and make sure it's partly visible when she proposes.

* In Scotland, it was once considered unlucky to be born on Leap Day.

* People born on February 29, are called "leaplings" or "leapers."

* People born on February 29 are invited to join The Honor society of Leap Year Day Babies.

* In Greece it’s supposed to be unlucky for couples to marry on Leap Day.

Here's a link to read more Leap Day superstitons. If you type "Leap Year Superstitions" in Google search you can find even more.

Now I better get back to work on those pesky deadlines. Although after reading the Irish Leap Year legend, I have an excuse--procrastination is apparently a trait I inherited from Irish ancestors on my dad's side.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday is Pun Day

Sorry for my infrequent posts lately, but I have a few deadlines that I'm working on and need to finish.

It's been said that puns are the basest form of humor, but for some reason when I read or hear most puns, I can't help myself from laughing. And who can't use a dose of humor each day?

So, to brighten your Monday, I thought I'd share the rest of the puns sent to me by Barb, a teacher-friend.  The first one is dedicated to poets. 

* A backward poet writes inverse.

* Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. (This one took a while to sink in.)

* Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

* Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: "You stay here. I'll go on a head." (Childish humor, but I chuckled.)

* I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me. (Got it!)

*  The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large. (No offense meant to any vertically-challenged folks.)

* If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you'd be in Seine.

* Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, 'I've lost my electron.' The other says 'Are you sure?' The first replies, 'Yes, I'm positive.'

And I'm positive this is the last batch of puns--but if you have any you'd like to add, feel free.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Ash Wednesday Morning Conversation and a Poem from T. S. Eliot

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, a time that symbolizes our mortality and our need for repentance.

In our household it means giving up something we like, or doing something extra (like a chore) we don't like--oh, and not eating meat today or on Fridays during Lent.

Here's how my Ash Wednesday began.

My granddaughter, getting ready to leave for school: Can you grab me a bottle of water from the fridge?

Me: I put a cold Dr. Pepper in for you last night. I thought that's what you like for lunch.

Gd (in a sad voice): Um. Yep, I do. Thanks a lot for reminding me. I gave up soda for Lent.

Me: Oops. Sorry. I forgot. (I do that a lot in the morning--and the rest of the day for that matter.)

Gd: What did you give up?

Me: Candy.

Gd: But you don't eat that much candy. (She is so sweet.)

Me: I try not to, but put a box of Good and Plenty in front of me and I can't resist.

Gd, heading out the door to her car: Those things are nasty. Gotta go.

Me to Grandson, who's eating a bowl of cereal while I'm making his lunch: Is a peanut butter sandwich okay?

Gs: How about pizza rolls?

Me: Can't eat meat today.

Gs: Then I guess so. 

Me, as I make his lunch: What are you giving up for Lent?

Gs: I don't know.

Me: How about candy?

Gs: I don't know.

Me: How about soda?

Gs: I don't know.

Me, after he finishes breakfast: Did you remember to brush your teeth?

Gs: Yes.

Me: Do you have your study sheet for your Science test?

Gs: Yes.

Me: Did you dab your medicine on your face?

Gs: Yes.

Me, as he walks to the door: Did you decide what you want to give up for Lent?

Gs: Listening. (Ha. Ha)

Me: Instead of giving something up, why not do something extra around the house?

Gs: Maybe.

Me: How about taking out the trash?

Gs (grinning): Maybe. Or I could give up my X-Box.

Me: Seriously?

Gs, laughing as he walks out the door for carpool: Just kidding.

Me (wondering): What am I gonna fix for supper?

For all you poetry lovers, here's a link to the poem "Ash Wednesday" by T. S. Eliot.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fact Check: Ringo Starr is Not Dead

Yesterday at Sunday Mass, the priest gave a homily with the message of: wouldn't it be wonderful if churches were filled to standing room only like arenas are for sporting events and major concerts. 

(I agree; it would, except maybe for parking.)

During the homily, some examples he gave of SRO events were the Super Bowl, the World Series, and a concert given by Paul McCartney--"the sole surviving Beatle."

Screech . . . Rewind. What did Father say?

At that point I stopped listening to the homily.

Paul McCartney is not the sole surviving Beatle. Unless I missed something, Ringo Starr is still alive. I hadn't read it in the news or heard about Ringo's death on TV. No way I could've missed something newsworthy like that.

Confession time: In the mid-60s, I attended an all-girls' Catholic high school and got caught up in Beatlemania. Our cliques were divided along musical tastes. There was a group who loved the Beatles (I was in that group). There was Clare and her group who loved the Beach Boys. And then there was everyone else.

Back then I could tell you the birthdate of each of the Beatles. I still remember that Paul is the only left-handed guitar player in the group. I knew the drummer Ringo Starr's real name is Richard Starkey, he's the only Beatle with blue eyes, and the sole Catholic (not sure if that's still true).

One of our nuns chided us for our obsession with the Beatles. She told us that five years after graduation no one would remember the Beatles. Umm. I don't think so.

The good news is that Ringo Starr is not dead. I visited Ringo's website this morning. He is still alive and planning a tour with his All Starr Band later this year.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

In writing and in speaking, facts are important. If you don't get them right you risk losing your audience, the same way I zoned out yesterday remembering the Beatles instead of thinking about how wonderful it would be if more people attended Sunday Mass.

Several years ago I attended a writers' conference where one presenter talked about the topic of how important it is for writers, including fiction writers, to get their facts straight. The speaker called it verisimilitude, which means (I looked it up for meaning and spelling): "the appearance or semblance of truth; likelihood; probability."

As someone who has been guilty on occasion of not having verisimilitude in her writing, I speak from experience.

In the first critique group I belonged to I read an essay about going to a book fair with my sister and finding a Latin book that had once belonged to the boy who took me to my grade school's eighth-grade dance and who later died in Vietnam.

The essay was based on an actual experience, but I embelished one of the details for dramatic effect. In my essay I wrote that my sister and I met up in the snack bar, where I showed her the book, when we actually met up at the drinking fountain. No big deal, right? Not for one reader.

The leader of the critique group called me out on the fact that there was no snack bar at the book fair. He knew that because he was a long-time volunteer at the book fair. Even though the crux of my essay was true, because I changed that one small detail, I lost credibility with him.

The lesson I learned was to check my facts and don't embellish minor details in non-fiction.

In the current critique group I belong to, we have several spot-on fact checkers who can catch even the slightest mistake or minor detail that doesn't ring true.

A couple weeks ago one of our guys read an entertaining short story about a gangster who was a driver for a mobster. In the story, during a trip from Chicago to St. Louis, the gangster drove past miles of cornfields in Illinois in the winter.

Illinois. Winter. Cornfields.  Like they used to sing (and still might) on Sesame Street: "One of these things doesn't belong here. One of these things just doesn't belong."

A few of us jumped on the fact that corn doesn't grow in the winter in Illinois.

The point of this post rant is that for writers, facts and details really do matter. A drinking fountain is not the same thing as a snack bar. Corn doesn't grow in Illinois in the winter. And Ringo Starr is not dead.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Punny Stuff: Puns for the Educated Mind

The other day a teacher-friend forwarded an e-mail to me with more than two dozen "puns for the educated mind." I thought I'd share some of them today. With a few of them I had to read twice before the sly humor hit me. Thanks, Barb, for sending them to me.

The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Notes from the Bleachers: How Watching My Grandchildren's Sports Inspires my Writing

The weekends are always busy at our home. This past weekend was no exception. On Saturday, my grandson had a 6 p.m. basketball game, and my granddaughter had a 9:30 p.m. indoor soccer game.

We drove about 30 miles from St. Charles County up north to our grandson's 7th grade basketball game in Lincoln County. 

Michael is the tall one on the left wearing the All Saints gold and blue uniform. He's easy to pick out in a crowd--as his pediatrician puts it: if Michael were in a room with 10,000 boys all born on his birthdate, he would be taller than 9,985 of them--and he's still growing, with his expected height to be 6'4" or possibly taller.

Back to the game. At the end of the first quarter, All Saints led 18-0. By the end of second quarter, they were ahead 26-0. 

When the other team scored their first basket during the third quarter, parents and fans from both teams cheered and continued to cheer whenever they scored. Even though the boys on the other team must've known they couldn't overcome such a huge lead, true to their school's name (Sacred Heart) they had heart. Their boys did not give up. Neither did ours. They were gracious winners, in spite of the lopsided 46-8 win.

My granddaughter's late-night game was a different story. Cari's team was behind 2-0 near the end of the game then scored their first goal. With less than ten seconds left they scored their second goal and tied 2-2. Her team didn't give up either and were determined to press on. They changed their strategy and switched players. Her team didn't win, but they tied the game in the last few seconds.

What watching my grandchildren's games taught me about writing is: never give up and work hard until the last word is written on the page--oh, and keep revising until I get it right. Even when I get a rejection, it doesn't mean to stop writing. And when something isn't working, I need to try something different. Whether you passion is sports or writing, never give up.

Guess I better get busy and get back to writing; Cari has another soccer game later this evening that I don't want to miss.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cinema St. Louis - Call for Entries from St. Louis-area Filmmakers

Lights, Camera, Action!

For all you local filmmakers, here's an e-mail I recently received announcing a juried filmmaking competition:

Dear donna,

The second edition of Cinema at Citygarden - a co-presentation of Cinema St. Louis (CSL) and Gateway Foundation - invites St. Louis-area filmmakers to let their imaginations blossom by creating short works that incorporate Nature as a key element.

Cinema at Citygarden (on left)

This juried competition will award cash prizes - $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place, and $500 for third place - to the top three entries. The winning shorts will then be featured as part of a looped program that will screen on Citygarden's video wall starting May 25, 2012. In addition to the three cash-prize winners, up to seven other works will be chosen to be part of the video-wall program this summer. For programming listings, please visit

A three-person jury comprising a filmmaker, film scholar, and film critic will select the video-wall program, including both the three cash-prize winners and the additional films. Jury members will be announced on CSL's Web site.

Cinema St. Louis will also screen the video-wall program - as well as additional Cinema at Citygarden competition entries chosen by CSL - as part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, held in August 2012. Those films will then be eligible for consideration by the St. Louis International Film Festival, held Nov. 8-18, 2012.

The cash-prize winners and additional works in the video-wall program will be announced on Friday, May 25, 2012. No entry fee is required. Submission deadline is April 2, 2012. For full competition details and a downloadable call-for-entries form, visit the CSL Web site:

For more information about Cinema at Citygarden, contact Cinema St. Louis at 314-289-4150 or visit


Brian Spath
Cinema St. Louis

Friday, February 3, 2012

Extrovert or Introvert - Which are You?

The other day on the NPR "All Things Considered" site I read an interesting interview of Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

After reading Susan's interview and reviews of her book, I realized I definitely need to head to the library and check out her book.

In her NPR interview she responds to questions, including: the difference between introversion and shyness, the culture of character vs. the culture of personality, and the value of working alone. The end of her interview includes a "Quiet Quiz" to gauge where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.

Although it's not a scientific quiz, the questions "were formulated based on characteristics of introversion often accepted by contemporary researchers." Some of the questions include: I often prefer to express myself in writing, I enjoy solitude, I dislike conflict, along with 17 others.

If you would like to read the entire article, interview, and quiz, here's a link to the NPR article, "Quiet Please: Unleashing the Power of Introverts."

I took the quiz then asked my husband the questions. I rank high on the Introvert scale, and hubby is more in the middle. As I took the questions, though, I realized that had I been asked these same questions 20 years ago, although I still would be an introvert, some of my answers would've been different.

So, how about you? Are you an extrovert or introvert or do you fall somewhere in between?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Writing Naked and An Open Mic Night from High Hill Press

Yesterday I queried an editor at WOW! Women on Writing. Some time ago I wrote an essay after I read a critique group member's comments on the top of the first page of something I wrote. The title of the essay I queried the WOW editor about is "Take Your Clothes Off and Other Critique Group Advice." In my essay I share ten pieces of critique group advice (some sweet, some strange) that I've received over the years.

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday afternoon when I received an almost immediate response accepting the essay and asking for a bio photo. Anyway, my essay is scheduled to appear on the WOW! Blog's Friday Speak Out on March 9. I'll post a reminder closer to the date.

If you are from the metro St. Louis area and want to hear some wonderful writers read from their works, stop by the Sage Book Store tomorrow evening, Friday, February 3. High Hill Press is sponsoring the event, in cooperation with Sage Books, an independent bookstore located in the Frenchtown District of St. Charles at 1128 North 2nd Street; St. Charles, MO 63301. The fun begins begins at 7:00 p.m.and ends around 9:00, or whenever they kick us out.

Hope to see you there!

Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Lonnie Whitaker and Dr. Barri Bumgarner

Here is the second installment of interviews with contributors who have stories in Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V , from Ozark Writers, I...