Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Congratulations, Alice Muschany, for Another Chicken Soup for the Soul Publication

Yesterday, during our weekly critique group gathering, award-winning writer Alice Muscany brought in one of her contributor copies of the hot-off-the-press Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope and Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey, edited by Dr. Julie Silver of Harvard Medical School.   

The just released anthology includes two of Alice's true-life stories, along with stories from other women and family members affected by breast cancer. The issue also includes some of the latest medical information to give strength, inspiration, awareness, and hope to those affected by breast cancer.

The titles of Alice's stories are "Hats Off to Betty with Love" and "Forever & Ever." These two publications bring the number of Alice's stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series to about a dozen. 

Alice is a fifteen-plus-year breast cancer survivor and an inspiring writer who writes with grace and humor--oh, and she's a dynamite critique partner as well. Even the most polished manuscripts aren't safe when she wields her signature red pen--just ask some of the guys in our group.

Congratulations, Alice! You are an inspiration to writers and survivors everywhere.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy 18th Birthday, Cari

Today is a HUGE day in our little part of the world. Our granddaughter Cari turns 18.
She has gone from big sister to adult in the blink of an eye.

She is pictured above with her "little" brother Michael (who now towers above her).
She was ten and he was six when these photos were taken. 

Here she is this morning, with our black Lab Harley, just before hurrying out the door on her way to school.
Last night she filled out an application for college next year, where she will start a new chapter in her busy life.

Cari is a young woman on the move!
Happy birthday, Cari, we all love you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hey Writers, What Time is It? It's Contest Time!

Back-to-school season brings back childhood memories of my early school days, evoking the smell of crayons, sharpened pencils, glue, and clean sheets of paper in my Big Chief Tablet.

This sense of nostalgia also reminds me of the excitement of watching favorite TV shows after school with my brothers and sisters on our black-and-white TV. One favorite was the "Howdy Doody Show," which started out with "Hey, Kids, what time is it?"  Sitting at the foot of the TV, we shouted back, "It's Howdy Doody time." The show was sponsored by Rice Krispies, with their cereal's "snap, crackle, and pop."

It might not be Howdy Doody time, but with my grandkiddos back in school, for me it's writing time--and time to enter contests.

For the next two months, I've decided to "snap, crackle, and pop" into action. Here are a couple of contests I hope to enter. Both have late September deadlines and low fees .

* The first contest is the Springfield (Missouri) Writers' Guild 19th Annual Literary Awards. There are eleven contest categories including poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Entry fees range from $2 to $3. Prizes range from $100 to certificates. Deadline is Sep 30. Here's a link to the submission guidelines.

* The Green River Writers Writing Contest, with fifteen categories, is sponsored by Green River Writers in Louisville, KY. Entry fees are modest, but the top two category prizes are generous. The original deadline was Aug 31, but the deadline has been extended until Sep 29. Here's a link to their site.

How about you? Do you know of any contests coming up that you'd like to share?

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Interview in the St. Louis Review

This week's issue of the St. Louis Review, the publication of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, included a feature on Catholic Writers of St. Louis. The article, "The Pen is a Mighty Sword," was written by Jennifer Brinker.

I was honored and humbled to be among the writers interviewed for the article. Jennifer called last week and interviewed me, after attending a meeting of the Catholic Writers of St. Louis in July.

Other local writers interviewed for the article are Denise Y. Montgomery, founder of Catholic Writers of St. Louis, and Shaylynn Rackers, graphics editor of Ink and Fairy Dust e-zine.

Catholic Writers of St. Louis meets at the St. Charles Coffee House several times a year. Denise does a wonderful job leading our meetings and scheduling guest speakers.

Our guest speaker last month  was Mary Brockgreitens of Liguori Publications. Mary shared tips for submitting a book proposal to Liguori. Also attending the meeting was Maurice Prater, the advancement director of the Missionaries of the Holy Family, who talked about his experiences publishing a book of prayers with Liguori.

You can read the online version of Jennifer's feature here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Eighth Grade - Day One

 As promised in my previous post about my granddaughter Cari's first day of her senior year in high school, today's post is about my grandson's first day of eighth grade. Yesterday was Day One of Michael's eighth grade experience. This will be his last year at All Saints, our parish school which he has attended since first grade.

I remember his first day of kindergarten--at a different school in an adjacent city. It was a day to remember, mostly because a school bus monitor at his old school put him on the wrong bus. It was a frightening experience for everyone. My late daughter Julie had to make several calls before finding out what happened and getting Michael home safely. Julie was not happy with his old school at all.

A lot has changed since then. Seven-and-a-half years ago, while he was still in kindergarten, he lost his mom and dad. Cari was ten and Michael was six at the time our daughter Julie and son-in-law Mike died in a motorcycle accident. After the accident, Cari and Michael moved in with us and have lived with us since then. It has been our joy and our blessing to raise our grandchildren, help them (and us) cope with loss and sorrow, and watch them grow into happy teens.

When Michael first moved in, he was a shy youngster who hadn't yet lost his first tooth. Now, he's a typical teenager, who loves going to our "farm" with my husband Walt (his Opa), enjoys playing  sports and video games with his friends, and occasionally talks back when he thinks I'm not listening. Michael is tall for his age -- already six-foot-one -- and still growing.

The other night, after making sure he had all his his school supplies, I read his school's parent/student handbook, just in case there was a new rule I'd missed. Under the section on school uniform and proper dress, there was one sentence I hadn't noticed before--about boys not having visible facial hair. So, on his last night of summer vacation, with the help of his Opa, Michael shaved his upper lip for the first time. Wow! How did he grow up so fast?

Here is a photo taken yesterday of Walt and Michael backing out of the driveway on their way to school.

Eighth grade is going to be busy and fun--and filled with memorable experiences. Michael will go on a retreat in September and be confirmed in April. His class has field trips planned, inlcuding a tour of the Cathedral Basilica and the Holocaust Museum in St. Louis next February, watching "A Christmas Carol" at Lindenwood University in November, and a day trip to Hannibal (birth place of Mark Twain, my mom, and his dad's parents) in May.

There's a lot going on in my grandson's life; he is well on his way to becoming a young man.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Senior Year - Day One

Today is a big day in our house; it's our granddaughter Cari's first day as a high school senior. It's hard to believe. I remember the day I watched her climb the school bus her first day of kindergarten. She wore a cute yellow dress and had a big yellow bow in her hair. My daughter Julie cried that day while son-in-law Mike snapped photos when their baby girl headed off to school. I shed a few tears too.

This morning there were no tears, only smiles. She woke up bright and early, got ready in record time. She stopped for a minute to let me take this shot as she hurried out the door.

I snapped another as she walked to her car to drive away, ready for a new adventure. She was in a hurry to get to a friend's house for more pictures. It's a big day in our little part of the world, and one I will remember. Truth be told, I shed a few tears of my own. Tomorrow I get to do this again when grandson Michael starts his first day as an eighth-grader. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Angry Momma Birds Update

Last month I posted about two vigilant momma birds tending their nests in the sweltering heat right outside our front door.

The momma robin's nest was planted in the center of our lilac bush near our porch, which didn't offer a lot of shade in the blazing heat. The mourning dove's nest was in the center of a hanging plant on the side of the porch, which offered more shade and cooler temperatures.

Every day I filled our bird bath with cool water to help the mommas stay hydrated. Sadly, the heat took its took on the momma robin. She either perished or simply abandoned her nest. She was there one morning then did not return.

Her four beautiful light blue eggs remain unhatched.

The mourning dove momma had a happier ending. After weeks, the mourning dove eggs hatched. First one, then the other, with momma swooping back and forth across the front yard, from the maple tree to the roof and back to her nest.

You can catch a glimpse of the chicks in the center of the plant. See their tiny black eyes and pointy beaks?

The chicks survived the record-breaking temperatures and eventually flew out of the nest. They made some practice landings in the gravel beneath the plant. Now they can be heard, along with their momma, cooing from our rooftop.

While I'm happy the two mourning dove chicks survived, I'm sad that the momma robin never returned and her eggs didn't hatch. I can't help but wonder what happened to her and am not sure what to do with the abandoned eggs.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Confession Time: Why Aren't You Writing?

Confession time: Lately I haven't been writing as much as I'd like to and haven't produced as much as I usually do. (Hey, did I just create a poem?)

I've taken a three-month hiatus from doing book reviews, my blog posts have been less frequent lately, and a couple of new short stories I started months ago are simmering on my writing shelf.

Blame it on the summer doldrums. Or maybe it's the dog days of summer--if you live in the Midwest or just about anywhere in the CONUS (continental US), you know what I'm talking about. The heat has zapped my energy, including slowing me down from putting words on paper.

Lately I've been blaming the summer olympics. The Olympics happen only once in every four years, and so I need to watch them instead of typing words on a computer, right?

Whatever the reason excuse, my writing production isn't where I'd like it to be. While my writing hasn't totally stopped, it is down to a trickle. I am reading in my spare time, and I still go to critique group each week, so that counts--at least I think it does.

How about you? Are you writing more or less this summer? If you're writing more, what's your trick to stay motivated? If less, what's your excuse?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Home Again, Home Again - A Trip to Remember

Last night my soon-to-be-18-year-old granddaughter flew home from her vacation in Southern California. She spent a week with her boyfriend and his family to visit his grandparents. It was a huge step to let her fly half-way across the USA without us, but she was in good--and trusted--hands.  Before she left, her boyfriend's mother and I spoke at length about travel plans--and other arrangements--if you know what I mean.

This was her third trip to California. She travelled twice with her parents when she was four then again nine, and she remembered going there as a child. "Everything seemed bigger back then," she said on the drive home fromt he airport last night.

She had exciting stories about swimming in the ocean, watching sunsets, seeing dolphins, shopping on Rodeo drive, and walking across the red carpet when they were stuck on the opposite side of where their rental car was parked.

One day their group of eleven was in Hollywood eating at the Hard Rock Cafe the same day of the premiere for "Total Recall." One of the security guards allowed them to dash across the red carpet before the celebrities arrived. She even spotted a few movie stars. She stood about ten feel from Colin Farrel, one of the stars of "Total Recall," but didn't know who he was until someone in their party told her.

It was fun to welcome her home last night. I made a batch of dirt cake (her favorite) and had cleaned her room, which really made her happy. She brought us each gifts--a Lakers' cup for her brother, a key chain with #1 Grandpa for Walt, and an pen and  a statue for me.

The statue is a gold-plated Oscar with the caption "Best Grandma" across the bottom. That was a lovely surprise, and an award I will cherish.

Shortly before her return, my hubby heard about this cool tool to track airflights in real time. We don't fly often any more, so it was a new toy for us. I used it last night to follow her plane when it left LAX on its way to STL. The tracking tool is Flight Aware.

It's good to have her back safe and sound, home again, and I'm sure she will have memories to last a lifetime.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Guest Post from Carol Kilgore On Using the "Just Right" Words

I'm so pleased to welcome as my guest today Carol Kilgore. I love visiting Carol's blog, Under the Tiki Hut.

Carol is a Texas native who has lived in locations across the U.S. as the wife of a Coast Guard officer. Back under the hot Texas sun in San Antonio, Carol writes a blend of mystery, suspense, and romance she calls Crime Fiction with a Kiss. She and her husband share their home and patio with two active herding dogs, and every so often the dogs let them sit on the sofa.

Today Carol is going to share with us some thoughts about one of my favorite parts of speech.

Donna, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today. I can't believe it's August already. Why is it that summer always speeds by?

Speeds? Not my favorite word. Speeding reminds me of driving too fast and getting a ticket and having to sit through a Defensive Driving class for eight hours. Not that I'll admit to ever having done any of that, so you can't take my statement as an admission of guilt. But the officer was kind of cute J

So maybe I shouldn't have said speeds. Rushes. Water rushes off the roof in a rainstorm. Zooms. Summer rarely lasts long enough, but I don't think it zooms fast like a jet. Flies by? Does a season have wings? Hmmm.

Can you tell where I'm going with this?

I'm talking about verbs. Strong, descriptive verbs that show exactly the action you want to relay to your readers. Think of verbs as the Three Bears.

Papa Bear Verbs are too zippy and bounce our writing along like sugar-coated jumping beans shot full of speed. These verbs force the reader to notice the action in the sentence above all else. Often that's not what we, as writers, want. Another variant of Papa Bear Verbs is the unique verb. These are verbs that really stand out to the reader. We read it and go Oh, wow! That's great. I would've never thought to use such a perfect verb. Then we read it again. And again. And yet again, and swear we'll scream if—aargh!

Spiritless Mama Bear Verbs cause our writing to creep along at a snail's pace. The reader becomes impatient with the progress and begins to skim. She looks at this, she thinks about that. He's walking to the store. Pacing becomes a problem, we skim a page or two or to the end of the chapter and close the book. Maybe we don't pick it up again for a while. Or ever.

But Baby Bear Verbs are just right and capture the exact image, feel, and sound the writer is searching for. These are the verbs that you feel in your bones and know in your soul are Baby Bear Verbs from the moment you write them until the time you read them a dozen drafts later.

What about you? Do you strive to use Baby Bear Verbs in your writing? Do you have tricks you use to keep your verbs in line?
Thanks, Carol. From now on when I'm trying to select a verb, I will do my best to pick one that's "just right."
With a last name like Kilgore, I thought it fitting that Carol writes novels that blend mystery and suspense. If you're looking for a way to stay cool in the summer heat, check out Carol's novel IN NAME ONLY. Here's the back cover blurb:
No home. No family. No place to hide. For Summer Newcombe, that's only the beginning.
The night Summer escapes from a burning Padre Island eatery and discovers the arsonist is stalking her, is the same night she meets Fire Captain Gabriel Duran. As much as she's attracted to Gabe, five years in the Federal Witness Security Program because of her father’s testimony against a mob boss have taught her the importance of being alone and invisible.
No matter how much she yearns for a real home, Summer relinquished that option the night she killed the man who murdered her father. But Gabe breaks down her guard and places both of them in danger. Summer has vowed never to kill again, but she's frantic she'll cost Gabe his life unless she stops running and fights for the future she wants with the man she loves.

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...