Cursive Threatened to Become Hieroglyphic

12488847_sI heard this question asked of someone the other day, which made me shake my head back and forth. Then, when I did the research for this piece, I wagged my head even more. Back in 2011 there had been much talk of cutting cursive writing from the curriculum by many school districts. We older people may have the biggest problem with this, since we couldn’t pass from one class to another without the knowledge of said art. Although, in speaking to a sixteen year old, she also finds this ridiculous, since she mandatorily had to be able to write before she could be promoted. But, I’m left asking, will the absence of this teaching turn our young people into the new pioneers? Having to sign documents with a simple “X.” I still have that special note paper tucked away that I’d use on occasion to drop a friend a note; just to let them know I had them on my mind.

I read of two young people having difficulty reading a journal belonging to their deceased grandmother. One of them said, “It was kind of cryptic,” and they had to decipher it by reading the passages back and forth between each other. A Director from the University of Central Arkansas taught a class last summer. He asked the students in that particular class to raise their hands if they wrote in cursive. No one did. The two students with the deceased grandmother were a part of this class. Have we gone that far in the future where a simple found note to someone’s friend, has become like hieroglyphics on a stone wall? A few weeks ago, I asked a question in a tweet, and I also posted it to facebook. My question – Who kept a journal? Not surprising, most who responded in the affirmative, were my writing buddies. Yes, I know, when you’re driving, and you have a thought, you can speak it into your devices nowadays, but journaling my thoughts, fears, and aspirations by typing on some computer screen, is definitely unnatural for this writer.

I have one reader who homeschools her children; Marilla Zerbert of RillaWriter. Depending on which state you live, there is a part of the school program you are required to follow. However, there is also a rule exempting a family from this. I know of the law, because the attorney I now work with helped write it. I don’t want to be labeled as “old” because of my thinking, but aren’t there some things that are seriously mandatory? Uh…I don’t know…’reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic? How can a society believe there is no need for, or see cursive writing as archaic? I would also think the art would assist in the development of fine motor skills, wouldn’t you think?

I don’t have any young people around constantly, any longer. Therefore, all I know is basically, from what I catch on t.v. But, honestly, I might lose my mind if I had a youngster around, and they were always on their phone. Yes, that alone would probably label me as ancient. As a parent, I say you really need to draw a line. Now, throw texting in the mix, together with e-mailing, and all personal interactions have been removed. We all e-mail. I will honestly admit – it has made life so much easier. But, again, it’s about drawing a line. However, I don’t believe we should trade cursive for texting, or swap hand written signatures for electronic ones, making that the norm. Can a nation be in that big of a hurry? I’d like to think of it this way. The citizens of other countries speak their own native tongue, as well as English, which I believe gives them a bit of an edge. Once the art of cursive writing is removed from the school curriculum here, that will simply be another “minus” for our future leaders, don’t you think? Share your opinion, won’t you?

Information from PBS Newshour & The NY Times

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Cabin by the Lake

2834130_sI’ve been thinking about locating some far off place, or a spot as the old folk use to say, “Up the road a piece,” where a writer could take her or himself to settle in, completely alone. Personally, I have never been on my own in life, so I don’t know what that’s like. Does your muse need isolation and total quiet before she gives of herself? I’m remembering a writing clinic back in 2008, I think, where the group spent a weekend in a secluded getaway in hopes of prodding these goddesses. There are many refuges that proffer themselves for this use. Recently, I even found Amtrak offering some type of writer escapes on the train. Crazy right? Does it mean you’re more serious about your craft, if you crave seclusion? Again, I don’t know if this type of setting would satisfy my creativity, or simply stifle it.

Speaking of muses, as a teenager and in my early twenties, I had a ravaging fascination of Greek Mythology, which spilled further into the arts with that first movie, Clash of the Titans. And yes, even though I left this behind with my youth, I had to watch the new version, just to take a peek at the special effects. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary’s definition of the word muse is: One of the nine Greek goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who presided over the arts. There names were as follows: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (lyric poetry), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (religious music), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy). These idols have also been labeled as water nymphs. What impressions the Romans left on civilization that hundreds and hundreds of years later we continue to speak of, and many still rely on their teachings, huh?

Moving on – would I have the chutzpah to give up everything I know, and move off to some nearly deserted area to write? As much as I love the art, and even though I’ve done it since childhood…”Aaaahhh, I’m not sure,” she said, shaking her head back and forth. If you watch the movie Cross Creek, supposedly on the life of Marjorie Rawlings, or Funny Farm, which is a comedy, but Chevy Chase is still in search of remoteness, it makes one wonder. Some time ago, I do believe there were even ads in the New York Times Magazine under the heading “Writing Retreats.” They listed hideaways a person could rent over an extended period of time – a place tucked away beneath the trees, next to a lake, or a cabin in the middle of the forest. Or, would you call this simply idealism? You get out there, and not one word would come to mind. Why? Because your muse requires the noise from the elevated train. In my case, however, I’d be afraid of being alone. I’d have to drive myself to the nearest general store everyday, just for human contact.

Not to mention, I’ve never been one for off hours. You know, write until 3:00 a.m., sleep until 11:00 a.m., or rest in four-hour clips, and work in between those times. I’ve always been regimented when it comes to any labor – begin in the morning – work all day, and the evening and night hours are mine to do with as I please. If you follow my blog, you know I love to listen to music as I write. I guess I could connect my iPod to some top shelf sound system; one that rushed the loons to flight the moment I hit play. I know though, that is the perfect condition for me. But, as I put it all together, and knowing myself – my ideal conditions would have to include the cabin by the lake, or at the beach. It also, could not be that far from civilization, because to keep my sanity, I would definitely have to have my family return to me at the end of the day. Do you think solitude would step up your creativity?

Information provided by Amtrak, CNN, IMDB & Wikipedia

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Pretentious Words/Long Words

6900515_sSince the attorney I work with attended Haaar…., excuse me, Harvard, he has a subscription to the magazine. Reading an article the other day entitled Word-upmanship reminded me of my first serious attempt at writing. Now, since Lexiphanicism – what the article spoke of – is an early 20th Century word, I found it strange I couldn’t locate it in my 1999 dictionary. Funnier still, when I Googled it, what happened? It took me to the article in the magazine, LOL. Okay honestly, I searched lexiphane, which took me there. As I read the piece, each paragraph took me deeper and deeper into the past. Suddenly, I had the impression of being sucked in through a time warp to that first critique session where my partial tough hide, received its second layer. My advice; leave sesquipedalianism to the literary writers. Now, you may not find these two terms listed together in a dictionary or thesaurus, since basically they do not mean the same thing. Although, they kind of do. Lexiphanic: Pretentious words, bombastic. Sesquipedalian: Use of long words, or many syllables.

Here’s a good sentence: The puissant myrmidon of the King fossilized his foes, but his lady, from the first day she set eyes on him, had only recognized his mellifluousness.

Translation: The mighty unquestioning follower of the King terrorized his foes, but his lady, from the first day she set eyes on him, only knew him as sweet and charming.

Now, I don’t write or read historical, so don’t ask me where that sentence came from. Probably the expression, myrmidon. In any event you get what I mean. I read somewhere that Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway were the best at this, but they were excellent because they used more concise language. In my own defense, I’d like to blame two of my teachers for this trait. I had to stop, run the idea through my mind and remember, of all the books I’ve read they just were not written that way. I understand Hemingway referred to them as “ten-dollar” words. You have to think of your reader, though – after awhile they’re going to get tired of running to the dictionary to look up every fourth word. Believe me, they’ll put down that book, and once they do, it’s all over. Not only that, I would say they will hesitate to pull another one of them with your name on it from the shelf.

I have been known to list my writing tools as my laptop, and iPod. However, you know a writer also mandatorily needs a dictionary and that forbidden thesaurus. If you’ve been writing for any amount of time, you know how fancy you want to make a sentence. The rule is, though, less is more; a directive I’m still trying to remember whenever I set out to write something. I don’t know how I picked this up, I’m certain it’s just my style of writing – my voice. At any rate, I get caught up in parallelism, which has nothing to do with the topic of this post, but can throw the “less is more” rule right out of the window. For the novice writer, parallelism is the repetition of a sentence structure for dramatic effect. Here is a great website with examples. I’ve also heard instructors tell you, keeping it simple means for instance:

Write use, and not utilize; start not commence, or big not immense.

Although, I agree with keeping it simple, if you’re writing a piece and get hung up searching synonyms for start, it’s perfectly fine to expand your vocabulary to begin and/or commence. I believe commence, utilize, and immense are simple enough in their own right.

I must say it took me quite awhile to get this right. All this time later, however, at times, I continue to have the urge to go with the pretentious word. It is just one of my habits that is so very difficult to break. I think the simplest rule here though, would easily be – do not forget the reader. What are your thoughts?

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Information courtesy of Harvard Magazine and YourDictionary.com

 

Life Happens

25624612_sHello all, long time no talk to, or hear from, huh? I checked and it’s been less than two months, since I wrote the same type post. I wonder what that means. In any event, I know you’ve been wondering what I’m up to, since I haven’t been regularly posting over the past few weeks. Well, you do know my first reason had to do with finishing that manuscript. Now, I guess the only excuse I can give is that life has gotten in the way. What is it that John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I haven’t been so busy making….uh, well….actually, I guess I have been. But, let me tell you, life really has grabbed hold of my collar, and is slapping me silly. Although, I am experiencing a lull at the moment. Imagine entering a building – one that you’ve absolutely never been near. You open the outside door, walk through and the entire area is filled with fog. Now, you must stand there and wait for it to clear before you can get an inkling of which direction you need to go. I’m certain if you’ve lived long enough, you’ve had one of these experiences. Believe me, age will teach you to wait; not make a sound, and definitely do not move.

To make it a little clearer, I guess I’ve reached a point in my writing career, where I’m questioning if I really have one. In fact, questioning it, yet again. Back on January 1st I heard a word that said to me, this would be a “break it or make it year.” And yes, after so many behind me – I would definitely hope so. I have tried, won, lost, almost given up, even though the flame never died. Then, someone came along and added a touch more fuel, which turned the flicker back in to a real fire again. So, here we are at the end of April, and I can’t even feel my way along, because of this dense fog. Therefore, I took a seat on the floor, and quietly awaited a tap on the shoulder or a whisper in my ear. But then, what happened? Life, whipped the door open, and snatched me out for the next round. When this one is over, I’ll wind up sitting on the floor again waiting, because through it all and if nothing else, I know I’ve entered the correct building. I’ve also realized that after three years, there is a possibility I shouldn’t be blogging. However, I will have to, in order to keep anyone interested up to date, yes? So, I’ll continue on with this phase of the movement, for now.

I’ve checked out other blogs, and people who make the “Top 10” list in this game. Although, that is great for them, that is not my calling. I began this as a way of introducing myself. I don’t want to say I’ve lost interest, but this is simply a by-product of my real goal – serious writing. It has become increasingly difficult to find something to write about that’s interesting, which says to me, I need a course correction. Even though, I don’t know the slightest idea what that should be other than my novels. Let me ask, have you searched for anything on Google or Bing lately? There is a sea of blogs having to do with absolutely everything. If I think back, I remember a time when only the professionals or experts wrote of things. Nowadays, Charley around the corner, and Susie up the block have written something on “How To.” Don’t expect that here. What I mean is, many of those men and women do not have degrees on their topics of discussion. They’re just out there. So, to sum it all up – life, waiting and a bit of disorientation are the order of my days for the present. I think it’s silly to produce pieces, or give opinions on things that no one has any interest in, am I right? I can continue to produce news articles, or talk about happenings in life, but my gut tells me I’m plotted for another course and as my reader, you deserve my best.

At times through life, things will tug at you. I don’t know if you remember, but I’ve mentioned this before. My mother explained it to me as a kind of “calling.” She said it worked in the same way a Priest or Minister understands what they’re supposed to do – whatever it is, it won’t let them be – what they are called to will continue to pop in their minds. It will happen day and night until they give in, and get it done. For me, it began with the books, then, I became pushed in the direction of supplying pieces for my Chapter newsletters. From there, working for the newspaper kept bugging me, followed by the need to start this website. Although, I am in a lull, I believe it’s a necessary one – a calm that on the other end will bring with it another calling – something that I already sense I’ll want to protest. In fact, I may have some idea, and, yes, I’ve already began my objections with, “How do I do that?” But, like always through the kicking and screaming, day and night it’s not going to let me be. Then, like the Priest, or the Minister – no, let me use a more appropriate character. Who remembers the story of Jonah, when he ran from God? In the end, it became pretty comical when he told God, “You already knew what would happen,” I paraphrase, of course. But, just like that, I’ll break and give in. When will I ever learn that what God wants is always what I’ll be most satisfied doing. It’s never about what we want. Regardless He never takes us in reverse; He will always push you forward. Again, thanks for lending me your ear, and please hang in there with me on my journey of discovery.

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Authors and Cyber-bullying

23057698_sFor some time, I’ve heard and seen authors complaining on my various writing e-mail loops about negative reviews being handed out at the Amazondotcom site. It appears this has become even more of a problem over time. The other day, in walks an e-mail to my inbox, asking me to sign a Petition at Changedotorg in an attempt to force the online retail giant to – at the least – enforce its own guidelines. Editor Todd Barselow is the person behind this appeal, seemingly feed up with Amazon, the bullying, and harassment of all authors. In my research, I read some not so friendly comments with regard to Mr. Barselow, and his campaign, but that is not what this post will be about. Whatever bones there are to pick, dislikes, or what have you, with and about Mr. Barselow I’ll leave to the discontented.

For those of you who do not know, there had also been a war of sorts going on with regard to bad reviews and bashing taking place over at the Goodreads site. If you take a spin by Changedotorg you will find a Petition there as well, with a request for signatures. In a look at this problem I would, of course, like to remain unbiased, but as you can imagine as a writer I have a very strong sentiment with regard to this issue, which would make neutrality very difficult. In searching, it doesn’t appear that either Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, or Jon P. Fine, Director of Amazon has ever spent hours, days, weeks, months, or years pouring their blood, sweat and tears – bearing down through labor pains, giving birth to a work that’s then considered your baby. Yes, Mr. Bezos, as Founder, did suffer some type of adversity trying to get the business up and running; maybe. That being said, it should all make him even more sensitive to this new plight of the writer. I would hate to label it by saying, “He has his, why should he care” – but the facts are leaning in that direction. Goodreads, however, has made modifications to their user terms to prevent author bullying.

I think as a writer we may all have a story or two involving what is clearly – jealousy. But, you know, I’ve heard it said that if you’re not willing to put in the time, then one cannot complain, grumble, or criticize another’s success. I think, in this age of cyber-bullying, tighter rules must be set in place to protect us writers from the public-at-large. I mean, it’s bad enough to get a bad review from a professional reviewer, am I right? Most of us, the ones who have been in the business for any time, have developed a crusty exterior; we know what to take in as constructive and what to simply let go. But, how could someone develop a platform such as Amazon or Goodreads and not build that into the system – rules that do not allow any and everyone to leave whatever disparaging comment they like. Or, at least, put a team in place to enforce the codes. I may be coming up the rear with this story as it has been some time since this all began, but I too wanted to weigh in, and express my opinion.

If you talk to any writer they will most likely tell you, it is something they’ve done since childhood. Most of us have read, studied, took classes, joined organizations, went to meetings and spent an innumerable amount of hours in an attempt to perfect the craft. How then, can you produce a work – have it published, and then, get a portion of your backside chewed away by mere jealousy, or because someone has nothing better to do than upset a person’s life work. I do believe the simple remedy is – the bully has to turn the tide. Put themselves in the writer’s shoes. I believe our world is spinning faster and faster toward its end, which has ramped up many, many immoral and wicked acts. Even something as stupid as your twitter and/or facebook accounts getting hacked continually. I think we’ve moved way beyond breaking out the ruler and whacking someone on the knuckles. What do you think?

Information Goodreads, Change.org & STGRB (Stop The Goodreads Bullies)

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Permission to Invent

Let’s  talk about the different forms of writing there are, which reminds me of a line in the movie, Bridges of Madison County.  Clint Eastwood said, “….Problem with being a journalist too long is, you stop giving yourself permission to invent.”  He continued, “They (National Geographic) like their wild life in focus, and without any personal comment.”  We know that writing is writing, but there is such a diversity in this field.  Can I begin with the journalists who either like the news, or are trapped and have been doing that so long, like Clint Eastwood’s character, they’ve lost their creative edge?  Then, there are the script people handling all those sitcoms.  We also have travel shows where descriptions of each locale are given, and they sneak their creativity in a sentence describing a town built into the side of a mountain.  For instance, “The whitewashed homes on this hillside sparkle and reflect not only the personality of its residents….”

Then, my favorite – the tons of history broadcasts, which in my old age has become extremely interesting.  I really don’t know where that came from, I hated history in school.  But, I love the narratives to do with World War II, and Eastern Europe.  The other day my husband laughed and said, “Why weren’t you a Historian.” If I had an inkling as a youngster, then maybe.  In any event these are the most complicated, I think.  He or she has to provide as much information as possible, and usually fit it all into a sixty minute time slot.  Who could do that?  With all the hours I’ve logged watching this stuff, I consider it quite difficult to figure out how to describe the Wannsee Conference or Germany’s taking of Poland in that amount of time.  Yes, I know the information is provided, but I’m pretty certain I would have one of two problems – I’d have too much information, and not be able to cut it down, or only have enough to provide one paragraph.

Next, those goofy World’s Dumbest shows.  I always wonder, do they watch all the way through and then, come up with their humorous descriptions?  But, as I think about it, I guess they’d have to, huh?  I know I said the history pen person’s job proved most difficult, but I think this category also ranks up there as challenging.  An inebriated driver is butchering the alphabet while swaying to and fro with his hands behind his back.  A script is devised to the effect – “This alphabet alchi is aching for apprehension.”  Or, “This swaying and smashed inebriate is headed for the slammer.” (Can I tell you how that hurt)? I would seriously believe, one would have to profess a comedic background to fill those shoes.  It’s gotten so bad, or should I say good in my house that whenever we go to the movies, or are watching a movie at home, while I’m engrossed on the screen, yelling at the characters, hubby is reminding me – PLOT.  While at the theatre, one can tell three rows back, this man is married to a writer, or maybe he is the author.

Moving on, everyone in my immediate peer group tells stories – developing pictures through words.  Yes, we have given ourselves permission to invent, to create –  characters, quirky or otherwise, places, weather, and it goes on and on.  I think developing tales in this way is so much fun, although it can be very frustrating at times.  I remember Nora Roberts mentioning at one of her workshops she enjoyed being at her computer making up stories, because she could control the environment.  Does that mean that all of us writers are controlling people?  I don’ t believe so, but it certainly gets the endorphins cranked, doesn’t it?  To work for one of these shows, yes, is a paycheck.  However, does the professional receive a sense of fulfillment when checking that bank statement, or just say to him/herself – “Well, it’s a paycheck,” wishing all the time they had never gotten in that end of the writing game?  For me, I’ll continue concocting stories, controlling my characters in my little make-believe town/city.  Because, although I and a lot of my peers are not published as of yet – like reaching the gates of Heaven – can’t you anticipate one day witnessing that marvelously colored book cover with your picture imprinted on the back. I do believe that is an unquestionable accomplishment.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Random Ramblings

iStock_000013838440XSmall[1]Last week I had nothing to write about – funny right? Then the south got hit with the snow, which right on time provided writing material. However, I didn’t get that blog out until Friday. What have I been doing? I’ve been very engrossed in finishing a manuscript. If you’re a writer, you know it’s very difficult to think of what you’re doing with a bunch of characters, and a blog post at the same time. All of you that follow my blog know that I usually write about news items or things of life and lifestyles. You also know the postings having to do with writing are pretty far and few between. Last week, I actually went in search of a new group of blog buddies – who discuss topics on life and lifestyles. I’m sure you’ll understand when I say, that step made me want to post something on writing. I need to reiterate a comment I made last week – we humans are peculiar animals, aren’t we? Therefore, today I will talk about my craft – writing.

Let me begin by saying with this particular manuscript, I’m this far from finishing, (I have my first finger atop my thumb indicating a scant). I also do not want to mention how long I’ve been trying to complete this task….okay, you twisted it out of me. I began writing it in 2004 when we moved here to Virginia. I’d work on it, put it away, and move onto something else. I’d then, finish a short story, after which I’d have to spend weeks with my mother, taking me away from any writing whatsoever. After those bouts, I’d spend a month, or two trying to get my head back in the timeframe of the story – kind of like Ray Milland in the movie Lost Weekend, minus the alcohol, or J.D. Salinger working on Catcher in the Rye, which took him ten years to complete in case you didn’t know that little tidbit. Actually, at times, it worked like a cruel cycle, because just as I’d get my spirit back up to continue on, I’d have to run off to my mother again. But, eventually I’d pull it back out, and begin one more time. Now, understand I’ve finished many other works in all this time – there’s just something with this manuscript.

I must say, lately I’ve begun to think, maybe it’s because I’m simply to close to the story. I do believe, however, the reason does have a lot to do with my mother, since she assisted with many of the early facts in the story. I also need to add this little detail. You know what it’s like when you’re reading, and deep in a good book – you live it, and breathe it? When you blink, the characters present themselves. It doesn’t matter where you go; work, play, across the street to a neighbors –  you’re so caught up in the story, you couldn’t blast it out of your head with a stick of dynamite. That is exactly what this story has done to me, I think I even dreamt of it one night last week.

Nevertheless, and suddenly a sense of urgency hit; I don’t know where it came from, but it plunged me back in the story. Mind you, I’m still in the “need to finish” mode, because as of last week I announced I had about two chapters left. Well, I still have those two chapters – you see, I’ve had to go back to the beginning, and re-read to make certain all the plot holes in the storyline are closed. Take heart though, none of this has discouraged me. Which by the way, has also been an obstacle holding me down like concrete boots. Why do we writers do this to ourselves? I remember a line from Under the Tuscan Sun, when Diane Lane’s character talks about the fact she couldn’t write until the loathing began. How true is that? At any given time, I would pull out the material, notes, drafts, dictionary, and open my laptop. Then, go to the kitchen for a glass, or cup of whatever. I’d turn right around, walk back in the direction of my stuff, but never actually sit down. Before, I could stop myself, I’d be upstairs sitting at the desktop sending tweets, or searching Pinterest.

Monday when I came home from work, I thought a case of the flu had me for sure. I suffered from an extreme case of nausea, I had a headache, and I could not, for the life of me, get warm. I thought for sure by five o’clock, I’d be bed-ridden. To my own surprise, at six there I sat at the laptop, reading through one more chapter. So, I am very pleased to announce that when I’m done typing this, I will be moving onto chapter eight – four more to read, then I’ll be headed for the finish line. I’ve completed four novels, and countless short stories, but none of them have been as important. Actually, writing this blog post has helped me grasp why this manuscript is so important – this one has my mother throughout all the pages, and it definitely will be a work dedicated solely to her. Now, even though this post has been about writing I have this sneaky suspicion I drifted off, at times, in to random ramblings. Maybe, it’s been one of those weeks. But hey, thanks anyway for listening.

Info courtesy IMDB.COM and Amazon

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