Pieces of My Storytelling Quilt

110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024In mountain tradition, my Southern grandmother created free-flowing art that warmed her family on winter nights. She pieced scraps of twill, denim, corduroy, children’s outgrown clothes, men’s shirttails, worn-out dresses, and cotton sacking into the “memory gems” of life.

Like her, I toss aside perfection for small, unpredictably shaped patterns. This blog  is my verbal crazy quilt.The color and richness, my garden of perfect moments.

Catch my Alabama sound! Click the audio here or leap to the story of moia tale of southern accents, or southern dowagers on a thank-you note rant.

cropped ptg Hen Party 10-31-04_peKeep scrolling or check out the categories: Characters, Creatives, Musings, Places, Photo Challenge, Poems, The Daily Post, and The Writing Well. Or for a quick read, visit my portfolio.

For tidbits on southern lifestyle and culture, writing, humor, and recipes, drop by the Random Storyteller Facebook Page. Please comment and share your own “good stuff.”

In the words of Elly Mae Clampett (“The Beverly Hillbillies”), come back soon!

chamrick book shop

#TBT What Not to Say to a Writer

It’s a funny thing–when I tell someone I’m a writer, it can draw a perplexing response. Here’s an oft-repeated remark that kicked in 20 years ago.

If you’re in the writing/editing biz, share that golden crumb!

whatnottosaytoawriter

Publisher Nancy Sakaduski: 10 Steps to Getting Published

Nancy SakauskiLike indie bookstores, regional publishers love good books and deliver to faithful readers. Moreover, they promote authors who spin vivid stories often set in their backyard–in this case Delaware’s beaches. Publisher Nancy Sakaduski of Cat & Mouse Press goes a step further. Every year she sponsors a popular writing competition that has evolved into the Rehoboth Beach Reads series. Each volume features stories by published authors as well as first-time writers.

The award-winning books have received enthusiastic reviews.

The Beach HouseThe Beach House: “It’s the perfect book to tuck in your bag or leave in your own beach house”–Susan Kehoe, general manager of Browseabout Books in Rehoboth

The Boardwalk: “I love these stories. Now when I sit on a white bench and people-watch, I’m reminded that there is more to Rehoboth boardwalk than meets the eye.”–Lianne Hansen, National Public Radio personality

Have you thought about a leap into publishing? Nancy shares her top 10 tips to jumpstart your first work.

  1. Start small. Instead of a 95,000-word novel, begin with a short story, an essay, or an article. There are many more outlets for shorter works, and shorter forms give you more opportunity to try ideas without such a large time commitment.
  2. Start local. Submit to local newspapers, magazines, publishers, or contests. This year’s Rehoboth Beach Reads (RBR) short story contest received about 130 submissions, and 25 were published. You won’t get those odds on a national level.
  3. Do your research. Read the publisher’s magazines or books to see what has been published in the past. Don’t submit something that has already been done. Don’t submit a genre the publisher doesn’t use. Look for magazine sections open to freelance writers, publishers actively seeking a particular type of book, or agents looking for a specific genre. Read the publisher’s guidelines carefully and follow them exactly.
  4. Perfect your writing. Go to conferences, join writers groups, take classes, and have your work critiqued. Then edit, edit, edit. Yes, the publisher can edit your work. If your work is sloppy, it will never get that far. Don’t let typos or formatting mistakes cut your chances. And, even with fiction, check your facts!
  5. Have a killer title and a killer hook (first sentence or two). There were 21 writers with stories in The Beach House. One of them had an idea for a book of short stories set in beach towns. The title? Sandy Shorts. Who could resist? Publishers are overwhelmed with submissions, so they judge quickly about whether to read on. You have to grab them.
  6. Be different. The theme of the first RBR contest was “The Beach House.” Many people submitted reminiscences of summer vacations at a beach house, but the stories that really attracted the judges’ attention were the ones with a different slant. Try taking a familiar topic and give it a twist. Use an unusual point of view, an unlikely character, a different time, or an out-of-the-ordinary setting. Have an uncommon background or connection to a hard-to-access place or person? Use it! Find the stories only you can write.
  7. Write about things people want to read. Publishers are business people. Their business is selling writing. If you want to be a published writer, your goal is to provide saleable writing. (If you don’t care about selling your writing, keep a journal.)
  8. Make professional contacts. Who you know can make a difference. Look for opportunities to meet agents and publishers. Ask permission to submit—no bathroom ambushes, please!
  9. Be confident, but don’t be a jerk. Advocate for your writing. Explain why you think it’s a good match for the publisher, why you’re the person to write it, and why readers will love it. But respect the needs and preferences of the publisher.
  10. Don’t give up! If your work is rejected, review, revise, and resubmit it.

To learn more from Nancy, follow Writing Is a Shore Thing, which features industry news, writing tips, writer events, self-publishing information, and how-to for short stories. Also, you can sign up for the Cat & Mouse newsletter.

Next week, Nancy will share why a “beach read” is a year-round pleasure.

The Beach House

How to paint a water lily

Remembering Ted Hughes (August 17, 1930–October 28, 1998): What excites my imagination is the war between vitality and death, and my poems may be said to celebrate the exploits of the warriors of either side.”

Duke Gardens Dragon Fly & Lily

A green level of lily leaves
Roofs the pond’s chamber and paves

The flies’ furious arena: study
These, the two minds of this lady.

First observe the air’s dragonfly
That eats meat, that bullets by

Or stands in space to take aim;
Others as dangerous comb the hum

Under the trees. There are battle-shouts
And death-cries everywhere hereabouts

But inaudible, so the eyes praise
To see the colours of these flies

Rainbow their arcs, spark, or settle
Cooling like beads of molten metal

Through the spectrum. Think what worse
Is the pond-bed’s matter of course;

Prehistoric bedragoned times
Crawl that darkness with Latin names,

Have evolved no improvements there,
Jaws for heads, the set stare,

Ignorant of age as of hour―
Now paint the long-necked lily-flower

Which, deep in both worlds, can be still
As a painting, trembling hardly at all

Though the dragonfly alight,
Whatever horror nudge her root.

Ted Hughes composed the poems in Birthday Letters over 25 years. It’s a haunting collection of love notes, memories, and reflections that recall his life with poet Sylvia Plath.

August 14, 1945―bravery and wishful peace

Ernie_PyleMy 19-year-old dad gave thanks on an LST off the coast of Okinawa. It was August 14, 1945―the war was over. It ended sooner for Ernie Pyle. On April 18, Japanese machine-gun fire cut down the celebrated combat journalist on Iejima, an island off Okinawa.

I thumbed through Brave Men, a firsthand look at boys on the front, more than 40 years ago. Along with William Shirer’s Berlin Diary―a day-by-day account of the momentous events leading up to the war in Europe―it taught me about writing, authenticity, and style.

In recent months, I read several biographies and histories about Churchill, Roosevelt, Ike, Patton, McArthur, Stalin, and Hitler. However, the stories of everyday soldiers and civilians took on greater meaning:

Hampton Sides’ Ghost Soldiers relates the saga of the Bataan Death March, the grim reality of prison camps, and a daring rescue mission.

Caroline Moorehead’s Village of Secrets spins the intriguing tale of a French village that helped save thousands hunted by the Gestapo.

Pyle, the master of storytelling, related the harsh truths and poignancy of war as lived by anonymous GIs. He wrote of personal anguish displayed by the gear littering the Normandy beaches.

“Here in a jumbled row for mile on mile are soldiers’ packs. Here are socks and shoe polish, sewing kits, diaries, Bibles, and hand grenades. Here are the latest letters from home, with the address on each neatly razored out. . . . Here are toothbrushes and razors, and snapshots of families back home staring up at you from the sand. Here are pocketbooks, metal mirrors, extra trousers, and bloody, abandoned shoes. . . .”

This quiet image outlived Ernie Pyle; it’s well worth remembering: “Someday when peace has returned to this odd world, I want to come to London again and stand on a certain balcony on a moonlit night and look down upon the peaceful silver curve of the Thames with its dark bridges.”

Charing_Cross_Bridge,_Monet (2)

NASA earth moonDonald L. Miller delivers a comprehensive, even-handed account in The Story of World War II. This critically acclaimed work knits the voices of soldiers, civilians, and leaders―their terror, desperation, and courage. 

The Atlantic captures striking images of people and places after the war in a 20-part retrospective.

Sources estimate the death toll at 60 to 85 million―about 4 percent of the world’s population. The Chronicle of War estimates statistics (military and civilian) by country. The following countries suffered the most casualties: Soviet Union, 23,400,000; China, 20,000,000; Germany, 8,680,000; Poland, 5,820,000; Dutch East Indies, 4,000,000;  Japan, 2,700,000; India, 2,587,000; French Indochina, 1,500,000; Philippines, 1,057,000;  Yugoslavia, 1,027,000.

“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”―John F. Kennedy.

Look for more posts on the Catherine Hamrick site.

Credit:

Charing Cross Bridge/Claude Monet

#MotivationMonday What will you read this week?

Nothing beats reading a book about one of US history’s most voracious readers and authors: Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris

What are you reading? And why?

randomstoryteller TR quote_pe

I FORGOT!

Catherine Hamrick:

#SundayFunday Meet the English Professor at Large! One of the wisest, coolest women on the web. Crackerjack smart, witty, and fun. She’s got the scoop on the Hollywood glam golden age. Get your words’ worth here.

Originally posted on The English Professor at Large:

Elbert Hubbard,businessman, artist, writer, and philosopher of the early 1900s, wrote,”A retentive memory my be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.”  A 75-year-old friend of mine recently asked, “How can we be expected to  remember everything when our minds are so packed with knowledge?”  How, indeed. I manage to remember  both these bits of wisdom when my mind totters, grappling for a word or a fact or a name I have always known. It’s a more soothing sop than senility.Besides, there are advantages to”forgetting” in my ’80s.

I can forget names of people I never wanted to know in the first place. I can forget to wash my hair often because what’s left needs the oil. I can forget about understanding teenagers because I know they will grow up to be as dumb as they think I am now. I can forget…

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coneflower sequence

Coneflowers

coneflowers spirograph

a foot outside my door–

it is no mean trick,

nature’s lavender turn;

fear of irrational numbers

bow to seed-head symmetry,

measure upon tight measure,

 Fibonacci’s weathered tune.

Twitter version! coneflowers spirograph, nature’s lavender turn, seed-head symmetry, Fibonacci’s weathered tune

The Daily Post prompt: “Lookin’ out my back door”

A Passion for Pluto

Catherine Hamrick:

Check out this story by my friend and author, T.K. Thorne. She writes historical fiction as well as nonfiction–all imaginative and meticulously researched. She recently released Angels at the Gate, a well-received novel. Check out her Goodreads page! http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3166354.T_K_Thorne Enjoy!

Originally posted on T.K. THORNE:

For ten years I have waited for TUESDAY.

A decade ago, I read about New Horizons, a planned probe launch to the strange dwarf-planet with an erratic 248-year orbit that defines the edge of our solar system and the beginning of the vast and lonely reaches of interstellar space.  A probe to Pluto!

Pluto and sun and Charon-0-11BD50C2000005DC-576_634x356 Artist conception of sun and Charon moon from Pluto https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Southern_Observatory

Ten years was a long time to wait, so I didn’t. Calling on the power of the pen, I wrote a short story about a woman, a survivor of a crash of the first manned mission to Pluto. In a bold moment, I sent the manuscript to Marc Buie, one of the mission’s experts, and he was gracious enough to take the time to edit it for accuracy. Although I have now published historical novels and non-fiction, this story became my first published piece, finding a home in Aeoff’s…

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Dragonfly

Catherine Hamrick:

Explore this new photography blog–it brings the outdoors in! Michele Walfred is a writer, social media strategist, and photographer in Lewes, Delaware.

Originally posted on Walfred Photography:

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“Whales” Become “Wells” #fridayflashback + audio!

Audio debut!

Whale HouseThe Daily Post prompt: “Advantage of Foresight”you’ve been granted the power to predict the future. The catch—each time you use your power, it costs you one day (that is, you’ll live one day less). How would you use this power, if at all?

“I am a part of all that I have met”—Tennyson. The past and present are enough. The future will take care of itself.

It’s a moment when you reach back. Far back. You can’t reason why you do it. You’re jolted though, in the same way that you jump when thunder cuts the quiet of a mountain lake, until then almost still, except for fish running slight currents and heat lightning flirting with low clouds.

“Whale.” Soft as that word is, it firecrackered in my brain this morning. Random.

Mama Hattie sternly warned us never to touch the graying, splintered “whale-house” just steps outside her kitchen. Not even 6 years old, my sister Mary and I stood many hours before its boarded-up door.  We speculated on how often Pawie changed the whale’s water and marveled that its tail did not lash the walls of rotting wood. It never slapped water through the cracks.

Sometime that mysterious creature sank below memory glimmer. Maybe in the summer I noticed that Mama Hattie’s voice crawled through words—”hit’s” for “it’s” and “yeller” for “yellow” and “aigs” for “eggs.”  And “whale” for “well.”

That summer I wrapped an egg, fresh from the chicken house, in a red bandana.  I crouched near the whale-house and clasped the egg in warming desperation. Then I knew. My chick was gone. It had never been. It had never slept, tucked inside the shell, waiting to pick that brittle wall and pop out wet.

The whale had never been.

ContourBottleConceptSketch_peNothing else changed. Pawie rocked on the gray-painted porch of the white gabled, green shuttered house, never talking but always watching for trucks headed to Atlanta. They rumbled on Highway 53, honking until he shot up his long right arm—in salute to a world bypassing his. A small braided rug hung on a side balcony, waiting for a beating.

The day dimmed. We chased fireflies on the front lawn, more like a strip of pasture, and trapped them in Coca-Cola bottles. They glowed until smothered under greenish glass.  Our faint torches of summer.

Credit:

Wood shed courtesy of Fb789, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fb78, http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benutzer:Fb78

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