Tip: Ooh, Writing AND History!

Two of my passions are writing and history. I especially love it when they combine into one. So I have a deep affection for my subscription to The Writers’ Almanac. My tip today is – subscribe! It’s easy to do so, and it’s free.

If you are a writer who sometimes wonders if you’re wasting your time with writing, The Writers’ Almanac will convince you otherwise. Writers can – and have – changed the world; how we think, how we communicate, how we love. The Writer’s Almanac is a daily radio and on-line program and podcast of poetry and historical interest pieces, usually of literary significance. It is hosted by Garrison Keillor, who I just love and love to plug.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Grass

Goody Beagle here. Yesterday I ate something that made me throw up. Then I ate some grass and threw up again. My human says I am a “garbage hound” which isn’t a very nice thing to say. My definition of garbage is not the same as hers. Mine is more flexible and inclusive. Hers is rigid and narrow. Don’t you think flexible and inclusive sounds more friendly?

But I have to admit that the first thing I ate that made me throw up was pretty nasty, and maybe it was garbage after all. Still, a little garbage isn’t a bad thing, especially when you have grass around to clean out your insides afterwards.

Haiku Friday: History

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of History:

honor your parents
history crowds in their eyes
and spills from their lips

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Sharing History: Around the Thanksgiving Table

I’ve always been fascinated by stories. Not surprising, given my upbringing. My mother read me storybooks long before I could talk. She taught me to read for myself by the age of three. She encouraged me to put on little plays and skits dramatizing the stories I read. She was always an enthusiastic audience.

My father was a natural born storyteller with a gift for making the most trivial happening seem dramatic, funny or exciting. One of my favorite pastimes was to listen to him tell stories of “the old days.” So vivid were his stories that I was more familiar with my grandparents, aunts and uncles as young adults and children, rather than the adults I actually knew.

After dinners at our large tribal gatherings on Thanksgiving, while my cousins and brothers ran playing and screaming around the house, I was usually hiding under the dinner table listening to the adults talk. Because I was hidden by the long white tablecloth, they didn’t know I was there, and freed from the inhibition “not in front of the children!” they would tell the real stories of their lives. Beer, wine and scotch would be poured, and sex and death and scandal would ricochet around the table. Long standing jokes would be resurrected and laughed over again. Speculation and opinions about old family mysteries would be offered up and argued over. Politics, religion, history and wars: no topics were taboo. Since my family was filled with loud, passionate people, the stories tended to be juicy.

My eavesdropping habits, which I must confess I never outgrew, have been a great blessing to me in my work as a writer, ghostwriter, and historian, where I get to hide under the Thanksgiving dinner table all over again – only metaphorically now, which is much better for my knees.

Compost: When I Was Beautiful

Here’s something I wrote in an exercise that asks you to start each sentence with the same phrase; this one “I remember.”

I remember when I was beautiful; when I was a warm hayloft filled with night and silver moons, chuting stars, stirring hay. I remember the soft sounds of huffing and sighing, and the smell of sweet breath of a lover stinging my nostrils. I remember when I was round, and open, and full. I remember when I was the moon Herself, smiling.

Haiku Friday: Shadows

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Shadows:

you’re just passing through
ghosts and shadows follow you
dancing in your wake

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Sharing History: What History Really Is

In September 2001, my daughter had just begun her teaching career. She had been a middle-school teacher for less than a week when September 11th happened. On September 12th, she gave her students an in-class assignment. “Write down how you feel about yesterday’s events,” she told them. “How did you hear about it? What did your parents say? Do you think America will change? What do you think we should do? Why do you think this happened?” The students wrote for ten minutes, then started to hand in their papers. My daughter wouldn’t take them. “I don’t want them,” she told her students. “They are for you to keep. In fifty years, your grandchildren will want to know where you were on September 11, 2001. And now you will be able to tell them. You have just created a primary source.”

Don’t you just love bragging about your kids? I do.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: I am not a Sheep

Goody Beagle here. My human was grumbling the other day about shedding again. She says she could make a blanket out of beagle hairs.

I say I am not a sheep. If she wants to make blankets, let her get one of those Baa-ing things with sharp hooves and no brain to speak of, and I bet she’d trade the sheepy blankets for beagly love.

Of course, a Beagle Blanket would be very beautiful. But what does my human need a beagle blanket for when she has me to curl up next to her at night?

Really, she should think before she says such things.

Haiku Friday: Evolution

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Evolution:

in the days to come
beings just now evolving
sing songs yet unheard

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Tip: Using the Media

This tip is a plug for a book I edited some time ago. It is Media Tips for Authors by Whitney Keyes, and if you are an author, or a wanna-be author, you should read this short book that will give you great tips on how to use the media to promote your book. (If you’re like many writers, you’d probably rather stay holed up in front of your computer instead of promoting, so getting the media to help you might reduce your stress.)

Check it out, it’s a deceptively easy read – things don’t have to be difficult to be helpful. And stay tuned, because Whitney is in the process of writing another book, this one on marketing, and I know it will be helpful too.