Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ready for Some Fun? Here's a Contest For You!

It’s that time of year. Back-to-School time. Want to have a little fun?

Thank You Pixabay!
Well, remember when you entered your high school English class and saw a writing prompt scrawled across the blackboard? 

Okay, maybe that wasn’t all that much fun. You knew your teacher was going to make you write about your summer vacation, right?

But the simple truth is this: Getting your brain muscle active with any sort of writing exercise engages your thinking in a new way. It can help you reset your the ol' mindset, get you refocused on problem solving, and give your brain a much needed rest from other work or issues. I have an idea but I would never ask you to write about your summer vacation. I am so beyond that. Never would I ask my readers to write something so lame.

So…the teacher in me coupled with the writer in me came up with something a bit different.

I love Yankee Candles. The store selling them smells wonderful. One thing I’ve found myself doing from time to time when I shop there is to think of stories to go with the interesting names of the candles. 

I’ve often thought I should tell the Yankee Candle Company some of my ideas, using the candle names as the titles of the stories. Of course I never have. Which brings us to this back-to-school type post.
Picture By Pixabay

Writing prompts can take all shapes and sizes. I selected a few names of Yankee Candles for us to use. Here’s an example: Coconut Splash. I’ve decided this is a sweet romance that takes place one summer at the ocean. A girl from Ohio goes with her family to West Palm Beach, Florida to spend time with her grandparents. Life in the retirement community is not exactly all she hoped for when the family started out… until the tall and good-looking grandson of one of the community residents comes to help his grandfather. Of course in my story he and the girl meet and date (at least for the summer) before school starts and both have to head home. Okay, it may have a “Gidget” sort of feel (if you’re old enough to remember her), but you get the idea. 

Here’s where you come in…
I’m going to give you a few Yankee Candle names from which to choose to use as the title of your story. Craft a short story: No more than 1500 words. The story must be a “clean read” (family friendly) and at least mention some sort of candle in it. Make every word count to tell your story. You have two weeks. Send me your story by Friday, September 6th. I’ll choose one story as a winner. What will you win? An Amazon gift card and I will publish your story on my blog along with your bio. Anyone can enter, both novice and experienced writers. Note: I reserve the right to edit but if I do, I’ll send any changes to you for your approval if you are selected.

Rules:
1.        Choose one of these Yankee Candle Names as Your Title 
A Calm and Quiet Place 
Midnight Jasmine
Seaside Woods
Garden by the Sea
Lemongrass and Ginger

2.        Craft a clean read story in any genre you like. (sweet romance, suspense, mystery, historical, sci-fi, etc.)

3.        Your story must not exceed 1500 words.

4.        Be sure you include a candle (of any sort) in your story.

5.        Proofread and edit your work before submitting.

6.        Send your story to me at rwaters.author@gmail.com on or by Friday, September 6.

7.        The winner will be notified by email at which time I will ask for your author bio.


8.        Most of all...have fun with this!

Ready…Set…Write!

By the way, if my teacher had given me a few different topics for my summer vacation?  Something along the lines of...

"I found a Genie in a bottle on the beach and she granted me these three wishes." 
"The most boring week of my summer vacation was..."
"If I had my summer to relive, I would..."
or
"My alien encounter..."

Want to Become a Published Author? Check out this ebook from the Writing to Publish Series: Writing With E's. Available on Amazon CLICK HERE.











Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Mark Time...It's a Band Term...and Life

This boy. This man. My oldest grandson will graduate from high school this year. I was privileged to tag along with him and my daughter to a photo shoot for his senior pictures. 

J.T. 
The “T” is after his grandpa, Thomas. He’s like him in many ways. He’s thoughtful and kind. And he’s smart. Both of J.T.’s parents are like that, but when I see this man-child, I see bits and pieces of Tom. 

J.T. was the first of our grands. Tom and I couldn’t stay away. We would head to our daughter and son-in-law’s house the minute we were off of work. It was J.T.’s arrival that revealed Tom was a baby-hog. He never changed. As each little one arrived, he was quick to grab the baby out of my arms or whoever was cuddling the child when Tom came on the scene. I understood. And while J.T,’s parents had to worry over feedings and diapers and such, Tom and I took our job of  “drinking in the moments” quite seriously.

It was like that at this photo shoot. My youngest daughter was the photographer. While she was busy framing the shots, my other daughter was attending to details like straightening J.T.’s collar. My job was to keep an eye on two of my granddaughters while their mother worked behind the camera. And capture a few moments of my own.

Like this one…



J.T. was taking a break. I look at him and see that little baby I once held in my arms. Then he was looking at my face. Now he is looking forward to a new chapter in his young life. In a few days he will start his senior year of high school. It’s a milestone and he knows it. On the other end of the platform is my youngest granddaughter. She’s gearing up for first grade, happy to finally be in “real school” like her sister. And the distance between the two? Not all that far…or long, actually. Not in space...or time.

And there were other “behind the scenes” shots I’ll treasure. J.T. is tall, like his grandfather; taller than his mom and aunt. He’s taller than all of his family. I watched as my oldest daughter supported her sister resting halfway up a wall like spider woman to get a better angle for a picture.


And I watched as my oldest granddaughter helped my youngest granddaughter learn how to play a game to keep her entertained. Sisters supporting sisters –it’s a theme of family life. 


J.T. was a good sport as we fussed over him, had him change his shirt, hold his trumpet, shift his weight, look one direction then the other. It was a good day. A day filled with laughter and memories. And I couldn’t help but think as we piled back in J.T.’s car for him to drive us home that getting your first car and losing your first tooth have a lot in common. 

For some, the events simply mark the passage of time but for most of us they mark the beginning of new adventures. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Reinvent? Redefine? Revise? Refine?- Living Life to the Fullest

I’m often asked to speak for church events, women’s organizations, and book clubs. This next month I have two local speaking engagements. One group has asked me to offer a talk about living in Kosovo. I love to talk about my stint in the Balkan country. 


The other group has asked me to speak about how I’ve reinvented myself after age fifty-five. I’ve been giving that one a lot of thought. I suppose I see myself as an unfinished novel. Like the characters in my books, my life is always being revised; sometimes by choices I make and other times by events I never saw coming.

I know the group’s leader, Connie, wants me to share how I made a decision to become a published author. We talked about it. I’ve often shared on this blog how I researched the writing world and how I created a rather crude business plan to move from being a professor at a college to a novelist.  I had prayed about what I would do when Tom and I left our jobs. The decision to move to Kosovo was more a part of the healing process God had in store for me after Tom died. Not so much a piece of reinventing myself as it was a part of refining me in my new role as Tom’s widow. Through that move, God showed me I still had something to offer. 

Many people think of retirement as a time to slow down, Sleep in late, and play more golf. But we’re not wired that way. We are happiest when we are productive and when we are able to contribute. Even Tom, who claimed he was going to golf and fish everyday once he retired, taught a biomechanics class each February in Trinidad, acted as a consultant to others, and continued to author research papers. He couldn’t help it. It was something he loved to do. 

My brother-in-law who worked for the telephone company works harder now that he’s retired. He helps rebuild homes and serves on mission trips. He is at this very moment (as I type this) in Panama City Beach, Florida, assessing damage remaining from Hurricane Michael. He’s helping make arrangements for a team of volunteers to serve the people still devastated by the storm’s destruction. In his “down time” he helps my niece with her business.

I have friends at church who spend more time volunteering than they ever did at work. They learn new skills and stretch themselves. And then there’s Charles and Debbie. They’ve kicked this attitude of service up a notch. Charles is the pastor of my Florida church. He was a year behind me in high school. He and Debbie have raised their family, served the church and worked in various areas. Now, yes, now as they are approaching retirement, they have become foster parents. We all know parenting is a 24/7 endeavor. 

As Charles explains it, there is a crisis in the foster care system. He and Debbie have the energy, experience, and time. They’re investing themselves in toddlers who need to be loved. These little ones need care –physical and emotional care.

Reinventing? Refining? Revising? Redefining? Whatever you call it, life is an ongoing process. And those who are the happiest are the ones not standing still in the middle of it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

First Man...Not Man First

I recently went to see the movie First Man based on the lunar landing and astronaut Neil Armstrong. I invited my family and some friends to go with me. In the end, my mom and I went alone to see the film. What intrigued me more than the movie was the response one of my friends offered by way of declining. He wasn’t interested in the notion of space exploration and thought money had been wasted on the whole endeavor. I don’t agree, but I understand his point of view. It was a staggering budget. 

There are Benefits of the Space Race.
I was quick to point out that outcomes of conquering the final frontier continue to serve us today. After all, we have microwaves and computers because of the NASA challenge. Transistor radios (if you’re old enough to remember them) were a direct outgrowth of research in space technology. There are hundreds of products and conveniences we enjoy every day because of the science and technology poured into NASA.  

I also cited the urgency the Americans felt to conquer space and rule over it largely because  of what we knew as the Cold War. When Russia launched the satellite Sputnik only a dozen years after the end of WWII, the United States was…had to be…on guard. The perception was simply that whoever controlled space, controlled the world.

Enough History.
After we talked, I thought of lessons learned (and taught) about child development. Urie Bronfenbrenner who was, curiously enough, a Russian born American psychologist, studied children’s social and emotional development. His work makes sense to us. In essence Bronfenbrenner spoke of social systems that shape our development. Our parents and family provide those first constructs and then our world expands to include friends and school and church. As our world expands, we learn and grow. Our understanding of how the world works changes with our experiences. 

Where am I going with this?
World events occurring at significant points in our lives shape our thinking forever. For example, my parents were young during the Great Depression. But that historic time induced them to be ever conservative. My mom still says, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” It is in direct conflict with our current “everything is disposable or can be easily replaced” mindset. World War II also shaped my parents view of the political climate and how it influenced their lives and future. The fears of communism potentially leading to World War III helped fund the race for space. 

My generation was shaped by the Space Age. Nothing was beyond us. We could conquer anything. It is a spirit of both “American know-how” and adventure. We embraced the possibilities of technology. My husband and I had those transistor radios “glued to our ears.” My mother-in-law used to fuss at Tom to “put that thing away while we eat.” (Sound familiar?) 

For graduate school, Tom traded in his slide rule for a calculator. We didn’t have the more than a hundred dollars it cost, but his mother bought it for him as a college graduation present. Yes, I said more than one hundred dollars for an instrument that could perform fewer functions than one you can pick up for ten bucks at a back-to-school sale today. 

Tom and I were the first people in the neighborhood to buy a home computer. A Commodore 64. I still have it. We also were the first people in our group of friends and family to own a video camera. It isn’t that we were flashy or flush with money.  We were neither. We were children of the space age and we were intrigued with all the possibilities. Possibilities made available through the space program.

My children and ultimately my grandchildren’s lives are forever shaped by the events of 9/11. It is a social-historical event that reaches deep into our thinking and way of life. My grandchildren will never know what it’s like to arrive at the airport ten to fifteen minutes before a flight and race to grab the seat assigned. They are learning what I call “airport culture”:a new way of life that includes hours at the airport and careful planning to make the time advantageous. 

And now instead of time on the family computer, they are reaping the benefits of “individualized” technology. The readily available hand-held technological devices threaten to make them more isolated at the very point in history where they are learning, we hope, how to be more inclusive. 

I think it is the book of Ecclesiastes where King Solomon writes “there is nothing new under the sun.” (By the way, I think Ecclesiastes reads like a sleepless night.) So while I may fret over my grandchildren and long for them to know a quieter, slower paced life, I also look forward to the next adventure. No matter the outcome I pray it will be the one that defines them in a most positive way and always has them–looking up.




Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It Started With A Pencil



Last week I wrote how although I was looking for a pencil, I wound up cleaning out a small drawer in my kitchen. I call it the junk drawer. If you didn’t catch that post, you can read it by clicking HERE. 

Since that post, I’ve reorganized my pantry and completed the huge…let me restate that…HUGE job of cleaning and organizing my office. It was as if de-cluttering that one drawer flipped a switch in my brain and set me on fire to take care of other areas of my life.

Now those of you who read my blog because you want to strengthen your own writing, hang in there. Those of you who enjoy a peek into my crazy life, hold on. Here it is. And I think the two go hand in hand.

I like to think (or at least placate myself with this notion) …where was I? Oh yes, I like to think creative people are often surrounded by a mess. Where the artist has spilled paint everywhere, paint brushes, sketches, and canvas strewn about, the writer has a plethora of post-it notes on walls and computer screens, endless reams of paper, countless pens, calendars and planners, and folders filled with story ideas (the equivalent of the artist’s sketches).

It shouldn’t be. I complete most of my writing on the computer yet I collect notepads and paper as if stockpiling for when the government decides to ration such necessities. I can’t pass up a free pen or a pad of sticky notes. 

I can almost understand those stationary store type items surfacing in my office. They are, after all, at least related to the work I do. But while tackling my office this week I found at least three paper napkins with ideas written on them for stories. I have a church bulletin insert with a scene for a past book written on it in the margin of the sermon notes I’d taken. Sorry, pastor, I may have not been fully engaged in the sermon that day. I found books I’ll never read and four canvas bags…with nothing in them.

I found artifacts from writing conferences, a roll of tape missing since Christmas and a sweet note written to me by my granddaughter when I was living in Kosovo. She sent it to me via her mother. It included a “mood ring.”  Nora instructed me to put it on and it would change color according to my attitude. Or as she wrote, my “atutood.”

You think I digress? Not at all. You see, now that I’ve reclaimed my office; now that I’ve appropriately filed the papers I’m keeping, shredded old documents, and filled trash bags with scraps of paper I’ll never need or use, my attitude has changed. I don’t need a ring to tell me that. 


I’m writing unfettered. My daily word count has increased. My next book is moving along swiftly as if the story unfolds itself each morning beneath my fingertips. And here’s the biggie: When I leave the office, I’m done. I don’t have this cloud hanging over me that I should be working. The work for the day is finished. The clear writing environment allows for that to happen. I have no distractions. I have no concerns that I should be doing something else in my office. My office is for writing. And I love it




Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Junk Drawer

Does everyone have a  junk drawer?


I have one in my kitchen. It’s the place I put things that are useful but odd. I keep random pencils and pens there. A ruler, matches, and maybe a rubber band or two I pull off the newspaper. It’s where I go when I need scissors. I keep a screwdriver there; the kind you can change the head for different projects. It proves handy because then I don’t have to run out to the garage for a small project.

I think I’ve had such storage in every house I’ve occupied. If I didn’t have a drawer it was a basket on the counter or a small box on a shelf. There is value in having a junk drawer. Maybe.

The other day I needed a pencil so rather than go to my office, I decided to save time by grabbing one out of the kitchen junk drawer. 

Big mistake. The drawer has become a catchall. I started clawing through the mass of outdated coupons, batteries, a baggie with extra cabinet hinges, and pens. I found an old solar calculator I never use, a spool of red twine and the tape measure I’d been looking for since March.

I found a miniature toy truck that needs work, two padlocks with keys in a baggie, and a golf ball. There were three of those plug-in air fresheners but I’m pretty sure you can’t buy the refills anymore. 

I found markers, a pocket sized level and a baggie with allergy pills in it. There were several business cards stuck in the front. That is highly unusual because I have a special place for business cards in my desk.  (I’ve always kept them together since watching an episode of Dick Van Dyke as a kid…the one where Rob and Laura need to find a painter for their house and Laura pulls out a stack of business cards she’s kept together over the years.)

I could account for nearly every item. But I wasn’t sure why I stuffed a large purple ribbon in the drawer and why I kept a random church bulletin there. It wasn’t even from my church. 

I pulled everything out and spent an hour organizing it. 

Yes, I did find a pencil. The tip was broken. It didn’t matter. I forgot what I wanted to do with it anyway.

At least I ridded my kitchen of the clutter. I’ve always said there are two things that make you tired and rob you of time: clutter and procrastination. 

Case in point. Please tell me I’m not alone. Do you have a random storage area? Are you brave enough to share your own “junk drawer” experience?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Meet Sonja, Fish Creeks Newest Resident

While reading an article sharing fun blog posts, one woman suggested authors should try interviewing characters from their books. Intriguing. I hope you’ll bear with me as I give it a try. I’ve created here a radio journalist to interview the main character of Libby's Cuppa Joe, Sonja. Thank you to my friend, Geoff Fuller for lending his name to my radio personality.

Ready? Here goes…and be sure to let me know what you think.

Geoff Fuller: First let me welcome you to Door County, Sonja. I understand you’re from California. That’s a big move.

Sonja Parker: Well, yes, but I’m originally from Wisconsin. I took a job in California when I graduated from college, but I grew up in Kenosha. 

Geoff: What made you choose Door County?

Sonja: My family spent a lot of vacation time in Door County and every year we came for the Pumpkin Festival in Egg Harbor.

Geoff: So have you been here during what we call “the season”?

Sonja: We visited some during the summer, but more often we came the week after Easter or in the fall. I’ve always loved Door County.

Geoff: Were you in the coffee shop business in California?

Sonja:  (laughs) No. Actually, in California I worked in a logistics. We distributed faucets and the like, but I majored in business administration and minored in entrepreneurship in college. 

Geoff: That leads me to ask, why a coffee shop?

Sonja: Well, I always wanted to own my own business. My dad owns his own landscaping business in Kenosha. I guess it’s in my blood. Then, when Libby’s Cuppa Joe became available, I could see all of the possibilities. 

Geoff: Possibilities. Does that mean you see changes to Libby’s in the future? And by the way it’s good to see you didn’t change the name. Libby’s Cuppa Joe has been a part of the Fish Creek landscape as long as I can remember.

Sonja: Yes, I am keeping the name and of course I plan to continue to offer a great cup of coffee, but eventually I do hope to add a few specialty coffees to the list as well. 

Geoff: Well the folks here are happy to see Libby’s Cuppa Joe reopening. 

Sonja: Thank you, Geoff, I am very excited to be here. Door County is the gem of Wisconsin. Living and working here is a dream come true.

Geoff: Folks in Door County, Libby’s Cuppa Joe will be open for local traffic from 8 in the morning until noon weekdays starting in March and will officially open for the vacation season in May. You can read more about Sonja, the business and get the full scoop by purchasing Libby’s Cuppa Joe by Rebecca Waters. Now available through Amazon or your local Barnes and Noble.

Well, there you have it. What do you think? What else do you want to know about Sonja that isn’t in the book? By the way, if you haven’t read the book yet, grab your today.  CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE BOOK AND READ THE FIRST CHAPTER.