Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's in Your Basket?

Sunday’s message at my church was called “I Will Fight.” Our preacher spoke of David and Goliath. I knew the story. The verse I hadn’t considered before, though, was when King Saul tells David prior to his battle with Goliath, “You are not able…you are only…” Here’s the verse:

Saul replied, You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” –I Samuel 17:33

I get it. 
Several years ago, as a professor at Cincinnati Christian University, I was charged with trying to get a state approved teaching program for the school. If we got it, we would be the first school to be added to the roster of teacher educators in over 50 years in the State of Ohio. Talk about a David and Goliath story.

The academic dean of the college, Jon Weatherly, met me in our state capitol for a preconference meeting on accreditation. There were thirty or so colleges and universities represented in the meeting. We were the only ones who did not already have a state approved program. The woman leading the session distributed materials –a hefty notebook filled with the requirements to be accredited through a national organization. Meeting these requirements was our first step in obtaining state approval.

The three hour meeting was peppered with educational jargon and acronyms used in our state offices.  I would nod to Jon and assure him I knew what they were talking about. And I did. With each example they gave of a program’s “best practice,” I would turn to my dean and assure him we were “already doing that.” We were.

After the meeting, Jon headed back to the university and I checked into the hotel for the rest of the teacher education conference. I lugged the heavy book we had been given along with my luggage up to my room. I spread the materials out on the spare bed and carefully re-wrote my notes, adding details and making sure they were legible.

The conference was informative. I met professors from small colleges similar to ours and from large state universities. I attended sessions on everything from diversity to test scores. Thursday evening, I skipped the free “happy hour” and returned to my room. There I sat in the middle of the spare bed and began carefully reading the requirements for accreditation in detail.
Google Image

I wanted to cry. Supplying the evidence and writing the report for these requirements seemed overwhelming. “What was I thinking?”
I said out loud to the empty room. “I can’t do this…I’m only one person.”

I fell asleep crying and praying. The next morning I packed everything, attended the breakfast meeting and left. I drove to Indianapolis where I was to meet my mother at “Praise Gathering,” an annual event hosted by Bill and Gloria Gaither. I looked forward to the music washing over me. I needed it.

When I arrived at the convention center, the afternoon worship session was in progress. I knew where we were seated in the auditorium. I slipped through the doors and made my way around the outside perimeter of those seated on the floor level. Total silence. The speaker, Lori Salierno, moved on the circular stage as if following my every move.

I found my chair among the thousands of people in attendance. I looked up. The speaker seemed to be looking straight at me. “Have you ever felt that way?” she asked. Her Southern voice filled the room, breaking the silence hanging over it. “Have you ever felt the way that boy must’ve felt?” I was clueless. I had missed the first part of the story.

She stood there on stage, still looking my way. I nervously looked down at the program my mother had handed me. “Have you ever said to yourself, ‘I can’t do that. I’m only one person?’” My head jerked up. “That little boy must’ve felt that way. ‘I only have these loaves and fishes. I only have a small lunch. How can I help? What can I do with that?’” She went on to remind the audience that we bring what we have and God does the rest.

Loaves and fishes.

I heard that voice when I started writing Breathing on Her Own. “You can’t write a book. You’re only a teacher.”

My friend, Marie, has the start of a wonderful children’s book about forgiveness. But the Evil one whispers in her ear, “You can’t write a children’s book. You’re only a counselor.”

I may not have a best seller or a Hallmark movie type of book. That’s someone else’s lunch. Me? I offer my loaves and fishes and let God do with them what He will.

By the way, Cincinnati Christian University now has an award winning, state approved, nationally accredited teacher education program.

What’s in your basket?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Trip to Tarpon

While visiting Tarpon Springs, Florida, my husband and I took the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Travis and Molly Tipton. Travis took Molly to this Gulf of Mexico fishing village for a brief fall holiday in the book, Breathing on Her Own.

No, the book isn’t about Tarpon Springs, but this is the place where Molly comes face-to-face with what she really believes.

For today’s blog,  I am bringing you along on our journey. The excerpts from the book are in bold text.

Tarpon Springs Sponge Dock Area
Holding hands, they ventured up the street of the old town, poking around antique shops and a used bookstore. They each found a novel to read, paid all of a dollar for both and found a small Greek restaurant for dinner.
Book cover? No, Howard Park

The next morning, rested and relaxed, they donned their swimsuits and headed to the beach. Howard Park was a short drive from their bed and breakfast.
Several kite surfers were out on the water flying through the water and sky, twisting and turning with ease. Molly and Travis stood near the water’s edge and watched.

Sponges from Tarpon Springs

Friday they wandered in the little shops along the sponge docks and ate at a seafood restaurant at the end of the docks. They located one of the deep sea fishing excursion boats and made a reservation for Saturday morning. It would be their last hurrah.

Tarpon Springs Boats travel the  Anclote River
To his credit, Travis listened. He listened on the long boat ride back to the docks. He listened, her hand in his as they sat in one of the little cafes drinking coffee and sharing a piece of the sweet baklava. He listened over the strains of Greek music playing at one of the outdoor courtyards as they walked back to their bed and breakfast. 

He put his arm around her as if to protect her from her uncertainties and fears.

A waterfront cafe
B&B? At least it looks like the one where they stayed.

Shortly after the book was released, I received this in an email:

Enjoyed your novel very much. I used to visit Tarpon Springs all the time when my folks lived in Florida. Fun to experience the place again.
--Cindy Huff, Word Traveler
President of Word Weavers Aurora

How sweet to connect with readers in every way. 

Breathing on Her Own is available in both print and ebook forms. You can purchase it on Amazon by clicking  HERE or through Barnes & Noble by clicking HERE

And…the Kindle version available through Amazon is on sale right now for $1.99! You can't beat that…unless maybe you can find that little used book store in Tarpon Springs!

Where do you like to go to recharge? Tell me in the comment section.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Smell of Fresh Crayons Marks Summer's End

I love the smell of fresh crayons. The stores start to stock them in August. By September backpacks are filled with all of the fresh supplies required of a new school year. For some it is a mark of summer’s end. For me, the new crayons signify new adventures.

I always loved school. In fact, I still do. So, it is back to school for me this autumn season. Why? Because I am a writer. A writer always has more to learn. I am still working on two novels in differing stages. I’ll not abandon those, but I also have ideas for other works I hope to publish in the future. These ideas may come as a surprise. Or not.

Thank you, Nora for sharing your crayons.
I want to publish two children’s books. I have been working on them and even went so far as to send one of the stories to my friend, Pamela Harrison, an author in the field of children’s literature. Pam was extremely helpful. She pointed me in the direction of three on-line articles to help me with my rhyming book.

So for the month of September, I am off to “Kiddie Lit College” to read, research, and read everything I can about writing picture books. I’m meeting with another friend who is interested in writing for children and we are taking our “class” assignments seriously. I’m not so naïve as to think I can learn everything in four short weeks, but it’s a start. I expect to spend some time in October digesting what I’m learning and applying what I can to the two books I’ve already drafted.

Also, I hope to enroll in what I call “Whodunit University.” I have a great idea for a series of mysteries solved by an amateur sleuth—a woman roughly my age—hmmm. But I have been writing Christian fiction from one point of view. I know I need to learn a few new techniques to write mysteries. To that end, I asked a people I know through online writing groups for their advice. They’ve given me great contacts, lists of blogs, and the titles of books I should have on my shelf if I want to take a shot at this type of writing.

I’m excited. I’m embarking on a new adventure. Now all I need is that new box of crayons…

Tell me, what new adventure are you taking on this season? Learning a new craft? Perhaps a new language? Trying a new recipe or game? I would love to hear what you’re doing. I’ll even share my crayons if you like.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Friend Flicka

Flicka. Not what I would call an original name for my first pony. But that’s what I called her. She was a pretty little Pinto. I was thrilled when we bought her and brought her home to our Midwest farm. I named her Flicka. Just like the horse on television.

I thought I knew a lot about horses. I was a huge fan of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I watched My Friend Flicka and shows like Wagon Train and Rawhide. We had lived in Arizona and been to real honest-to-goodness rodeos. And I had my dad. My dad had a pony growing up. He offered his wise instruction on learning to ride. “If the horse throws you, you just have to get back on.”

There was more to riding a horse. I knew that. I knew you had to mount the horse from its left side. I knew you needed to brush and curry and feed your horse regularly. I knew quite a bit. The only problem I could foresee was that I had never actually ridden a horse before.

The coin-operated ponies in front of the grocery store didn’t count.

Even that didn’t seem like an insurmountable problem to me since I also knew Flicka had never been ridden before, either. I assumed she was as excited to have a rider as I was to ride.

There was one other teensy problem. I didn’t have a saddle or bridle. My dad was getting the tack I needed as soon as he could. In the meantime, I was to feed and care for my new friend.

I knew from watching TV there were two philosophies concerning how to train horses. One was called “gentling.” Gain the horse’s trust and love before trying to ride it. The other was to “break” the horse by getting on and proving the rider was in charge. I figure my dad probably bought into the idea of “gentling” Flicka.

But Dad was a grown-up. He could hardly be expected to understand a little girl’s strong desire to ride her first pony. I could handle it. I was, after all, seven-years-old.

I didn’t have a saddle or blanket, but I did have a burlap feed sack. I didn’t have a bridle, but I had a halter and lead for Flicka. I was all set. I led my beautiful pony over to the fence. I climbed the fence and gently, slowly, lowered myself onto Flicka’s back. Whoosh! I was off her backside. Not so gently and not so slowly.

If the horse throws you, you just have to get back on. My dad’s words rang in my ears. So once again I spread the burlap sack on Flicka’s back, whispered kind words in her ear, led her to the fence and made my climb.

A few minutes later as I gathered the burlap sack and myself up off the soft earth, I tried to do a little problem solving. There had to be an identifiable problem to be fixed. It couldn’t be Flicka. Or me. There must be something else amiss. The burlap. Of course! What was I thinking? My poor, sweet pony didn’t like the scratchy burlap on her back. I wouldn’t either. I tossed the burlap aside and led my precious pony back to the fence. “I’m sorry I put that scratchy sack on you, Flicka,” I cooed. I petted her head and she gave me the I-forgive-you look.

Well, it wasn’t the burlap. It only took a few minutes to learn that one. I decided that though she may have forgiven, she hadn’t forgotten. I took a deep breath.

One more time. Okay, one more. And another. And another….and yes, another.

I don’t know how many times I was thrown that day. It doesn’t matter. The important, memorable event was that on that very day, with no more than a halter to guide her, I rode my new friend, Flicka. I rode her bareback around the pasture. Within the week, my dad had purchased my saddle and bridle and the perfect blanket for my pony.

For the next three years, Flicka was my best friend. We spent long summer days riding along the creek, picking apples in the orchard, herding any animal coming into our path. We trotted, cantered, and galloped our way all over that farm. We went fishing and exploring. Though we never left our Ohio farm, we traveled the old west, discovering gold and shooting cap gun pistols at outlaws.

So what does this have to do with writing? Everything. If you read last week’s interview with Sandra Merville+ Hart, you’ll see she approaches writing and publishing in that “gentling” fashion. Starting with smaller writing opportunities and building up. [If you didn’t read her interview, you can do so by clicking HERE.]

I’m not a bronco rider, either, but I may still be a bit like that seven-year-old girl. Determined to never give up. Convinced there are readers as excited about reading as I am excited about writing.

The best part? Whether you are a “gentler” or a “breaker,” the final experience of publishing is worth the effort.  So which best describes you?