Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Journaling My Way through Writing....And Life by Laura Wood

I’ve kept a journal since I learned how to write. I find I can’t really understand my thoughts well until I’ve put them into words. I need a place where I can write all of my words out until my hand is cramped or my laptop battery gives up or my heart feels settled.

I have years’ worth of journals full of my thoughts and experiences in a box in my closet. The oldest one is a tiny green book with a broken, tarnished lock and a blurry picture of a tree in a meadow on the cover. I got it for Christmas in first grade. Looking back, I chuckle at the entries. “We had sloppy joes at school today. I like sloppy joes.”

I gave my daughter the pink one I wrote in when I was twelve-years-old. I thought she’d like to read what her mama wrote at her age. Mistake. It turns out I wrote some really cheesy stuff about the boy I liked. She and her siblings got some laughs out of that one.

Once when my husband and I were engaged, I took out a journal entry I’d written during a time we’d broken up. I was sad and pitiful. Apparently, I still ran into him from time to time after breaking up because I wrote, “When will Andrew Wood ever be out of my life?!” I read it to him. I judged from his reaction to my subsequent comment, “I guess never!” that he wasn’t as amused as I was.

There can be danger in writing everything down on paper. There’s a chance people will find it and read my private thoughts. Once in a great while, we get one of our friends to stay at our house and watch the pets while we travel. About halfway through every trip, there’s a moment where I wonder, “Is he up in my closet right now, dragging down that box and reading all of my innermost thoughts?” So far, I guess I’m safe.

All joking aside, I do live with the hope that someday some descendant of mine will want to know what life was like before the internet or before flying cars or whatever there is to come and will take the time to learn cursive and decipher my writing. I myself would love to have my great grandma’s journal. Unfortunately, she didn’t read or write, so I’m left with only her name. Maybe someday my great grandchildren will have a decent idea of who I was because of my words.

I think I’m a better writer because of all of the hours I have spent journaling over the years. I’m in the practice of putting my thoughts on paper. I have a decent feel for my voice as a writer. My husband is surprised that I can write as quickly as I do, but I think it’s just from all the practice over the years. It feels natural to pick up a pen and collect my thoughts. Also, writing in a journal helps me turn off the critical part of my brain that tells me what I’m writing is no good. I know it’s not for publishing, so I can write as I want without really worrying about what anyone else will say about it.

At times, I think maybe I should censor what I write, though, and leave out the parts where I’m less than stellar. Maybe I should leave a better impression for posterity. Then I catch myself. What’s the use of writing it down if I’m not going to be honest? I don’t have to tell every single thing, but I know I’m not a perfect mom and have certainly messed up my poor children in ways that will affect the family line. What if a descendant struggles with the same issues I do, and what if I have insight she doesn’t have that I can pass on through my words? Or what if just knowing someone else struggled with those things helps her connect the dots and understand herself.

In reality, the biggest reason I write in a journal is that I need someone to talk to. I need someone quiet and intuitive enough to sort through my thoughts and figure out what I should do next, and when I journal I discover that person is really me. I write and write and by doing so I systematically think through what’s been swirling around in my head all day or all week. Suddenly, somehow, I see a solution. If nothing else, I may at least come to some peace about it.

So here’s to journaling, to leaving a legacy, to putting myself out there, to figuring out what I need by writing out my thoughts. And now that I’ve done that, maybe I’ll go make some sloppy joes! I bet that would have made those lunch ladies happy.

Laura McKillip Wood raises kids, cares for a husband and a house, and writes. In her free time, she works in the academic office at Nebraska Christian College, a job that provides the calm amidst the storm of parenting three teens and preteens. She writes a monthly column for The Lookout magazine ( and blogs at

So do you journal? What have you learned about yourself or your writing through journaling?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Overcoming Obstacles by Nancy Hallo

For this week's blog, I've asked Nancy Hallo to share her journey in pursuing writing as more than a dream or hobby. I know you will find it encouraging as we celebrate new writers on the scene during this season of Thanksgiving. Be sure to leave Nancy a comment. I know she will reply.

Overcoming Obstacles
“Life is not easy for any of us.  But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” Marie Curie

Retirement: the definitions of which are as numerous as the lucky individuals who attain this well-earned status in their lifetime.  Goals of retiring are vary though often include travel and spending more time with family and friends.
Nancy's Paradise
My husband’s dream for retirement was to reside in a waterfront community, embracing the expected perks of fishing, boating and cooling gulf breezes; a dream that we have been blessed to realize, though a few years before I was eligible to collect my earned monetary benefits.  As I somewhat patiently counted down the years, then months, then days until I could apply for and receive a monthly check from Social Security, my dream continued to be the pursuit of my writing.  
When I began suffering gradual neck spasms and the sensation of heaviness and extreme range of motion deficit nearly five years ago, I sought medical attention.  Multiple specialists were consulted, numerous tests performed, and several therapeutic and pharmaceutical remedies recommended, prescribed and employed; with no definitive diagnosis or etiology nor relief of my symptoms.
Upon visiting with a neuroscience specialist in June 2015, her physician assistant recognized my ongoing syndrome as that of torticollis. 
Cervical dystonia, also called spasmodic torticollis, is a painful condition in which your neck muscles contract involuntarily, causing your head to twist or turn to one side. Cervical dystonia can also cause your head to uncontrollably tilt forward or backward.
A rare disorder that can occur at any age, cervical dystonia most often occurs in middle-aged people, women more than men. Symptoms generally begin gradually and then reach a point where they don't get substantially worse.
There is no cure for cervical dystonia.  There also is no known exact cause, though I remain quite certain that my years of employment as a transcriptionist absolutely aggravated my condition.  That my chronic and worsening muscle pain, pulling and deteriorating range of movement negatively affected my quality of life became more evident.  The stress of maintaining the position working at my desktop computer exacerbated my neck pain.  As I looked toward my eventual retirement, my hope was that separating myself from the posture required during my workday would provide benefit.
In the spring of this year, retirement benefits commenced.  Unfortunately, my dystonia symptoms progressed, even after therapies to include quarterly botulinum toxin injections, muscle relaxants, pain medications, cervical injections, acupuncture, strengthening exercises, as well as physical therapy. 
Nancy Cox Hallo
With the freedom, time and desire now at hand to pursue my lifelong dream of being a writer, I found myself less than motivated as I allowed my disorder to define me.   The discomfort of constant neck spasms, coupled with the inability to bear the weight of nor hold my head up distracted efforts at achieving my lifelong goal.  Mild depression led to reconciling that perhaps dystonia would destroy my dream. 
With much encouragement, direction and support from my dear friend of 50 years, the author of A Novel Creation, I was eager and thrilled to pen a personal blog describing my newly achieved retired status and its significance in regards to my writing goals. 
Now employed as a regular contributor for an on-line home health care aide publication, I continue to hone my research and writing skills.  I’ve become aware that celebrating the accomplishment of my writing far outweighs the pain and discomfort I have realized for so long. 
Remaining determined to achieve my goal of succeeding as a published writer, and with the persistence of an idea and initial research underway for a young adults’ nonfiction story, I know the most optimal treatment for my diagnosed disorder is to accept and persevere. I’m  learning to utilize my gifts to strengthen and motivate me.  Perhaps it is this current mindset that is allowing for a mild improvement with my second try at a course of physical therapy.
My prayers, of course, continue to be for a cure in the very near future.  But, I have waited a lifetime to achieve success in the pursuit of my passion.  Refusing to allow this physical obstacle to be a disincentive is my new mantra!
I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!
~Dr. Seuss


Nancy Hallo, a wife and a daughter, a mother and a grandmother recently added the labels “retiree” and “writer” to her resume.  After 20 plus years employed as a medical and legal transcriptionist and editor, she begins her writing career maintaining a blog highlighting her “salt life” retirement ( as well as continuing as a regular contributor for an on-line home health aide publication.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Art in Writing by Robin Mason

I am so happy to continue the Thanksgiving season celebrating new up and coming writers. This week I am featuring Author and Artist, Robin Mason. Enjoy! 


God just has the (ahem) funniest sense of humor.  Back in 2008, He asked me if I remember when I was a girl and I wanted to be an Interior Designer. I said, “Yes, I remember that.” To which He replied, “Then to do it.” A month later, He gave me the beginning of what would become my debut novel, Tessa. I had made piddly progress, and dragged my feet on starting the design program.

Fast forward. I started classes in February of 2009, thinking I could juggle school and writing. What I didn’t know was that Rheumatoid Arthritis was lurking, and I was diagnosed the following year.

All this to say, that, unbeknownst to me, my main characters are all artists. And here I was, an ART major! I became so enamored with art history that I had thought to add it as my minor!

And all this to say, that those same classes fed my incubating manuscript. And when the time came to describe each of my gals’ art, I knew my stuff!

“Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists. Their independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s, in spite of harsh opposition from the conventional art community in France. The name of the style derives from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satirical review published in the Parisian newspaper Le Charivari.
Impressionist painting characteristics include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.” [taken from Wikipedia]

Claude Monet is easily the most recognizable name associated with Impressionism, but my favorite (if forced to choose just one) would be Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

In Tessa, there were two other characters whose style was significant, Fauvism, Cubism, Dadoism, Surrealism, and Photo Realism.  Fauvism, Cubism, and Dadoism came on the heels of Impressionism, and for as much as Impressionism broke the previous set of rules in the Paris Art Academie, these went much further. Artists like Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Paul Gaugin.
“Fauvism is the style of les Fauves, French for “the wild beasts…”
“Dada, or Dadaism (pronounced just like it looks) was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century…  To quote Dona Budd’s The Language of Art Knowledge, “Dada was born out of negative reaction to the horrors of World War I.”

“Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920’s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings.  The aim was to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality.”  Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself and/or an idea/concept.

My passion for art goes beyond what I used in my stories. I am fascinated with ancient Egyptian discoveries, and Greek and Roman, African and Japanese.

I found, too, that art is an aid to learning history. As I learned of the history of art, so, too, I learned the history of the people who created it. The Sumerians, Egyptians, Assyria, Babylonia…  I could go on—but then this would be the longest blog post… in history! 

* Source: Definition and description of all art forms and genres is taken from Wikipedia.

“I once said I should write down all the story ideas in my head so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me!”

Ms. Mason has been writing since 1995, and began working in earnest on her debut novel, Tessa in 2013.  Meanwhile, she cranked out a few dozen poems, made countless notes for story ideas, and earned her BFA in Interior Design.  Ms. Mason lived with depression for many years, and the inherent feelings of worthlessness and invisibility; “I didn’t want to be who I was and struggled with my own identity for many years.” Her characters face many of these same demons.

Ms. Mason writes stories of identity conflict. Her characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I, really?” For all who have ever wondered who you are or why you’re here, her stories will touch you in a very real—maybe too real—and a very deep way. “I know, I write from experience.”

Ms. Mason has three novels published, the Unsavory Heritage series. Tessa, Clara Bess and Cissy are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. She also has several poems included in the  anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She is working on a personal compilation of poetry to be released in 2017, and will release, Long Shadows of Summer, the first book in her new series, Seasons, also in 2017.

You can learn more about Ms. Mason and her books

Art in Writing, Art History, Impressionism, Fauvism, Dadoism, Cubism, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Paul Gaugin, Sumerian Art