Sociable

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ledbetter Lunacy (Formerly Known as Family Life & Stuff)

Good morning (or afternoon, or night), my dear blog friends! I thought I'd change the Friday format up some, so instead of sharing family news and doings, henceforth (or until I get tired of it, or am called away by Hollywood), we will now have~~~~~shrill flute music & cymbal sounds here~~~~~


LEDBETTER LUNACY!


Without further ado, and for your reading enjoyment, awayyyy we go!













Be sure to check out Holly's FABULOUS "drawerings" here: http://www.junecleavernirvana.com/2008/10/tale-of-two-pumpkin-patches.html

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Grinch


Don't get me wrong, I love a good costume as much as (or probably more than) the next person, but there are just some things about Halloween that bug me. Maybe it's my age, and I remember the truly innocent fun the holiday used to represent. But then came the stories of evil demented people who put razorblades in candy and such, making a night for kids' fun morph into something more befitting a Stephen King movie.

Since All Hallow's Eve is tomorrow, here's a list of my personal pet peeves about the modern day "celebration." Please feel free to add to the list!

Top 10 Things that Bother Me About Halloween:

10. I freely admit it; I'm not a fan of the color orange. It belongs on a football field and certain citrus fruits, and not too many other places.

9. Terrible costumes on pets. Nuff said.


8. The commercialism of another holiday; Halloween costumes and decorations crowding store aisles the day after July 4th. (This includes those gigantic blow-up front yard displays.)

7. All that candy and paper strewn around the house and on the streets for weeks to come.

6. Rude teens and others too big to trick-or-treat who do it anyway.

5. Destruction and mayhem by idiots who get too carried away and then blame it on Halloween celebrating.

4. Parents who drag their kids around in cars all over town to get more and more treats.

3. Holiday greedy goblins. {Notice this is the stockpile of a baby!}






2. Parents who let their small kids wander the streets alone.


1. Costumes that shouldn't exist.

Ah, I feel so much better now. Not to be all negative and grinchy, I really like this photo, since the baby didn't actually have to wear the items~~

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday Writings - Creating Vignettes


The word vignette is defined as: (n.) Any small, pleasing picture or view; a small, graceful literary sketch. (v.) Finishing a picture or photograph in the manner of a vignette.

Whether crafting a setting for a short story or novel, a scene in a play, or framework for poetry, writers who think in terms of vignettes create sharper, more concise and memorable work.

Think of your keyboard or pen as a photographer’s camera. If you take the time to look carefully through the viewfinder and adjust your focus to exactly what you want to capture before clicking, you’ll be happier with your finished product. Conversely, if you grab and snap in a rush, you’ll produce blurred, amateurish work. All art takes time and practice to perfect, but with persistence, writing skills can be honed. To that end, following are a few “picturesque” tips on setting up good vignettes:
  • Invest in good equipment: If you think you can produce high quality work with a throw-away camera, think again. The quickie writer submits the first thing off the top of his head without taking the time to edit with a critical eye. The professional (one who invests in classes, workshops, critique group membership, and other learning opportunities) knows by taking his time to learn the rules and techniques, his work will shine.
  • Get down on your subject’s level: Think and write from your characters’ perspective. See what they see, hear what they hear, etc. When this is done, the writing will come off as realistic vs. fabricated. The words will have the ring of authenticity instead of smacking of the writer’s own voice and style.
  • Move in close: The best photographs are those which get as close to the subject as possible. Leave off extraneous descriptions and unneeded words. Get crisp and sharp and you’ll find more success with submissions, contests, and queries.
  • Try different poses, angles, points of interest and composition components: Your vignette staging is important, so spend time thinking of the overall word picture you are composing. Would a change in Point of View work better? Have you given your characters enough depth through character sketching? What might be added or subtracted to create a clearer portrayal?
  • Frame your subject through the lens: Think of all aspects of your vignette and consider how it will be translated to your readers. Give your story plot or poetry balance on all sides. Is every single thing you are considering including in your vignette necessary? Do you have enough variation and texture to make your work eye-catching? Beware of having trees sprout from subjects’ heads (fantastical plot lines). Savvy readers know when you’re overreaching. Make sure your thumb is out of the way also; remove all traces of yourself from your writing so the plot and characters can be heard.
  • Research your subject: Always check your facts. A few moments of Internet research on products, eras, weather or other data germane to your plot can mean the difference between a rejection and an acceptance to your query. It also adds interesting and fresh details to your work.

Now you’re locked, loaded, and ready to create better word photos. Your vignettes will be in sharper focus, as will your level of tone, mood, and quality. Leaving readers with an unforgettable mental snapshot (of characters, plot, or evocative use of words in a poem) is a hallmark of good writing.

What's your favorite "photographic" technique, and how can you apply it to writing?

{Photo from Art.com}

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gumbo's Recipe - French Onion Soup


Since I've been away on vacation and have had all my meals cooked for me the last several days (*thanks, Roger!*), I don't have fresh photos to share for this recipe, but I can guarantee it's deliciousness.

We've just turned on our heater this morning for the first time of the year, so something good and warming will be on my menu tonight. What's your favorite cold weather recipe that says, "Ah, winter's coming, and this will taste soooo good."?

French Onion Soup


3 T butter or Smart Balance (A great healthy butter substitute!)
6 large yellow onions cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp minced garlic
2 cups water, plus 1/2 cup for deglazing
1/2 cup cooking sherry
4 cups chicken broth (or stock if you have it)
2 cups beef broth
Cheese Croutons
1 small baguette of french bread, cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 ounces shredded Swiss cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)

Adjust oven rack to low-middle position and heat oven to 400. Spray inside of a heavy large (7- or 8-quart) heavy pot or Dutch oven generously with nonstick spray or use more butter to coat. Place the butter in pot and add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. (*Note, if you have leftover grilled onions from, say like a concession stand cook-out or home BBQ, these work great and reduce cooking time to almost nothing!) Cook covered for for 1 hour. Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides. Return pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and continue cooking cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours longer, stirring & scraping after an hour.

Remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until liquid evaporates and the onions brown, about 15 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 7 minutes. Pot will begin to form a dark crust.

Stir in 1/4 cup water, loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, about 7 more minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are dark brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the broths, 2 cups of water, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. (Remember that crock pot roast and gravy you made a few days ago? If you still have it, you can substitute it for the beef broth and also chip up the meat and add it to your soup. Talk about good!)

Increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and season with salt and pepper.

Topping Croutons - While the soup simmers, arrange the bread slices in single layer on cookie sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven until crisp and golden at the edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Just before serving:
Adjust oven close to broiler and heat. Set oven-safe crocks on cookie sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 2 bread slices without overlapping, and add a layer of Swiss cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, about 4 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Yummers! And delicious heated up over and over again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Grins

It's Monday once again, and that means we cover Tout Le Monde topics, or as we say here in Cajun Land, "every-ting else in da world." Today's feature is one of those crazy Internet contests that circulates faster than a virus.

Men friends (and you know you'd never ever qualify to be nominated for the dubious contest below), please forgive me, but these are just too good to keep to myself. [Drum roll, please!]...


It's time for the Annual Gentlemen of the Year Awards! For 2008, the nominees are:

A. Camper Man:

B. Gently Down the Stream:

C. Heavy Load:

D. Sticks & Stones:

E. Need a Lift?:
F. Equality:

I know it's tough, but who gets your vote?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

October 26, 2008 Weekly Forecast


There's no forecasting or guessing on my part today about what my week ahead is going to be. For right now, I'm in vacationing in a geographic area -- The Smoky Mountains -- where there are actual seasons to focus on instead of the daily weather. It's Autumn and I can see, smell, touch, hear and feel. Ooh, and I hope taste too!

I can't believe it's Sunday already. My time here with Kathryn has flown by on hawk's wings, and I'm sad it's my last full day. I keep thinking, do I really have to go home tomorrow? But I know I do, and it will be good to get back to family and routine...but I'm ahead-of-time wistful to be leaving this magical place of a real friend, real seasons, real conversations, all carved out of a surreal schedule.

To combat the approaching gray clouds of already missing her/here, I'll just have to plan another trip, or one for her to come to Baton Rouge ASAP. In the meantime, I'm forecasting good getaways for my friends too. There's nothing nothing nothing no.thing like getting away from your "real" life and taking time to breath, relax, gain perspective, be.

Have you planned/scheduled your great escape? If so, tell me about it, or your most recent one. Happy trails!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Spotlight On...Joanne's Whole Latte Life




In the bright spotlight of recognition this week is Joanne's really great blog full of calm and cool advice and ponderings on living the good life. Many of you who visit here also visit her place, so you can vouch for its coolness.

The blog mistress' state of the union address about her site reads, "As a writer, my current work of fiction focuses on knowing who we really are and staying true. While writing it, I began to notice how other, real people live their choice lives, and the goodness that follows. Here, I'll share thoughts on finding our own perfect blend of life."

Nice words from a nice lady. So when ya swing by her place for a good cuppa and a read, please give her a wave from me. http://joannedemaio.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 24, 2008

What Up in Da House?



It's Friday, and the day I usually talk about family life and stuff, but since I'm still on VACATION (yes!), I thought I'd address a common fear most of us parenting people have. Unless I'm just nuts and nobody else feels this way. In that case, I'm talking about my own personal craziness.

The photo above captures what I imagine can happen while Mom's away. The mice -- all let loose and without rules and strict supervision -- can and do play. Not to insult Dad (King Rufus), but it's just a mother thing to worry about her nest and baby birds...okay, they're big hulking buzzard-birds, but mine nonetheless...when she's flown from the nest for a while.

In reality, the worst that will probably happen is the boys (Fresh Prince and Court Jester) will have to go to school in dirty uniforms because I am the only person in a household of five who knows how to operate the terribly complicated mechanics of a washing machine. Don't even get me started on the big bad dryer. Other than that, they'll probably eat out every night, so there are no worries about them being nutritionally deprived, and things will rock right along.

On second thought...maybe I should be more worried that they won't even notice I'm gone!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Where in the World is Gumbo Writer?

If you're reading ye ol' blog today, thanks, and even though I'm not home in front of my trusty computer {named Forest, BTW, because I used to have to beg him to run so much}, I've left you with a photo of what I think I'll be seeing today.

I'm finally getting to visit my friend Kathryn up at her mountain paradise! You'll recognize her from faithful comments here and from her always interesting blog posts http://kathrynmagendie.spaces.live.com/blog/ , at our Year of Gratitude blog http://barbaraquinnyearofgratitude.blogspot.com/ , and for The Rose & Thorn's blog http://roseandthornreviews.blogspot.com/ . Yeah, that's a whole lotta bloggin' goin' on, but all great reads.

And lest you think I'm dropping in on a bloggy cyber friend out of the blue, have no fear. Kat and I have been friends in real life for several years now. She used to live here in the Big B.R., but moved to find paradise on her mountain. *sniff*

Anyhoo, I'll have full reportage and pics when I return. Until then, what's your dream vacation? Price and obstacles do not exist.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday Writings - Finding Good News Among Bad





There have been quite a few blogs lately featuring posts on all the bad publishing news being bandied about. It's also a frequent topic of conversation in writing circles, with magazines and literary journals and e-zines readily agreeing that all is not well.

Is the over all news for writers really that dire? Will the world soon cease to read books or hard copies of things at all? Are we just downright stoopid to pursue this crazy writing life in which the be-all-end-all is the almighty dollar and our ability to bring more of it to whatever publishing venue decides to take a chance on us? Is it impossible to pluck the remaining few golden needles from the publishing haystack in order to be one of the rare lucky winners?

If you listen to the "experts," then you might answer yes to all of the above. But if you're an eternal optimist, or you just like going against the grain, then it's time to push past all the doom-n-gloom and find a way to make yourself and your written jewels shine forth from the darkness.

I like swimming against the tide, laughing at Chicken Littles, and cheering for the underdog, so here's some good news:

  • There are many best selling authors who had to go through the agony of The Rejection Years before finally making it. Stephen King, Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell and John Grisham are a few who refused to accept defeat and rejection as their lot in life. For a further listing, check out this article at HowStuffWorks.com. It begins, "Novelists spend years developing their craft, editing and reediting their work, agonizing over the smallest word, often to be rejected by publisher after publisher. The following famous books and authors were turned down by publishers at least 15 times before they became household names.­" http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/14-best-selling-books-repeatedly-rejected-by-publishers.htm
  • From my real life files ~~ A dear friend has a nonfiction manuscript she's worked on for years in her spare time between working a 40+ work week, volunteering for good causes and rearing children. She did a little bit of agent research, prayed hard, and took a chance on sending her first letter to a major agent/publisher. She received an email the very next day from said guru asking to see her ms and giving her instructions on how to submit to him. How awesome is that? Couldn't happen to a nicer woman either, and a cancer survivor to boot!
  • Thinking outside the box (and far from the boo-hoo bandwagon) can bring success. Check out this article on Starbucks getting into the publishing game. {Sidebar: We had an awesome book signing at a few cafes owned by a local coffee company a few years ago, so I'm wondering if they'd be interested in doing something similar to the national coffee giant?} http://tiny.cc/ywAqY
  • Sometimes you just have to laugh and realize, "This too shall pass." And on that note, here is a comic strip I've been enjoying lately. The author/illustrator granted permission to reprint here. Check out Debbie Ridpath Ohi's site whenever you feel the weight of the publishing world's funky news getting you down: http://www.willwriteforchocolate.com/
Now, git bizzy, and scratch up a little good news for yourself! Write on, and don't forget to share your successes with the rest of us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Twofer Tuesday Recipes


Well, actually, it's Threefer Tuesday, but that didn't sound right, or as good as it could've if it was Thursday. So today's cooking included the following menu selections: Crock Pot Roast & Gravy, Cornbread Skillet Meal, and Baked Sweet Potatoes. Throw together a salad and slice some fresh fruit, and my family's good to go for the next few days.

Here they are, with Before and After photos:

Crock Pot Roast & Gravy




















2-pound beef shoulder roast
1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic soup
1/3 soup can of water (swirl water around to get all the soup out!)
1 white onion, sliced into 8 or 10 hunks
Minced or powdered garlic
Salt & pepper to taste

Turn crock pot on high. Put your roast in and add in the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook for about an hour. Turn meat over and stir juices so nothing sticks to the bottom. Cook for another hour on high. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 2 hours, or as long as you have until meal time. Cook preferred brand of brown or white rice. Slice meat in gravy and serve both over rice. Talk about mmm-mmm-good. Leftovers make for great sandwiches, poboys and/or pot pies too.


Baked Sweet Potatoes






















Pour a little canola oil into your hand and rub into cleaned sweet potatoes. Wrap in foil. Place wrapped potatoes on a cookie sheet in case of drippage. Cook in a 300 degree oven for about 3 hours. Remove foil, slice open, and add butter. For a delicious 'tator treat, add cinnamon and sugar (or sugar substitute). Sweeeeeeet!

Cornbread Skillet Meal















2 boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
6 oz. grated cheese
1 pound lean ground meat
1 can cream corn
1-8 oz. container of lite sour cream

Brown meat in a large iron skillet. Remove any grease and transfer cooked meat into a bowl. To the bowl, add cornbread mix, eggs, milk, cheese, sour cream and cream corn. Mix well until smooth. Pour mixture back into iron skillet and cook in oven at 400 for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot as a side or main dish. This is slap-ya-momma good!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mason Jar Reminder

A good email forward from a friend -- *waving to Laura S*:

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the Mason Jar and the two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty Mason jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He asked the class if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "Yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured them into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. "Now," he said, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full."

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else---the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One student raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled and said, "I'm glad you asked

The coffee just shows you no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

October 19, 2008 Weekly Forecast

It's been a good week, with everyone in the family doing well, or at least holding their own. On the good news side of things, one of my sons has (he thinks) straight A's on his forthcoming report card, and the other just completed his Eagle Scout project yesterday! He also was awarded Student of the Month honors at their high school. Daughter is doing great at LSU and took the weekend to study for tests and proof an English paper. *Proud Mom here!*

I'm forecasting an even better week ahead with a big treat in the works for myself. (More about that later.) My writing group will convene at my house Wednesday night, and that's always something to look forward to. I need to do some catch-up house cleaning, but nothing horrific.

And you? What's the best and worst you see in your week ahead? May your "baddies" be small and your "goodies" large. And if not-so-good news comes your way, may you slide through it quickly!




Saturday, October 18, 2008

Spotlight On...Things that Make Ya Smile

I love to laugh, and when things aren't going marvelously well, there's nothing better than a comic strip, a funny picture, a funnybone-tickling blog post, or someone who knows how to make you laugh until your face hurts. *Waving to Kat for her "Monkey Dance!"*


So, today Gumbo Writer is shining the big kleig light on a few funnies for you to enjoy. Let me know your favorite!

We'll call Exhibit A "Me and Math":


















I've labled B, "Dad Watches the Kids so Mom Can Take a Bath":

















C is from a favorite blog, June Cleaver Nirvana: http://www.junecleavernirvana.com/2008/10/why-hollys-children-cover-their-head.html I dare you not to laugh when you read her illustrated story. Here's a taste--->









And, finally, D -- "Good Morning, Sunshine!":





Friday, October 17, 2008

Taking the Fever Out of the Pitch


I usually make Family Life & Stuff posts on Thursdays, but thought I'd change it up a bit today. For you writers out there in Blog Land, here is an article I posted at The Rose & Thorn Literary e-zine's blog Roses & Thorns not too long ago. We've got all sorts of nifty tips from prose and poetry editors if you're looking for something new and relevant to browse: http://roseandthornreviews.blogspot.com/

Taking the Fever Out of the Pitch

After attending the Pen-to-Press Writer's Retreat in New Orleans recently, a few things came to mind to share with others who’d rather have an unmedicated root canal than pitch their novel to an agent or editor.
Speaking with a literary agent at a conference, party or anywhere can be a nerve-wracking thing. It doesn’t have to be that way if you prepare yourself and believe in your “product.”
  • Polish and polish some more: Before you approach someone to take on your "baby," make sure she's in her Sunday best. This includes having your little darling free of typos and errors. It should be edited to within an inch of its word count, and had several non-family/friend readers give it a critique. If you don't have a topnotch writers or critique group, get one. Your manuscript will be better for each set of eyes that look it over.
  • KISSS: Keep It Short and Sweet, Stoopid: The last thing you want when describing your work to someone is to see their eyes glaze over before you've even gotten to meat of your presentation. Know and practice your concise description and be able to explain your novel's plot in thirty seconds or less. What popular books, movies or characters help show its flavor? Familiarity breeds relaxation, and as trite as it sounds, practice really does make perfect. Know what you're going to say before you approach an agent/editor so you don't ramble and lose your train of thought and your audience's interest.
  • It's okay to "cheat" sometimes: I studied my notes and rehearsed my pitch until I felt comfortable, but for extra insurance against a bad case of nerves or freak bout of laryngitis, I had a few note cards tucked away in a pocket in case I went blank. Unlike political speeches, it's perfectly okay to memorize talking points. However, it's never okay to say you have a 100,000-word polished manuscript when you really only have four sketchy chapters or an outline.
  • Look for opportunities, but don't stalk: There are basically three categories of conference attendees you always see -- Chihuahuas (shy and skittish, they miss opportunities to pitch their work and mingle with other writers, wishing they were home instead); Boston Terriers (adventurous writers who zero in on ways to hobnob with others in a friendly way); and Doberman Pinschers (all-out territory encroachers who attach themselves to the legs of speakers/agents/editors at every moment including meals and bathroom breaks. "Down, boy," is not in their vocabulary, so they obnoxiously hound others).
  • Relax yourself: Agents and others in the publishing industry are people too. The majority won't bite or come across as ogres, unless maybe you're a "Doberman." When pitching your work or speaking with them, try to remember they are as interested in finding the next great writer as you are in being one. Speak in a relaxed, self-assured manner that shows your confidence as if you are talking to a friend or good old college professor. They know writers/authors who pitch to them are doing so in anxiety-producing circumstances and won't fault them for it.
  • Two simple words: Like Mom always said, don't forget to say "thank you." Many agents, publishers and editors spend a great deal of time traveling to conferences and events. It can't be easy (or always profitable) leaving home and family to live out of a suitcase. Let them know you appreciate their time, even if your pitch fell short or they aren't looking for work in your genre. A post-conference thank-you note is a nice idea too. On this point, I'd like to personally thank the literary agents I spoke with at Pen-to-Press: Laura Blake Peterson with Curtis Brown, you made my virgin pitch easy and comfortable; Melissa Flashman (Trident Media Group), thank you for the enjoyable conversation; Paige Wheeler (Folio Literary Management), I appreciate you listening and asking good questions; and Jaimee Garbacik (The Literary Group), thanks for the opportunity and quick reply. Cherry Adair and Natalie Collins, you were great Instructors and will always be my "peeps."

Most of these tips apply to querying an agent or industry professional as well as making a face-to-face pitch. Remember, agents, whether seasoned or new to the game, make their living signing on good authors. Everyone wants to be a winner, but if you strike out with your pitch, don't give up. Research, re-write and edit if suggested, and make a new game plan for the next opportunity.

~~~
Would love to hear your additions to the topic, personal experiences and comments...especially from you lurkers! Yeah...YOU! :) Until tomorrow, write on!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Throwin' Out the Bait

Whatcha wanna talk about today? Hmmm. How about your favorite poem, or at least a few lines? Remember when you had to memorize those ghastly long ones in school? But now that you're a mature adult...well, older, anyway, what poet or poem really moves you?

I have a lot of favorites. Some are local and well known; others are international superstar poets. When I think about all my personal favs, I think the common denominator is they are accessible, I don't need a pick and chisel to figure out what the hairy heck they're talking about (although they do have hidden meaning and images and layers through which I can wander at my leisure). They also usually speak to universal human emotions and experiences.

Here's the poem Flounder by one of my top ladies of poetry, Natasha Trethewey:

Here, she said, put this on your head.
She handed me a hat.
you 'bout as white as your dad,
and you gone stay like that.
Aunt Sugar rolled her nylons down
around each bony ankle,
and I rolled down my white knee socks
letting my thin legs dangle,
circling them just above water
and silver backs of minnows
flitting here then there between
the sun spots and the shadows.
This is how you hold the pole
to cast the line out straight.
Now put that worm on your hook,
throw it out and wait.
She sat spitting tobacco juice
into a coffee cup.
Hunkered down when she felt the bite,
jerked the pole straight up
reeling and tugging hard at the fish
that wriggled and tried to fight back.
A flounder, she said, and you can tell
'cause one of its sides is black.
The other is white, she said.
It landed with a thump.
I stood there watching that fish flip-flop,
switch sides with every jump.


Isn't that beautiful? I'm sitting on the pier fishing with the people of this poem, absorbing the beautiful scenery and lessons imparted. The meaning is so subtle and powerful, beginning with the title. I was lucky enough to hear Ms. Trethewey speak before she won her Pulitzer, and get signed copies of her books. More here--->

Okay, share your poetry favs, or one of your own! What is it you love about poems, or don't you? If you haven't checked out some of the great contemporary poets' work available now, you really should treat yourself. Many writers believe reading and writing poetry helps them with their prose too. What's not to love?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Louisiana Book Festival 08 Notes


Happy Wednesday! If you're a writer, poet or happy dabbler, how's your work coming along? Hope you're not having one of those midweek slumps when nothing seems to go right, but if that's the case, take a break from your writing, change the scenery (or add some music), or bring out a different project and see if your fingers don't start dancing on the keyboard. My new semester with poet/professor Ava Haymon began tonight. Whoopee!

I had the pleasure recently of attending the LA Book Festival once again. The weather was perfect and the speakers were fired up. Below are a few notes I took during various sessions you might find interesting:

  • Author of many books including The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte, Laura Joh Rowland's topic was "True Lies: Writing Fiction about Real Characters." She said good fiction is a mixture of fact and pure balderdash, and advised writers to do lots of research on the time period, people, customs, fashions and people their books revolve around, so that they will know their characters inside and out. Everyone gets rejections. Even after having agent Pam Ahern for 7 years and publishing 10 books, Rowland still got 30+ rejections on the Bronte book.
  • State Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque advised those who write poetry to "Keep it real, keep it simple, keep it close." {I love that!} The people close to you, neighbors, parents, family and your upbringing make excellent subjects and muses.
  • A panel of mystery/suspense authors had a lively discussion about what distinguishes their genre and niches within Mystery. The speakers were C. S. Graham, C. S. Harris, Deborah LeBlanc, Erica Spindler and Barbara Colley:

I don't know about you, but when I get to spend a leisurely day in the company of poets and authors, I feel like this:

Can you remember something you heard at a conference, in a class, etc. that really stuck with you? If so, please share the wealth!

And if you're looking for something really good to read, please check out The Rose & Thorn Literary e-zine's Fall 08 issue, fresh off the press today, as well as the newsletter which you can find linked to the new cover here ---> http://www.theroseandthornezine.com/

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