Autumn is My Muse

fall tree_Auburn

Fall colors arriving in Auburn, CA

It’s About That Time…

Indian summer has finally arrived in northern California – it was a long, extraordinarily HOT wait for the crispy air, crunch of leaves underfoot; colors at the beginning of their descent into eventual death and decay. On our morning break, I walked to a stand of trees in a green space nearby (see pic). I listened to the wind and the leaves as they whispered secrets and stories unknown to humans. Experience nature and it will speak to you in all of its languages; nature has inspired writers to put into words what is felt, seen; you only have to listen, look, and learn.

I haven’t had the desire to write or work on a novel in a long time; poetry, however, has been calling to me. Poetry, for me, is a highly internal/emotional form of writing and expression, perfect for the coming changing of season.

Going In

Autumn is the time of year referred to as Yintang in Chinese medicine – part Yin, part Yang, where the world and everything in it begins the ‘going inward’ process toward TaiYang, or Terminal Yin (winter). It’s the time to feed your mind/body/spirit with quieter activities.

Writing poetry is perfect for mind and spirit; nourishing foods will help “feed” your writing:

“…Autumn …it is a time of harvesting and gathering. Weather turns cooler and we crave warm foods. Nature begins moving inward and downward; leaves fall off trees and plants wither. Nuts and fruits fall to the ground as energies collect in the roots and rhizomes of plants, which are ready to harvest for our fall menu. More root vegetables become available, as well as mushrooms/fungi, which strengthen and nourish digestive fire, allowing us to better “digest” food, thoughts and ideas.

To assist the inward movement of energy, add sour foods to your diet in small amounts, like fermented foods. Put warming, moistening foods on your table: mushrooms, barley, leek, radish, cauliflower, tofu, nut butters, hemp and olive oils, and use warm, invigorating herbs like garlic, sage, savory, thyme, and rosemary.” The Five-Element Guide to Healing with Whole Foods (2016)

Inspiration

 

The Autumn of Life

Colors red, gold, fiery orange, of forests bright

Fade with time

As, in our youth, once brilliant

We fade into the autumn

Of our lives.

The sweet scent of decay, the crunch and 

Crackle beneath my boots

As I amble along the path life has given me.

The autumn of life – – – 

Activity fades to quiescence and

The desire for inner stillness

Claims victory over youthful vigor

Now waned.

(© 2022)

My advice? Get outside more = write more – and maybe better and deeper. And don’t forget to FEED your inspiration!

#poetsofinstagram #poetsoftwitter #authors #poetry #autumn #fall #MestengoBooks #writers #WritersDigest #inspiration #getoutside #nature #trees #autumnleaves #nutrition #wholefoods

Lingo is Just as Important as Location in Your Writing

harvard yard lingo

Source: Google Images/spreadshirt.com

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of references for Boston, MA (not unusual since I’m planning to move home soon and it’s always on my mind) and it got me thinking about the lingo (aka slang) in our American English and how it differs depending on where one lives. In a previous post I discussed the importance of weather to set scenes and overall stories; for characters, it’s vital for writers to research the local vernacular where scenes will be set. Just as important is the time period in which the story or scene takes place and research in this area is integral to getting the right feel for both the character dialogue and setting.

For Example…

In Massachusetts, those tiny candy sprinkles you put on cones are not sprinkles, they’re ‘jimmies.’ A ‘packie’ is a liquor store and anything you like is ‘wicked’ (very, really) good. ‘Dungarees’ are blue jeans and I called them that through the 70s. Having lived out here in the western part of the U.S. for so long I have finally replaced ‘grinder’ (pronounced ‘grindah’) with ‘sub’ (which I will stop as soon as I get home). A remote control is a ‘clicker’ (pronounced “click-ah”). But I refuse to refer to soda as ‘pop’ as it’s just plain silly. 

In Chicago, they eat ‘haht dahgs’ not hot dogs; ‘frunchroom’ is the front room or a room used for entertaining. They call soda ‘pop’ and ‘the’ becomes ‘da’ as in ‘Da Bears’ (football). In Texas and other parts of the south, ‘dad gum it’ and ‘ya’ll’ are popular. Smaller towns will have their own slang words, different from bigger cities. When possible, it’s a good idea to travel to these places to meet some of the people who live there to get an idea of what life is like for them.

No Time Like the Present… or Past…

Time periods are representative of language current to that time. In the ‘roaring 20s’ words like ‘copper’ (police), ‘bee’s knees’ (extraordinary person, thing or idea) and ‘behind the eight ball’ are just a few slangs made popular by 20s-era gangs, flappers and prohibitionists. A good international example is Shanghai. At one time, in the early-mid 20th century, Shanghai was so dangerous that the slang ‘shanghai’ meant to kidnap (and still does).

Writing this post helped me realize that the dialogue in my fiction stories is not location-centric. This means I need to research the local lingo based on where my stories are set. Funny how that happens – one minute I have an idea for a blog post and next thing you know I’m thinking about what I missed in my own writing. Sometimes we learn as we go, I guess.

Isn’t that a ‘wicked pissah.’wink #authorsoninstagram #writers #languages #englishlanguage #fictionwriters #mysterywriters #boston #slangwords #writersoninstagram #saturdaystories #amwriting #bookworm #grammarnazi #blogger #creativity #writerslife

What’s in a Word? -Ough Of Course!

ough sounds

Source: Google Images/ieltsonlinetests.com

Whaddya Mean You Don’t Understand?

I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone whose first language is not English and arrives in America with all their hopes and dreams but little or no (American) English language skills. Our conversational styles, which vary from region to region, idioms (“knock on wood,” “under the weather,” “bite the bullet”), buzzwords/buzz-phrases (“new normal,” “kicks” for shoes), clichés, ambiguous remarks and just the way we pronounce words (“drawer” vs. a Bostonian “draw”) must be beyond confusing for foreigners wanting to understand and communicate.

English, brought to this country by colonials (Anglo-Saxons), is considered a Latin-based language also made up of words with roots in many other languages (Greek, French,  Arabic, African, etc.). According to ilovelanguages.com and Wikipedia, the roots of English actually began with Germans, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (Germanic tribe that settled in England after the Romans left). The transition to early modern English began around 1480. Then there was The Great Vowel Shift shortly after that and then a large-scale migration from England to North America; late modern English came in around 1800. This lead to a new strain of English that we know and use today here in the U.S.

Wait, How Do You Pronounce/Spell That?

The point I’m making is there’s such a long history of words changing in spelling and pronunciation it’s got to be hard for new arrivals to learn our language. One example of this is the suffix -ough, used in a variety of words with different pronunciations, different meanings and same spelling. Imagine being a new immigrant; try to pronounce, spell, and understand the following words and their contextual use.

There are 9 distinct pronunciations of -ough; see if you can differentiate:

1. -ow (like ‘cow’), oh (long Ō), oo (as in ‘moose’): bough (like ‘cow’), borough (like ‘burrow’ but a different word), dough (the kind you knead or use to buy stuff), though (not ‘thou’ in the Bible), through (like ‘threw’), although, slough (‘slew’ – Scottish origin), thorough, plough (as in ‘plow’)

2. -uff (short U), uh (short U), upp (short U in ‘up’): enough, rough, tough, hiccough (‘upp’ sound)

3. -aw (as in ‘awe’), au (as in ‘hat’), ah-ff (as in ‘off’): bought, cough, draught (spelled ‘draft’ in U.S.), drought (we say ‘drowt’), ought, thought, wrought, slough (this one is ah-ff, as in ‘skin sloughs off daily’), trough, fought

4. This one’s just for fun: lough (pronounced läk) – a lake, bay or inlet sea (Ireland); loch in Scotland

Phew. Confused yet? You find slough in #1 and #3 with different pronunciations and meanings. Have fun with that one!

More of Me Being Silly (and still making the point)

Online I found a sentence (yes, ONE sentence) that uses all NINE (there are actually TEN) pronunciations:

“The wind was rough along the lough (#4) as the ploughman fought through the snow, and though he hiccoughed and coughed, his work was thorough.”

It’s kind of silly but this is one I came up with:

“As I took my bow (I didn’t tie a bow with a long Ō) in the outdoor theater, down came the tree’s bough upon my head. And even though it was rough I was tough and fought to stay alert. “Enough!” I yelled as I thought I ought to see a doctor about my wound; he can give it a thorough cleaning and slough off the dead skin around the edges. I wrought my hands in anguished thought about whether I could go through with it and if I had enough dough to pay the man. I came to my senses quickly and thought I might first have a draught to make me brave.”

Then I came up with this:

twiddle twaddle diddle dawdle (catch that?) fiddle faddle… yikes…it never ends…welcome to English, people…

#whatsinaword #vocabulary #englishlanguage #ESL #comingtoamerica #writtenword #fridayfunfacts #authorsoninstagram #writersoninstagram #writersgottawrite #write #spelling #blogging #bloggingaboutwriting #historyofwords #languages

What’s So Wrong with Ordinary Anyway?

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My “Simplici-tee” logo – copyright © 2021

An Ordinary Life Is Good Enough After All

I have to ask: what’s so wrong with ordinary anyway? Why do we always strive for MORE? When is it ENOUGH? As my logo above states, a simple life brings more happiness; the Chinese characters translate loosely to ‘simple qi, happy life’. (I’m working on getting the logo larger, ready for t-shirts.)

This has been a theme I’ve thought a lot about the past several years. As we mature, we gain wisdom and seek out simpler lives. I no longer desire the activity and complications of my youthful life. My days of chasing dreams and reaching for the proverbial brass ring have, thankfully, come to a close. It was an exhausting run that never really came to fruition in the ways I’d hoped. As is the way for many of us, I think.

Many chase dreams; few catch them; fewer have the courage (or energy) to live them. The rest of us settle for ordinary – and that’s good enough for me.

Ordinary Is Extraordinary

Why can’t ordinary be extraordinary? The story of ordinariness is one of a simple life, not reaching for the brass ring, finding happiness in the simple moments. Ordinary means seeing the beauty in the everyday, which can seem extraordinary. The Covid lockdown taught many that the small moments are the most precious. Mantras preaching entitlement abound but in reality you must EARN what you have (physically, emotionally, financially) and you’ll appreciate it more because you did. Ordinary, in this modern, over-ambitious, over-the-top-living, Kardashian-obsessed world, is possibly the perfect remedy.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” 

Lao Tzu, from the Tao Te Ching

One can derive enormous pleasure from simple daily rituals. There’s a difference between living a ‘rich’ life and living an ‘enriched’ life – which have you chosen?

Keep It Simple

In my experience, artistic/creative people can be comfortable living a simple life. To focus on our art, our writing, on whatever gets us through each day is what matters most. Some may still strive for the limelight as it’s how artists can support themselves. Some strive to create and believe that the creating is what’s important, whether they support themselves with it or not. You have to choose which is best for yourself.

No matter what you choose, let it be extraordinary in the most ordinary way. That’s where true contentment lives.

#happiness #qi #simplelife #livesimply #laotzu #taoteching #writers #artists #creativity #chinesephilosophy #balancedlife #beextraordinary

I’ve Had It Up to Here So I’m Gonna Write About It

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Source: Google Images/pinterest.com

As the saying goes (hence the title of this post), I’ve had up to HERE.

Enough Already

The war in Ukraine, Covid and its various affects on people and society (protests, “anti-vaxxers,” “vaxxers,” anti-maskers, fear-mongerers, lingering symptoms, community safety vs. individual rights, etc.), the lack of good paying jobs (despite what our government is crowing about, only low-paying retail/restaurant jobs are truly in abundance because nobody wants to work the crappy hours with rude customers who’ve been locked away in their homes for two years and have forgotten how to behave in public), the lack of affordable housing (having recently uprooted myself I’m experiencing this in a major way and it won’t resolve until I find a job where I earn what I’m worth which means I have to leave CA – and gladly, as I’ve already reserved my escape); the list goes on and on (as I could, trust me). I’m exhausted and frustrated with all of it.

Luckily, writing is a good outlet for those frustrations. 

So Tired…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older that the world’s busy-ness gets to me more easily. Maybe it’s because I’m artistic and sensitive and need more quiet in my life. Maybe it’s because our species seems to find immeasurable joy in violence and destruction, even if it brings about our own annihilation.

Lately, I find myself searching for feel-good movies instead of my usual action-driven films. I’m tired of the good guy/bad guy stories that repeat over and over (as if real life reflects that because it doesn’t). Perhaps I’m searching for a sense of inner quiet not found in outer society. Searching for that inner serenity that so many seek yet few rarely find. And it’s getting harder and harder (e.g., when I was 9, the global population was at ONLY 4 billion; life was slower, quieter, less crowded; no wonder I pine for “the good old days” – there were fewer of us).

…But There is a Way

Again, this is where writing can provide that much-needed inner peace and balance. Writing can be cathartic; driven by imagination and/or real life, stories abound. As writers, we can choose to reflect society and current events; we can choose to tell historical pieces (fiction or not) that help put our current lives in perspective; we can choose to shoot for the moon in fantastical stories of heroism laden with strong characters; we can choose to share pain and sadness, our characters weeping, surviving and overcoming great obstacles. We can choose.

Writing for ourselves (even if we’re just venting) and our readers (to inform and entertain) is what we do and how we find inner peace.

#writerslife #writersguild #writersdigest #fiction #nonfiction #authorsoninstagram #authorsontwitter #thewritinglife #writerblogger # #meditation #writersblog #wednesdaywisdom #literature #peaceandserenity

Update-Upgrade-Uproot-Upshot-Upbeat

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It’s that time again, when I take a closer look at my website and SM accounts and make some UPDATES. I tweaked this site a bit; I altered of some of the fonts and colors because I got bored with the way it looked. An updated site can help improve traffic flow as well as make it more aesthetic. That’s smart marketing.

I’m going to UPDATE my Twitter and Instagram user profiles over the next week from writer.mestengo to writeratmestengobooks (if it’s not too long for a username). I feel the new moniker speaks more clearly to who I am (writer) and where I’m located (mestengo books). Often it can take time to see when something as simple as a username needs to be updated for better results. More smart marketing.

I’m looking to UPGRADE Mestengo Books to a different layout, something more modern and up-to-date. I can’t seem to find a workable layout I like with both photos and text for my posts in WordPress, so I will consider the option of moving the site. Again, that’s smart marketing for writers if it brings in more readership and increases the readability of pages and posts.

At the end of this month, I will once again UPROOT myself. My current living situation has run its course. Due mainly to COVID, the cost of living on one’s own has become exorbitant and places to find are more scarce. Many of us are forced to share our living spaces to make life more cost-effective but not necessarily less stressful. I find that, as I get older (senior status now), living alone provides more satisfaction and peaceful solitude. I thoroughly love having a private space away from the rest of the world where I can do as I please, when I please, without explaining to anyone why or for how long. I paint more, I write more, I create more when I have that space to call my own.

Writers are solitary by nature. Do you find that living with others affects your writing? Positively or negatively? The UPSHOT for me is that I’m far more creative in my own space. Being cramped into a room in someone else’s house can be difficult, for a number of reasons. Perhaps that other person’s energy is not compatible and the feel of the house is stifling (like my current situation that I’m finally escaping). That can affect anyone’s creativity.

I remain UPBEAT, however, in my quest for that personal space that allows me to FLOURISH.

#fridayfunfacts #writingfiction #writingnonfiction #writersdigest #sololiving #amwriting #writerslife #fridayreads #followfriday #lovetowrite #lovetoread #writersofinstagram #writersontwitter #mustread #selfpublishing #bloggerlife #bookworm #bloggersgetsocial #instagram #twitter #goodreads

Can David Beat Goliath? FCRA Case Against Google Dismissed

David and Goliath

Source: Google Images/zacharyfruhling.com

I published a post on March 10, 2021 on data mining and our loss of privacy in this digital world. In that post, I mentioned a lawsuit filed by attorney Matthew Sandofsky against the mega-giant Google. In January of 2021, Matthew filed the lawsuit claiming that Google and similar companies “violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) because employers and landlords can use the search engine to learn about a potential employee or tenant.” In the post, I wrote:

“I don’t know if his lawsuit has any teeth but I’m very curious what the District Court will decide. “

Toothless After All

Turns out the lawsuit didn’t have any teeth. On Tuesday, July 13, 2021 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts (Boston), the case was dismissed:

“Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 5 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“The complaint does not contain sufficient allegations of a FCRA violation to survive a motion to dismiss. Crucially, it contains no information providing a plausible basis that Google actually is a consumer reporting agency. Instead, it merely asserts, in conclusory terms, that “[i]n as much as [Google] returns search results on consumers not generally the subject of publicity, [Google] is a credit reporting agency under [the] FCRA.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 9). It therefore does not plead sufficient “factual content” for the FCRA claim to be plausible on its face. See Iqbal556 U.S. at 678. Rather, it “merely recite[s] the language of the [FCRA] in an attempt to come within the confines of the FCRA, or stretch the statutory language beyond its intended purpose,” and therefore must be dismissed. In re Sony Networks & Customer Data SecBreach Litig., 996 F. Supp. 2d 942, 1011 (S.D. Cal. 2014).”)”

(for full reading of the dismissal, click here)

Too bad. I was kind of rooting for the guy – hoping David would once again beat Goliath.

But Matthew aint givin’ up.

Takin’ One More Shot

He filed an appeal on August 23, 2021. Having read most of the dismissal, I’m not sure he’s got any chance of righting this perceived wrong. Sure, it’d be great to bring a Goliath like Google to its knees for some long-needed reckoning. I’m not hopeful it will happen any time soon. Can’t blame the guy for trying, though. Maybe the negative press will lead to something better down the road.

Sometimes all it takes is one unlikely hero…

Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 6-7 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“In any event, the complaint does not sufficiently allege that Google provides the information “for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f). While it does not appear that the First Circuit has addressed the question, at least three other Courts of Appeals have concluded that the FCRA mandates that an entity must have the specific intent that the information it furnishes be a consumer report in order to qualify as a consumer reporting agency.”)”

“Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 8 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“There is no allegation that the “employers, landlords[,] and others” who allegedly obtain consumer information from searches are charged a fee for obtaining that information. Simply making money—from advertisers or other sources—is not enough.”

“Accordingly, defendant’s motion to dismiss the FCRA claim will be granted.”)”

#Google #lawsuits #USdistrictcourts #Massachusetts #Boston #FCRA #saturdaystories #thedigitallife #datamining #consumerreports 

A ‘Workiversary’ Worth Noting

Work-Anniversary-Memes-10

Source: Google Images/dontgetserious.com

Well, I made it through another year without ending up dead or in jail. I call that a win.

Anniversaries have a funny way of creeping up on me. Over the years, I’ve paid little attention to the milestones in my life. Probably came from the fact that my parents barely celebrated our birthdays beyond a cake after dinner. No parties, no balloons, no star-spangled celebrations with friends and neighbors. I learned early on that my birthday and other events were treated equally with my parents’ nonchalance. Perhaps it was because they were too exhausted from working such long hours; down time was at the end of long, arduous days, rewarded with a pilsner glass of Budweiser before dinner (mom) or vegging in front of the TV (dad) until an early bedtime.

Stickin’ With It Ain’t My Thing… But It Is For Now

In a few days, I’ll mark my 6th ‘workiversary’ of Mestengo Books. Honestly, I’ve surprised myself, as I rarely stick with anything this long. It’s a form of adult-ing in which I rarely engage; I can blame ADD and an artistic slant for that. Once I’ve learned it or learned what I need from it, I’m gone, on to the next adventure/project/task/person/city. I have found a sense of comfort in having some regularity in my life, in having my blog/website. Even though most of you don’t comment or respond to questions I still feel like I’m sharing stories with willing listeners.

And for that, I thank you all for taking the ride with me these past 6 years.

I don’t know how much longer Mestengo Books will be around but I do know this: both your presence and your absence has bettered my writing and clarified my creative process. 

#happyanniversary #Mestengobooks #writerslife #blogging #storytelling #creativity #selfpublishing #writersdigest #writersofinstagram #authorsontwitter #fictionwriters #nonfictionwriters #writingcommunity #tuesdaytips

Writers: Are You Living a Psychologically Rich Life?

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AHA!

Yesterday I came across a fascinating article and had a major Aha! moment. Written by Bella DePaulo, PhD, and published on the website Solo Living (wearesololiving.com), Dr. DePaulo separates out the personality types and characteristics of people who are single by choice (yes, this is a ‘thing’ and it’s not bad) and who prefer to live alone from those who live more conformist lifestyles.

“According to Kierkegaard, a married person with a secure, well-respected job and children may have a happy and (in many respects) meaningful life, but not necessarily a life rich in diverse perspective-changing experiences. Although most people choose such a conventional, secure, and well-respected life, others… choose the esthetic wanderer’s life instead—unconventional, unstable, and uncompromising.”

Is This You?

According to Dr. DePaulo, there are three key characteristics of a psychologically rich life: “variety, interestingness and perspective-changing experiences.” What kind of people live psychologically rich lives? According to the article, these people are curious, open to experiences and who experience emotions (negative and positive) more intensely. Does this sound familiar? Writers, or any person involved in artistic endeavors, would certainly fit into this mold. I know I do.

“At least three personality characteristics typify people who lead psychologically rich lives:

  • They are curious.

  • They are open to experience (e.g., they have unconventional attitudes, artistic sensitivity, intellectual curiosity, flexibility, depth of feeling).

  • They experience emotions intensely, both positive and negative ones.”

A light bulb came on and suddenly I made connections with issues I’ve been dealing with for years. Years of struggling because I was ‘different’, because I didn’t fit into the conformist mold that my parents and family members expected. With being more broad-minded, artistic, and so on, I’ve struggled with feeling accepted. For years I’ve felt like a failure because I couldn’t start a business (building a structured environment and all of its details = conformist personality). Now, I realized, I can work in an established business (working inside an already-built structured environment = adaptable/flexible to my surroundings). That changes everything. And it has a name: psychologically rich.

“…psychological richness is the kind of wealth that can contribute to a truly good life.”

To Be or Not to Be…

Some of you may fit into one of the other personality types (happy and meaningful), but if you’re artistic, I doubt it, unless you’re lying to yourself about who you really are. People who live happy lives (or so they think) need comfort and security (white picket fence, 2.5 kids, house in the ‘burbs, etc.). People who live meaningful lives must have significance and purpose as goals. Either way, both of these require a level of conformity and maintenance of static relationships. Living solo frees us from the confines of these personality types.

Do you prefer a happy life? Then you’re going to need time, money (discretionary income) and relationships (romantic, business, platonic, etc.) with the same people over and over again. Maybe you’d prefer living a meaningful life: do you have strong moral principles, broad-based relationships (including networking) and are you consistent? Put plainly, people who prefer to lead happy lives get personal satisfaction (of living up to parents’ and societal standards); people who prefer meaningful lives get to contribute to society in some way (think scientific, medical discoveries and such).

The Best Way to Go, In My (Expert) Opinion

If you want to live a psychologically rich life, expect to be curious, have time on your hands, have plenty of energy and be spontaneous. Novel activities will take precedence over rote tasks and there is a preference for challenging activities where one actually learns and engages. This equates to the gaining of wisdom; this circles us back to the point that this type of life offers a richness beyond material wealth and conformist security.

In summary, people who prefer the solo life generally have many of the characteristics of the psychologically rich mindset. This article validated who I am at my deepest core and taught me to accept that my differences are exactly what enrich my life.

What about you?

#wearesololiving #thesololife #soloadventures #singleandlovingit #writerslife #bloggers #creativityrocks #wednesdaywisdom #solopreneurs #bloggingaboutlife #psychologytoday

A Time for Storytelling and Rest

cherokee bonfire

Source: Google Images/visitcherokeenc.com

Winter is a special time, a time of quiet, a time of slowing down and doing more indoor activities like yoga, reading and writing. It’s also the time of year for storytelling in many traditions, especially for Indigenous Peoples. In the old days (and still, for many nations), it was a time marked by the first snowfall or the Winter solstice. Bands of tribes gathered together to share their stories and pass their histories on to the next generation.

Days of hunting and gathering food for winter stores were over; cold winds blew across the prairies and mountains and the days were shorter. What else was there to do? Stories both entertained and informed; they carried a people’s history with them wherever they went. Oral tradition is still revered today. Regardless of your ancestry, storytelling is alive and well in many cultures around the world and you would do well by touching base with yours. Storytelling long preceded the written word, which forced people to use their brains to retain an amazing amount of detail surrounding important events in their lives.

Do you and your family or friends gather for the purpose of sharing during the winter months? In these modern times, we’re busy working, running errands or are too tired. Storytelling traditions force us to slow down and take the time to LISTEN. When we allow ourselves to participate in this ancient form of socialization, we are energized and connected to something much larger than each of us.

Winter is also a time of rest though skiers and snowboarders might disagree. When was the last time you bundled up (assuming you don’t live in FL) and took a walk in the snow? It’s one of the quietest, most Zen experiences I’ve ever had. If you listen very carefully, you can even hear the snow fall.

This is the embodiment of winter: slow down, listen (to family, friends, your body), rest (to rejuvenate for the spring) and eat deeply nourishing meals (soups, stews).

Indigenous Peoples have had this down for eons and I think it’s time the rest of us catch up. Take some time out for yourself this winter. Rest (it may be four letters but it’s not a dirty word). Read. Write. Appreciate the shorter days and quiet moments. It is in these spaces where we can find peace and contentment to last us throughout the year.

#writers #wintersolstice #storytelling #restandrelaxation #authors #yogapractice #reading #writingcommunity #writersgottawrite 

Oh Pooh…On Copyrights

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Source: Google Images/goalcast.com

The Masters are Freed

This morning a bit of interesting news landed in my Inbox from Smithsonian Magazine. Creative works published in 1926 (authors, songwriters, playwrights, etc.) are, as of 01.01.2022, available and free to use as we please. No more copyright. That means a lot of artists’ works will enter the public domain this year. What does that mean for current writers, painters, movie makers and such? I cringe at the thought of someone turning a masterpiece like The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway into something unrecognizable.

For instance, The Great Gatsby entered the public domain last year and someone wrote a graphic novel adaptation. I haven’t read it so I don’t know how much the story was changed (time period, characters, etc.). What this does tell me is that original works, masterpieces dare I say, could end up as some sci-fi adventure or even anime – or worse. I worry that instead of coming up with something unique, poor replication and representation will ensue.

Then again, maybe not. 

Pooh On Public Domain

Writer Benjamin Hoff authored The Tao of Pooh and later The Te of Piglet based on the wonderful stories of A.A. Milne, author and creator of Winnie the Pooh. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both books. Because of copyright laws, Hoff agreed to pay the Milne estate thirty percent of the hardcover profits and forty percent of the paperback profits. If he wrote either book this year, he would pay nothing and reap all the benefits of a long-beloved classic. (Note: the cartoon films are still copyright protected because they’re owned by Disney.)

Which makes me wonder:

Will unencumbered profits become a motivating factor in rehashing old classics?

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.” — Winnie the Pooh

Not a Thief, Just Borrowing

Poems by Dorothy Parker and Langston Hughes are also now in the public domain. Sounds like a ripe opportunity for some people to plagiarize and they will be free to do it without consequences. Ethically speaking, I can’t imagine stealing a single line of poetry from the likes of T.S. Elliot or stories from the likes of John Muir or Henry Thoreau. It just doesn’t feel right. Can you imagine The Sound of Music or The Maltese Falcon revamped? Blasphemy!

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic (well, I am an artist)…but the concern is all too real. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what happens when a classic meets a modern artist. Keeping my fingers crossed.

#aamilne #winniethepooh #ernesthemingway #dorothyparker #langstonhughes #publicdomain #copyrightlaws #taoofpooh #classicnovels

Will The Real Rudolph Please Shine His Nose…

Rudolph book cover

Source: NPR/Rauner Special Collections Library/Dartmouth College

I came across this NPR story some time ago on an IG post. What is Christmas without Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? How many of you know the real story of how he came about? Let me summarize…

The Real Story

It all began in 1939 (yes, that long ago and on the verge of WWII) when Montgomery Ward execs asked one of their ad men to come up with a story for MW’s children’s book, an annual holiday promotion. The ad man, Robert May, made a list of possible names before settling on Rudolph. So May, an aspiring novelist and known for his wit at parties, came up with a story of a reindeer underdog named Rudolph. His boss wasn’t very impressed but May, undaunted, went to a friend in MW’s art department to draw up some sketches to go with the story.

Names of Rudolph

Courtesy of NPR/Rauner Special Collections Library/Dartmouth College

Then something awful happened. May’s wife died of cancer. He was devastated but forged ahead, telling his boss that he “needed Rudolph now more than ever” after his boss offered to give the project to someone else. Rudolph was a big hit and copies sold around the country. But by now May was in deep financial straits from his wife’s medical bills and was trying support himself and his child on a copywriter’s salary.

The Big Hit

For reasons that remain unclear, the CEO of Montgomery Ward gave May the rights to Rudolph after WWII. May’s brother-in-law was a songwriter, so May enlisted him to write a jingle about Rudolph. Miraculously, it was loved and picked up by none other than the famous singing cowboy Gene Autry. As a result, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer sold over 25 million copies and was later picked up by Rankin/Bass, who made the stop animation film we all adore (I watch it every year).

If you’re curious, you can follow this link to the whole story, including reading the original book/story that was changed oh-so-slightly for the Rankin/Bass film:

https://www.npr.org/2013/12/25/256579598/writing-rudolph-the-original-red-nosed-manuscript

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, to one and all. Stay safe and healthy and prosperous wishes for the New Year.

#Christmas #Rudolphtherednosedreindeer #RankinBass #Christmastime #holidayseason #RobertLMay #holidayclassic #fictionwriters

Supporting Local Authors is Good for Business

A Reason to Go Local

I’m sure many of you watched the news about the devastating tornadoes, including the leveling of an Amazon warehouse in Illinois. Upon seeing the destroyed warehouse, one of my first thoughts, after concern for survivors, was “Oh man, lots of people will be angry about their Xmas packages not arriving on time.” Gifts and gotta-have-it-now items purchased online from other parts of the country, other parts of the world. It’s a “Xmas fever” that spreads around much of the world for a short season and repeats itself year to year.

Then it got me thinking…

For many years I’ve enjoyed shopping locally (I find more unique items this way) and these disastrous events have certainly emphasized my choice. I love supporting local businesses, especially those hit hard by the pandemic. You can go to a local bookstore or business and pick out the gifts yourself. I like the personal touch; I feel it gives the gift a greater meaning if I took the time to pick it out, take it home and wrap it.

Less Really Is More

Mass material consumerism has reached an all-time ‘low’, in my opinion. We have football stadium-sized warehouses where people toil under the digital gun (their movements are tracked and timed every minute of every day) to get your purchases to you ASAP. This harkens back to the factory laborers of the early twentieth century (with not much more labor protections, it seems). Complaints about late deliveries even though there’s a huge labor shortage (which some folks refuse to recognize), issues with availability of raw materials, etc., persist with no end in sight. Keeping your shopping local may decrease your purchase options but increases the opportunity to meet your neighbors and find unusual treasures.

Local Support Strengthens a Community

One way to resolve this global issue is to help our own community members thrive and supporting local authors is a good way to start.  Many towns and cities often have yearly events that introduce local authors to the community. I was one such fortunate author when I lived in New Mexico, where I published my first book (it even won an award!). What a wonderful way to meet readers and other writers and discover new stories.

While much of writers’ works have gone digital (eBooks, Audible, etc.), I feel it vital to support as many members of our local writing communities as possible. Small or local bookstores, libraries and cafes are often great places to meet local writers and authors via book readings or writing groups (professional, Meetup. etc.). Grab a cuppa and have a listen.

Show Your Local Library Some Love

Another wonderful way to support authors (both local and worldwide) is through your public library. I find them an amazing source of discovery and entertainment. This week I discovered a new Asian author, Gail Tsukiyama; I took home two of her books: The Language of Threads and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms. Libraries offer a wide variety of books from local authors to best-selling authors and everyone in between. And it’s a great place to review a book before going to the bookstore to make a purchase.

Post Script:

(Yes, large companies like Amazon provide jobs and help boost the U.S. economy (GDP); they may be, in some places, the only option for employment. That’s not the focus of this post and I continue to support buying locally so we can boost our local economies, which in turn will have a positive effect on the national GDP.)

#writersoffiction #supportyourlocalauthors #placergoldwriters #writersdigest #meetupgroups #poetry #buylocal

The Long and Short of It

alphabet2

Vintage Alphabet Source: Google Images/pixiepaperstore.com

Growing up before the Internet and a digital world, my generation learned much via “the old-fashioned way” – like cursive and script writing. I have vivid memories of the Roman alphabet in upper and lower case bordering the chalkboards of my grade school classrooms.

Sister Rose de Saint Marie taught our second-grade penmanship classes and she was a typical hard-nosed teacher/Catholic nun. I religiously (pun intended) practiced my penmanship at school and at home. (Which is why, all these decades later, I’m still complimented on my handwriting.) There were two classrooms for grades 1 through 8 and penmanship was taught daily at least until sixth or seventh grade in our Catholic grammar school. I even remember the paper we used: solid lines on the top and bottom for the upper and lower parts of the capital letters and dotted lines in the middle for the lower case letters. 

This morning, as I filled out my student loan recertification document, I realized that a pen in my hand felt a bit strange. I don’t like that. I spend less and less time writing longhand, whether in cursive or script, unless I’m leaving a note to myself on my desk. When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory. It’s as if I’m forgetting how to sign my name with the characteristic loops and artistic flairs that have long been my mark. Losing my longhand skills means, to me, losing a sense of myself.

We are losing the personal touch, the individual-ness of each human, becoming less so as AI infiltrates our lives. Google is the answer to EVERYTHING, it seems. Can’t spell a word? Google it. Not sure if it’s a verb or adverb? Google it. The internet has short-circuited our ability to learn via sensory memory (touch, taste, smell, etc.) and in the process something very personal, unique to each of us, is lost.

“When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory.”

J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books in longhand and still writes that way. Imagine the difficulty in maintaining the pace of your writing with what’s whizzing through your mind as the story unfolds. How many writers today are even willing to attempt such an undertaking? Still quite a few, thankfully.

“A friend of mine who’s a film director turned me on to the Blackwing 602. What I like is that it sharpens to a really fine point, and it’s got a great feel to it that I just can’t describe. It’s like when you taste a really good wine or a cognac: You know it’s good stuff.”

Andre Dubus III, author of Bluesman and House of Sand and Fog

For me, the Digital Age provides too many shortcuts, too many quick ways around learning what we need to learn. Forget working out a math problem with a pencil and paper; now Brainly will do it for you. But what is lost in the process? We lose the concept of critical thinking; how to get from point A to point B. Working out a problem, like writing in longhand, allows our brains and minds to problem-solve, which translates into many other areas of our lives as we grow. We can’t afford to lose it or I fear we’ll lose some of our humanity.

“A pen is a much more primitive instrument. You feel that the words are coming out of your body and then you dig the words into the page. Writing has always had that tactile quality for me. It’s a physical experience.”

Paul Auster, author (https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/)

Writing longhand is a form of sensory memory and connects us to each word in a story and the story itself, as a whole. It fortifies memory and the ability to spell, to slow us down enough that we get the story on paper without too many revisions. We become more deeply engaged in our stories.

“Studies have shown that writing (and rewriting) information in longhand is one of the most effective ways to retain new information; this is apparently because writing the old-fashioned way stimulates a part of the brain called the reticular activating system, or the RAS.”

Fred Johnson, at https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/ (and yes, he “Googled” this information)

Laptops may allow for the collection and storage of information – but on the laptop, not in our brains. Efficiency is nice but LEARNING and RETENTION are more important. So in the best interest of humanity – pick up a pen or pencil and have at it.

Deepen your writing, deepen yourself.

A quick post-script (11/4):

I was so enamored with the thought of getting back into longhand I purchased some sleek cedar-scented graphite pencils. What a joy to use! Brought back some nice childhood memories… and inspired me to write this little ode to pencils:

The Poetry of Pencil

Smooth charcoal, cedar scent

a cherished childhood of homework spent

writing and re-writing until perfection or corrections attained;

Mathematical problems, grammatical errors

erased with ease;

Sharpened stylus dulled with use,

scratching numbers and letter in columns and rows,

learning my ABCs and 2+2s.

#ABCs #handwriting #longhand #scriptandcursive #writinglonghand #writerswrite #pencilsandpens #charcoal #romanalphabet #sensorymemory #RAS #artificialintelligence #grammar #harrypotterbooks #authorswhowritelonghand

Find Inspiration With a Vision Board

vision board1

Source: Google Images/https://www.google.com/www.lisareneejohnson.com

Last night I watched a movie titled “The Women” starring Meg Ryan and Annette Benning. Meg Ryan’s character was a designer who worked at her father’s firm. Long story short, he eventually let her go and she decided to start her own design firm. What’s the first thing she did? Started a vision board, of course. Using time-lapsed video, you can see her adding ideas and inspirations to the vision board: colors, sketches, the name of her business, etc. I know movies love to show how everything always works out for the protagonist but real life isn’t always so rosy. A vision board, however, is realistic and doable and helps one stay focused.

Vision boards can be inspirational and help us stay focused and reach goals. Years ago, I created my first vision board after realizing that lists never worked out for me. To be honest, it didn’t go well; perhaps I had too many goals going in too many directions. Or maybe I didn’t put the board together quite right (if there is a ‘right’ way). Could be any number of reasons why my goals on the board didn’t materialize. Seeing one in the movie inspired me to try again. Perhaps I was too worried about a specific order of the pictures and phrases; maybe I need to be more random with placement.

So I’ll give it another shot. I’ll focus more on the ideas and goals rather than the placement. I tend to get distracted by the orderliness and lose sight of what’s important – the goals to be accomplished.

To writers and creatives: do you have this problem as well? Our minds tend to be in overdrive much of the time so a vision board might be ‘just what the doctor ordered.’ Can’t hurt; if nothing else, it can bring new perspectives to your life and perhaps clarity as well. And with all those creative thoughts whizzing about, clarity would be a good thing. Let a vision board help turn your life in a better direction!

I’m old-fashioned and I like to touch the items for my board (there’s that tactile learning common in artists). If you prefer a digital version, there’s a template at PicMonkey. If you need help changing your thoughts, this site will help you create the vision board you need. Don’t focus on perfection, focus on what inspires and motivates you to reach your goals. Visualize them, then put them on your board.

Get creating!

#visionboard #create #writers #makeacollage #positiveaffirmations #inspiration