Ode to Autumn (Okay, just a jingle to fall)

An overnight sight appeals to my eyes,
September’s lilies bring morning surprise –

Signaling that the time has come
For feet to spring and spirits hum.

Fall foggy haze follows early showers
While morning glories meet night’s moonflowers.

Black-eyed Susans with faces showing
Join with yellow goldenrods’ glowing.

Anoles sneak up to peek over flowers.
Armadillos root beneath rose bowers.

Hot cocoa sports a marshmallow top.
Homemade autumn soup simmers, “Pop, pop.”

I grab parched peanuts to shell on the fly,
But sit to relish sweet potato pie.

On the field, comes the call,
“All right folks, let’s play ball.”

Backers cheer.
Rude ones jeer.

Up from seats with heavy hefts,
Angry fans call, “Can the refs.”

An interception comes all the way back,
The stadium responds “yakkity-yak.”

If there’s a time we have it all,
I've got to say it must be fall.


About Failure

What one learns at a writers’ conference may have as much to do with life as with writing. Keynote speaker Candice Ransom began the session with her presentation “Keep Calm, Carry On (But Don’t Pitch a Fit).” I wouldn’t have guessed that her theme would be in praise of failure.

She spoke specifically to the writers gathered for the Southern Breeze SCBWI conference in Birmingham, knowing she spoke to those who experienced failure in the form of rejection letters on a regular basis. She admonished the group to realize that those who managed to publish a book sometimes heard that anything less than 7,500 sales was still considered a failure. She took us through a passage in her own life much longer than I can put in this blog when she experienced both personal and professional difficulties. I sounded like one disaster piling on the other like two teams of football players after a loose ball.  

Giving up her writing in the midst of anxious waits in hospital corridors might have seemed the most logical thing to do – inertly accepting her fate like the ball at the bottom of that heap. Instead, she took her writing with her to keep her company and give her a focus besides her worries as she awaited doctor’s reports and test results.

With the string of difficulties behind her, she now has books coming out again along with speaking invitations to writers’ groups like ours.

Her take-aways were certainly good for writing, but perhaps they were even better for living. She advised us, in the face of failure, to keep calm and carry on. She added, “If we aren’t failing we aren’t doing anything interesting.”


Countdown to Revolution

What a good choice I made to read Countdown (published 2010) and Revolution (published 2014) for my birthday celebration! This wasn’t a shot in the dark since I am a fan of Deborah Wiles’s previous trilogy – a gentle trio for summer reading in the shade of an oak tree with a supply of apples. I was in for a surprise. Gripping replaced gentle.

Both books, set in crisis periods in American history, seem to interrupt the story with pages of memorabilia from their time periods until you realize those pages inform the story. Franny’s community in Countdown, living in fear during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, learns to “duck and cover.” Tensions between her mother and older sister escalate as Jo Ellen insists on becoming involved with what her mother perceives as a radical group at college that may get her into trouble.

Revolution, set in 1964 with its “twist and shout,” finds Sunny sorting out her family that becomes more blended with every turn. The bigger issue becomes the Civil Rights Movement as it comes to Greenwood, Mississippi. I found it touching as Sunny recalls being six “when everything was simple, and I always knew just what to do.” Freedom Summer brings a yellow-haired young woman activist to town that reminds Sunny of her missing mother. The reader recognizes Jo Ellen from Countdown.

I’ve heard an expression, “too good for kids.” I’d never say that, but I would say, “too good to be limited to kids.” A win for Revolution would be no surprise to me, either once or twice, as it is on the long list for the National Book Award and in the Newbery Award chatter.

Thinking about the yet-to-come last book in the trilogy, I have questions. I’m heading to the SCBWI WIK 14 Conference in Birmingham today where Deborah will be presenting. I can wait on the first two questions, but I may elbow someone to get out of my way so I can ask her the third.
•    Which character(s) from the first books will appear in the third?
•    Which historical turning point will it cover?
•    How soon will it be out? I hope I don’t have to wait another four years!


Writing Rule # 4

Rule 4: Change your writing location to spark creativity.

To be honest, I didn’t come up with this rule, but I love it. Kimberly Willis Holt suggested it at a writers’ conference. A different view seems to uncover some kaleidoscopic spark in the gloomy gray matter of the brain.

With cool fall temperatures that allow me to be outside, I am ready with my new location on the patio swing and an excellent view. I’ve inventoried my supplies:
•    Glass of iced tea – check
•    Cup of very sharp pencils – check
•    Cup of highlighters and various colored pens – check
•    Long legal college ruled writing pad – check
•    Revision file folders – check

My view of lantana and goldenrod fans that spark into flame, so you’ll please excuse me if I cut this blog short and get after those rewrites while the fire is still burning.


Leather or Crystal?

By tradition, the third anniversary is marked with leather. The modern list calls for crystal. Since the change from September to October marks the third anniversary of this blog, I think the occasion calls for me to treat myself. So which way do I go?

Maybe it will help – or not – to reflect on the process and what I have gained from three years of blogging. I list a few in no particular order except as they come to mind:
•    Responses – sometimes with rebuttals – from friends, sisters, children, and especially grandchildren
•    New friendships as followers now include a friend of a sister and friends of friends
•    Renewed contact and conversations with former students
•    Getting to tell old stories with no eye-rolling that I can actually see
•    Sharing books I have read and loved
•    Unexpected conversational exchanges with references to the blog from people I did not know were reading it – especially like the one who told me she had forwarded one of them to her daughter

So how do I choose? The list has not helped my dilemma. I’ll just go with my obsessions. I have more crystal than I like to wash from purchases when we lived in or traveled to Europe and gifts of various kinds. You can see it in the picture. I will forego a picture of my shoe closet since you might question the rest of my reasoning. One can never have too many shoes. I’ve decided this anniversary calls for a trip to the shoe store!

I begin my fourth year with gratitude for the opportunity to say what I’m thinking. You may read or not; roll your eyes or not; share it or not. I take pleasure all the same of thinking of you as I write and hope my words trigger your mind to some thoughts of your own.