At the writers’ colloquium I attended last weekend, the one where Haven Kimmel brought the keynote message, I participated in a breakout session entitled “Writing from the Heart.”The workshop leader, Brent Bill, led us through a couple of simple exercises designed to illustrate that while it’s easier to write from our heads than our hearts…writing from our hearts can make a deeper, more meaningful and lasting impact on readers (and ourselves).As I went through one of the exercises, I concluded–not surprisingly–that I am very head-oriented. I like thinking, learning, sorting through ideas. In fact, some of the people who have commented on my posts have mentioned that some of the things I’ve talked about have really made them think. I like to write about the things I’m thinking about, and there seems to be no lack of ideas in my noggin.The key is to tackle the more profound issues of the heart, as well. In fact, Brent said, a convergence of heart and mind is ideal.If I explore through my writing an issue that I’m both thinking about and turning over in my heart, I will probably produce something with much more power to minister and communicate to others.After posting about providing regular, meaningful content in order to feed the readers of my blog, I thought this nugget was worth sharing with fellow bloggers.It may be riskier emotionally, but if we want to touch, connect, impact and/or minister to readers–even entertain them–we should look for the places where our mind and heart converge; where the thing that we’re thinking about is also something we’re dealing with at the heart level.It might even change us as we write it.Ironically, this post does not illustrate this well. This is a head post. Helpful, hopefully; informative, perhaps. But not really dealing with matters of the heart.I do hope to write more posts in the future that are even more heart-level, while honoring my commitment to a vibrant mind and lifelong learning.I see others do it well, admiring their ability to merge storytelling and heart-issues with literary allusions, while tapping into inexaustible lexicons via their vibrant, vigorous intellects.To offer readers meaningful content, look for the convergence of mind and heart in your life. Throw in some story, and you have the recipe for nourishing, memorable, linkable, TrackBackable posts.Visit Rocks In My Dryer for more great ideas.To browse my previous odd assortment of Works For Me Wednesday posts are here.
I promised a report from the literary event I attended, a colloquium at which Haven Kimmel, author of several books including a favorite of mine called A Girl Named Zippy, was the keynote speaker.It’s been years since I read Zippy. Not long before I was heading to the colloquium, I happened across a post at Shalee’s Diner reviewing it. The timing was fun, and I was glad she enjoyed it.I also found the following interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Why Stop at Six?). I think it captures the energy Haven exuded in person–plus, it provides bonus material we didn’t get during her message. When I learned that Haven had three children, one of them quite young, I decided during Q&A to ask her what I ask every writer-mom:How do you balance writing and motherhood?I heard a rustle of response from the audience, but I couldn’t tell whether it was from mom-types who were wanting to know the same thing, or from people who knew her well and were shocked that I was asking this.She answered carefully. I could be wrong, but I think she was aggravated and wasn’t sure how to begin. The bottom line she conveyed was that she doesn’t try to do it all, and she lets people help.But the actual response was more involved.She said, “When I was finishing up Zippy, my now-11-year-old son was between his first and second birthdays. He literally hung from my legs while I was at the computer. I had to listen to the Scooby-Doo theme song in the background while I worked. I was trying to be everything. And then I realized I didn’t have to do it all, and I’m okay with that.”She now accepts help even for little things–if someone offers to walk her dogs, she used to resist, but has learned to accept the offer, because letting others help can actually be a ministry to those doing the helping.She explained that her husband stays home with the kids so that she can write and teach (she’s not only a successful author but also a college professor).It still astounds her, however, that after all these years, people are still so shocked and impressed that her husband stays home while she works. People say, “Oh, he’s such a hero.” Whereas, if she were staying home, they might say of her, “Oh, you’re a great mom,” but it wouldn’t occur to them that she was a hero for caring for the kids. So the fact that the roles are still so steretyped after women having come such a long way seemed to disturb her.Regarding the arrangement with her husband, she concluded quite simply, “…so I just let him be a dad.”The following, however, was her strongest statement, and when she said it, she looked me straight in the eye:”I’ll bet if I were a man, I would never have been asked this question.”I shrugged kind of sheepishly and nodded.She’s right. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask a dad how he balances parenthood and writing. Point taken.I wondered for a few minutes if the progressive types in the audience thought of me as an anachronistic, 1950s-style housewife (wearing a scarf, no less!).My mom, who actually was a 1950s housewife, worked as a professional journalist instead of staying home with her kids full time. She probably would be aggravated by the same question.Other than feeling somewhat chastised by Haven Kimmel, I felt that the weekend did serve to breathe some literary life into me. I sat in on a workshop with poet Maurice Manning, and another about Writing from the Heart, led by Quaker author Brent Bill.Other riveting facts: I collided with not just one colloquium attendee, but two. The first collision occurred when I threw my hand up in a big, bold gesture and smacked someone’s shoulder. The second time I stood up and turned too quickly–boom! “Oh, no! I’m sorry–you’re the second person I’ve run into today!”Maurice Manning witnessed both.At lunch, someone asked Maurice Manning if he had any kids. He said that no, he did not. He has a couple of dogs. And he’s a beekeeper. But no kids.Too bad, because you’d better believe I was poised to ask him:How do you balance fatherhood and writing?I ran into Haven and her mom in the room set up as a temporary bookstore. I was buying a copy of Zippy, She Got Up Off the Couch, and The Solace of Leaving Early.”How nice that I’m buying a stack of Haven Kimmel books right in front of Haven Kimmel!” I said. Smooth, I am; very smooth.She laughed, and I said, “I’m buying my very own copy of Zippy. I borrowed it from a friend when I first read it.”"I hear that from a lot of people–it seems to get passed around a lot.”"It’s been years since I read it,” I admitted, “but I’ve never forgotten the carrot episode.”"Me neither!”"It comes up a lot–the story, I mean, not the carrots.”"It comes up a lot with people for me, too. A memorable moment.”A memorable moment. Yes, that’s what I experienced–not just one, but several memorable moments that brought a surprise or two to my literary outing.
*** Most Up-to-date Update: Comments/Entries are now closed. I shall now access the online random integer generator to discover who will receive a complimentary copy of The Contemplative Mom ****** Update: I’ll hold the drawing as close as possible to 10:00 p.m. (Eastern time) this Saturday, November 3. I’ll be using a random integer generator instead of the old-fashioned method of writing out names and drawing from a hat…mainly because I wanted to type out the words “random integer generator.” And because I don’t want you feeling any ill-will toward my children if they don’t draw your name. I’ll contact the winner for shipping and signing instructions, and post the winner at Rocks In My Dryer’s master-winner-list. ***Shannon suggested our giveaway item reflect something about us or our personality. Being both a writer and a book lover, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a copy of my first book, entitled The Contemplative Mom: Restoring Rich Relationship with God in the Midst of Motherhood.I’m happy to sign it for the winner, if he or she would like, or it can be left au naturel.So here’s what you do: Leave a comment on this post if you would like to be in the drawing (be sure to provide an e-mail contact). The comment serves as your entry into the contest. Then this coming weekend, I’ll print off the names and have one of the kids randomly draw a name.I’ll contact that lucky winner via e-mail to find out shipping instructions and whether or not you want the book signed.That’s it. Now you can hop on over to Rocks In My Dryer to check out hundreds of other giveaway items.(I adore you all, but this giveaway is open only to readers in the United States and Canada.)
I still want to post about my Adventures in Literary Outings, and I actually have a bloggy giveaway to offer.But today, I ran out of time to write.It just figures, after all my talk of feeding my readers meaningful, relevant content, that I’d have no time to write.Never promise anything on your blog, or it will turn into a big joke.Ha.
Last Saturday, The Boy said, “Since tomorrow is a day of rest, I think I’ll take a long nap. I’m pretty tired, and I need to sleep.”He knew his limits and recognized the benefit of taking a day off to literally rest.Oh, that we all could do the same–that we might recognize our limits, and take time to rest!I have a few stories to share from my recent Adventures in Literary Outings.But I’m going to save them for another day. Maybe tomorrow.Because today, I intend take the advice of my child.Today is a day of rest. I’m pretty tired, and a long nap sounds good.
At a writing event this weekend, one of the speakers leading a breakout session mentioned his blog. He said, “A blog is like an animal–you must feed it.”True. To keep a blog alive, it needs food in the form of quality content.But how much? And how often? Monster-plant-sized portions daily, or a light watering once a week?If I recall from my personal history of blogging, bloggers used to be advised to blog daily. That was in the early days of blogging, back in Web 1.0. Then the advice shifted to “regularly” (but once-a-week minimum was still advised). The idea of regular or daily blogging was to develop a loyal audience–that nothing would be more aggravating to a curious visitor than to be interested enough to start visiting, only to find one day that no content appeared. That was the theory, at least. To gain readers–faithful, loyal readers–you had to give them lots of content.Then came RSS feeds, Bloglines, Technorati, Google Reader and the like. Now loyal readers rely on automated delivery services to alert them to new content–it pops straight to their reader, feeder, or e-mail in-box. This technology raised the question of whether or not daily content is still necessary.And then, along came over 50 million blogs, give or take a few million. Some of those, they say, may be abandoned; thus, the number of active blogs may be much lower. Still. This explains why I saw a post the other day at Pensieve, in which she noted with alarm that over 4,000 posts were waiting for her at Bloglines. Talk about overwhelming!We may be experiencing blog-fatigue. The term usually applies to the blogger him- or herself, the one too pooped to produce material. In this case, I’m suggesting that “blog-fatigue” refers to a reading fatigue. It’s a funny cycle, actually, with bloggers feeling a kind of obligation to their readers to provide fresh material; and readers finding they are overwhelmed with all the new material. The readers want to read–they may even feel a bit of anxiety that they’ll miss something great. But who can read all of those posts? Who can keep up?And one would be tempted to pose the same question of the bloggers, the writers–who can write all of those posts? Who can keep up? Strangely, many of us can. I miss a day here and there, but I do seem to keep tapping away.But should I?This article by Eric Kinz has me wondering if I am contributing to a problem, a glut in the blogosphere, a bottle-neck of ideas.Kinz appears to gear his post toward corporate marketing and professional bloggers (and it’s a little old, dated June 2006; and you know what that means in computer-years…), but he provides an interesting argument for why daily blogging is no longer necessary or even desired–and he does it in a 10-reason format, which is always so easy to read online.He talks about participating in the blogging community as being vitally important–more so, perhaps, than churning out daily posts (especially if content is compromised and lacking punch). A person commenting on the same post duplicated on Kinz’s blog pointed out that the goal of the blog should be considered when determining frequency.Kinz quotes Seth Godin saying, “blogging with restraint, selectivity, cogency and brevity (okay, that’s a long way of saying ‘making every word count’) will use attention more efficiently and ought to win.” Kinz concludes by saying he is only going to post when he has something to say.Still other articles make good arguments for daily blogging, even today, even with RSS feeds jamming and even competing with approximately 55 million blogs.I spite of Kinz’s 10 compelling arguments against daily blogging, I intend to continue posting often–daily, when possible. I guess it’s the German ancestry flowing down through my DNA–I like people to leave well-fed. No scrawny, underfed blog-readers over here. I’m going to try to keep you supplied with content.It’s up to you whether or not you’ll sit down with me for the meal.
Like Penguin Batting, I Do Dog Tricks offers a harmless and amusing diversion for a few minutes, thanks to the talents of a clever computer programmer and a cute yorkie that does dog tricks that you type in.Just think up a typical dog trick, enter the command into the space provided, and watch the dog respond. If you think up something weird that didn’t occur to the designer, a default ”apology” pops up. When I gave the kids the link, they took turns typing in “sit,” “stand,” “dance,” and “speak.” I’d hear them all laughing or saying, “Awwwwww.”After you’ve run out of the standard commands like “shake,” “beg” and “down,” try “jump,” and my favorite: “kisses.”Many thanks to my friend K. who told me about it a while ago. I’ve been saving it for a slow blogging day.It’s sponsored by Heartgard.
I was cruising the blogosphere and came across a link to this story about a Polish woman named Irena Sendler.She saved 2,500 children from the Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland.Interesting, isn’t it, how close her name is to Schindler?According to that story about her that I linked you to, she’s still alive–97 years old.Here is a website created by the girls who, as part of a school report in 1999, unearthed the details of Irena’s life and the risks she took. What started as a class project for three high school girls has grown over the years into an organization with a bold mission: to “repair the world.” The girls, now grown women, announced on the site that Irena was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this year. Al Gore and the United Nations Council on Climate Change scooped her.When Irena was only 7 years old, her father told her on his deathbed, “If you see someone drowning you must try to rescue them, even if you cannot swim.”During WWII, she saw people, Jewish families, some were friends and neighbors, trapped behind fences, basically drowning, on their way to certain death. She tried to rescue as many children as possible, smuggling some into orphanages in bags of donated clothing, placing others in Christian homes, changing their names, but always keeping records of their original names and families. She stored the names in a jar that was buried in her neighbor’s yard.After the war, she dug up the jar and used those precious slips of paper to try to track down the children and their families, devoting years to reuniting as many children as possible with their families.She’s not the only brave sole who took enormous risks in Poland during the war, but her story touched me.I can see how she could inspire people to aim so high that they seek to repair the world.She lived out her father’s wisdom during a desperate, dangerous time.Would I have the strength and courage to do the same?
One time I sat through part of my kids’ spring musical program fretting and worried that I had forgotten to unplug the iron.Thankfully, my neighbor was home. I phoned her at intermission and asked if she would please not laugh at me and please, please, pretty please go over to my house and check.She didn’t laugh and was happy to check. The iron was unplugged.Boy was I relieved, but how could I avoid that concern in the future? How could I remember whether or not I unplugged that thing?Not long after that, I came across a tip from an organizer that has helped me several times when I’m worried I’ll forget something. The organizer suggested that as we reach for the plug, we state out loud to ourselves, “I have unplugged the iron just now.” When we hear our own voice, we “record” that moment for future reference. Later, when we are wondering if we followed through, we can cut through our anxious thoughts to that moment and remember, “Oh, that’s right. I unplugged it. I know, because I said so at that very moment. Out loud.”I started doing that. I mean, how often is one given such a great excuse to talk to one’s self (without being thought a bit peculiar, that is)?This short list includes situations when I need to know whether or not I’ve turned off, unplugged, or otherwise dealt with some situation–and what I might say to remind myself (in fact, I do vary what I say each time so that I don’t say it with quite the same words. This increases the odds that I’ll remember that moment):
- “I just unplugged the curling iron/straightener/hot rollers.”
- “Voila. The iron is no longer plugged in.” (And won’t you remember having just used a French word in connection with your iron?)
- “The stove burner I used for the tea kettle is off.”
- “All the stove burners are off.” (Sometimes I point at each knob and say, “Check. Check. Check. Check. The burners are all off.” Yes, I am that forgetful. And demonstrative.)
- “I did indeed turn off the oven after I took out the cookies.” (It is, after all, so easy to get distracted by the cookies.)
- “Yes, I did turn off the sprinkler in the back yard.”
- “My car doors are officially locked at this moment.”
- “I am now closing and locking the back/patio/garage/front door.”
- “I’m screwing the gas cap back on and shutting the metal fuel door on the side of the car. I will not look like a goofball as I drive away from this gas pump.”
- “The dryer is off. I did not leave it running while I was out running errands.”
- “I checked the link to this post over at Rocks In My Dryer to make sure it works. Twice.”
Go ahead. Talk to yourself.** Update–If you phrase your reminders in second person, that would be even easier to remember. Address yourself, like this: ”Ann, you did take your vitamin this morning.” Please visit Rocks In My Dryer for more great ideas.Check out my previous odd and assorted Works For Me Wednesday ideas here.
We spent the weekend with extended family in a rural, wooded setting a few hours from home. A tree had been felled a week or so prior to our arrival, and the treecutter sliced the trunk into logs of various sizes, leaving them for us–or someone–to split and stack. The old tree trunk formed impressive rounds that were the size of small, low game tables. Others were the perfect size for flipping on end as a stool. A thick layer of sawdust covered much of the grass.The children’s imaginations wove up and over, in and around the scattered hunks of wood and into the branches and dried leaves remaining from the top of the tree, as well. Those upper branches became, for a short time, a den for dragons; later, a treetop full of monkeys. A brush pile of dreams. Delighted cousins, huddled inside a temporary clubhouse, created adventures, challenges, and storylines. And a variety of accompanying sound effects.As I was telling a story to my sister-in-law, The Boy came rushing around to the circle of logs, interruptering me. “Mom! Mom! All of the stuff that’s all over the place, the stuff on the–”In an attempt to teach some manners, I held up my hand in the universal sign of, “Stop talking now or you won’t be playing your Nintendo DS for a week.” In response, he made the universal grunting sounds of, “If I don’t get this out, I’m going to explode.”I droned on, stubbornly determined to finish my story and make him wait.He heaved a great sigh and interrupted. Again. “But! All this stuff on the ground looks–”I waved my hand at him, tilted my head, and pursed my lips, in the universal, hideous, maternal grimace of, “You. Are. Testing. My. Patience.”While I said another couple of sentences, I noticed that he sucked in a deep breath, held it for a moment, scrunching up every face muscle and tensing his entire body. Finally, when he couldn’t hold it or stand it another second, his thoughts tumbled out:”ALL THIS STUFF ON THE GROUND LOOKS LIKE FAIRY DUST!”Then he ran away.”What did he say?” my sister-in-law asked. She was unable to make out his exclamation.I repeated his words and then sighed. “Here I was stuck on trying to teach him some manners, and he just wanted to point out the fairy dust. He just wanted me to see it. I feel so bad.”We wondered, then, how many poets were squelched in their youth by a well-meaning adult shushing them.The rest of the day, I found myself looking down at that sawdust. While the children invented variations on magical kingdoms, I thought about it.The Boy was right.That day, all around that big, beautiful felled tree, fairy dust was everywhere.