Friday, March 6, 2015

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Why would I review a twenty years old book? Why review a book that most writers have read?

Those are great questions. The answer is simple. While first published in 1995, "Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" by Anne Lamott is as relevant today as the day it was published. The book has become a definitive how-to guide for new and aspiring writers. 

The book has been a national best seller. It continues to have excellent sales. As of today (3/5/2015), twenty years after publication it still ranks #958 on Amazon.com's overall best sellers rank. More amazingly it ranks:

#1 in Books > Reference > Words, Language & Grammar > Speech
#1 in Books > Reference > Writing, Research & Publishing Guides > Writing > Journalism & Nonfiction
#1 in Books > Textbooks > Communication & Journalism > Journalism

I don't know about you, but I would love to have a book with as consistent a sales history as "Bird by Bird." Let's take a more in depth look at this wonderful little book.

An entertaining and helpful guidebook that covers every step of the writing process, the reading of "Bird By Bird" has become something of an initiation for hopeful writers. Anne Lamott drives home the point of the need for regular writing and facing the fact that getting published will almost certainly not make you more contented, wealthier or good-looking.

An entertaining and helpful guidebook that covers every step of the writing process, the reading of "Bird By Bird" has become something of an initiation for hopeful writers. Anne drives home the point of the need for regular writing and facing the fact that getting published will almost certainly not make you more contented, wealthier or good-looking.

Her book’s genesis comes from the notes of the lectures Lamott delivers to her writing classes. The book begins the way all writing classes do – sit down and write. Write, write, and write and the revise and rewrite before you worry about agents, book titles, etc. She reminds us to sit at our computer, bring up our word processing program, stare at the screen and write. She gives practical advice on not looking at the size of the task, but viewing it as a series of small assignments.

Lamott investigates the depths of both the formal elements of writing such as plot, character development, dialogue, setting, point of view and the less concrete but infinitely more injurious obstacles facing a writer, that is acceptance the "[expletive deleted] first draft" and killing the perfectionist inside you standing between you and your shitty first draft. 
  • She talks in practical terms about defeating writer's block and what to do when you have crises of faith. 
  • She talks about finding a sturdy soul to read your “[expletive deleted]” draft and not being devastated when the reader has more than a few suggestions. 
  • She also touches on the subject of learning to deal with professional jealousy, a bound to happen fate "because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know --- people, who are, in other words, not you."

"Bird By Bird" isn't all that ground-breaking a book. I have read similar works providing insights on the writing life by authors Annie Dillard and Natalie Goldberg. Ask anyone in the position to make a comparison and more likely than not they'll say "Bird By Bird" surpasses all. “What, then, is it about "Bird By Bird" that strikes a chord with so many readers and writers?” to quote a question asked by reviewer Sarah Brennan.

Anne Lamott's advice is all harvested from personal experience. Her guidance is caring, keen and so good-naturedly explained it's easily employable. I agree again with Sarah Brennan that “ultimately, it's her uncanny and self-effacing humor, natural, unaffected tone and anecdote-as-life-lesson adeptness that make Bird By Bird such an effective teaching device. Hers is a refreshingly conversational, approachable, enjoyable didacticism that leaves you with the feeling that
  • if you were to meet Lamott, you're pretty sure you would be instantaneous best friends
  • however far you descend into the pits of frustration, self-loathing and despair, the writing life is worth it.”

Anne Lamott gives us all hope as she shares, "Even if you only show the people in your writing group your memoirs or stories or novels, even if you only wrote your story so that one day your children would know what life was like when you were a child, and you knew the name of every dog in town --- still, to have written your version is an honorable thing." It would be fun to sit down for a day and talk and laugh with Anne Lamott.

Maybe if we learn some of the lessons from "Bird By Bird" someone will read or maybe even review our book twenty years after publication. You never know, it just might could happen.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

21 Surefire Ways to Sink Your Writing Career

Volumes--some of them long and tedious, others funny or serious, but always helpful--have been written on how to make it in this world as a writer. I don't doubt there are successful authors out there whose sole output has been writing books about writing books, while never actually writing a book about anything else. Yes, I know. Confusing. But if a writer wants to become a published author, there's no dearth of books telling him or her just how to do it.

However, I think there's just as much to be learned about getting our work published and available to readers by knowing how to drown your desire to write, destroy your ego, and demolish your career (along with your chances of being published). After all, if you know the pitfalls, you can avoid them. At least that's the plan. So with tongue in cheek, I present the following points gleaned from personal experience (not mine, of course), so you can take heart in knowing they've 1.) actually happened, 2.) might actually happen, or 3.) wouldn't in a million years actually happen, but help round out the list. Here goes:

1.  Decide right off the bat not to take the advice of anyone who isn't Stephen King, John Grisham, or fill-in-the-name-of-your-favorite-author. So what if they've been at this for thirty years and had many books published after years of rejection? That's their experience; yours will most certainly be different (and more positive).
Speaking of Stephen King--he has bats on his iron fence in Maine!
How cool is that? He must not have been home that day or he
would no doubt have come out to greet me. 
2.  Tell everyone you know--the ones still listening to you, at least--that you know what your readers (a.k.a. your mother, grandmother, aunt, and closest friend) want more than editors, publishers, agents, or anyone else remotely engaged in the writing process. Their advice is to other writers. Not you. You're the exception.

3.  Write, write, and write some more, but never, ever submit that work to anyone because you're perpetually in the editing (read: stalling) stage. There will be time for submitting once you're finished making it even more perfect than it already is.

4.  Don't read. Don't follow the advice of writing professionals everywhere that writers are readers. You don't have time to read--you're too busy writing! You don't have to read the work of others (published others, I might add) to learn from their techniques because you're busy gaining experience by writing, not by taking the time to note what worked or didn't work for others.

5.  Don't learn the spelling, grammar and/or punctuation rules. If, by chance, you happen to hear about them, whatever you do, don't follow them. Ever.

6.  Don't break those rules occasionally. Once you learned them (if you have, that is), don't stretch your creative muscles enough to break one once in a while.

7.  Play copious games of FreeCell. It's good for the brain cells. Tell people who catch you that you're resting your thoughts and your subconscious is actually writing like crazy, while you hit "play again" over and over and over...

8.  Write down story ideas, file them away, but never, ever use them.

9.  Lose those story ideas over the years and when you want them, they're gone forever because you thought they were so intellectually stimulating and ... well, so just plain genius, that you'd never, ever forget them. But you did.

10. Use ever as often as possible.

11.  Buy a new computer. Learn how to use it. Make sure it has FreeCell loaded on it and thoroughly test it to be sure your subconscious will have something to do.

12.  Don't write anything while you're waiting to hear from an editor on a previous submission (provided you've edited that work until it's perfect enough to submit). Just wait. And wait. Don't start anything new because any minute now you're going to be up to your ears in edits from the editor assigned to you at Very Special Publishing House that enthusiastically and gratefully accepted your manuscript. No sense confusing your subconscious.

13. Get organized. Often. Re-organize your desk/office/filing system/FreeCell scores as many times as necessary to avoid writing. Your subconscious is doing all that behind-the-scenes work anyway. You might as well get ready for the flood of acceptance letters or emails you'll be getting any day now by rearranging files, dusting your desk, or changing the light bulb in that Hemingway-style lamp you spent three weeks looking for on your new computer.

14. Join a writing group, secretly thinking you know more than anyone else will. But you join anyway since your expertise will be sorely needed by others. Find excuses why you can't bring any of your work to be critiqued. When they keep asking, find an excuse why you can no longer attend.

15. Find another writing group and start all over again.

16. Look around you and see other members of your writing group (assuming you've stayed in one) being published. Listen as they share their successes or congratulate one another on completed manuscripts or for actually submitting something. Watch them console those who have taken the plunge and been rejected. Feel superior because you have no rejection stories to share--or acceptance stories, for that matter. Feel out of place because deep down you know you're an impostor.

17. Finally see the light and then use it to flog yourself repeatedly for being that impostor you recognized at the last writing group meeting.

18. Give up. Swear you'll never write again. It's too hard. Besides, no one wants to read your work. You're not talented/skilled/creative/funny/serious/
inspirational enough, anyway. There are millions of books out there--maybe billions. Who needs yours?

19. Forget that the only person who can write that book roaming around in your head is you. Yes, there are billions of books out there, but do any of them have your name on the cover? Do any of them have your uniqueness imprinted upon them? Are any of them steeped in your life experiences, your sense of humor or pathos or inspiration or terror or mystery or romance? Are any of them the culmination of all the hard work you've put into your career; the introspection, the doubts, hopes, ideas, or failures you've experienced? Are any of them written by you?

20. Refuse to learn from any of the above. Accept that what you love doing more than anything else in this world isn't what you've been put on this earth to do after all. Give up on yourself, your career, and on God's desire for your life.

21. Hate yourself forever.

If, on the other, you decide to give it another shot and become the author you're supposed to be, avoid all of the above. Like the plague. (Oh, and don't use clich├ęs.) Write, edit, study, read, join, submit, get rejected again and again. Pay your dues. Then write, edit, study, read, join, submit some more. Get accepted. Become a published author. Do it all over again.

And finally, celebrate your decision to join the ranks of writers all across the world and through the ages who have the same feelings of inadequacy and fear and hopefulness and desire and yes, sometimes even success that you do.

So go ahead, treat yourself. Play a game of FreeCell.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Library and Library Cards

In my mind, it’s Saturday, September 11, 1964. My family had just moved into base housing on Biggs Air Force Base in El Paso, Texas. Dad had my little brother and me got in our beautiful metallic turquoise 1964 Ford Galaxy 500 car. Our destination was the base library. We have set off on a short drive to get my brother and me our first library card.

The librarian was unlike anyone I had ever met or seen. The kids called her the "bun lady." She wore the stereotypical hair in a bun. She kept her spectacles on a chain, infrequently wearing them. Her work uniform was a long covered up dress. She always had a worried expression. Her right arm had a nervous twitch where her hand frequently jerked toward her mouth and the pointer finger extended across her lips to signify "Shush!" It seemed "shush" was the most common word she spoke.

The "bun lady" gave us a tour of the library. We had the Dewey Decimal System explained. We visited the book stacks with the children’s, science fiction, history and biography books. She showed us the location of the "necessary rooms" as she called them in case we should need to do what all people do, but rarely admitted to doing, especially back in 1964.

I remember dad had us walk back to our house from the library. He made sure we knew the way home and made it safely.

We visited the library several times a week. It was a twenty-minute walk to the library. We always had adventures en route to the library, but not so much on the trip home. We couldn't wait to get back to the house. At home, we could dip into the exploits between the book’s covers. Mother always had hours of quiet time after we returned with books.

I still remember how hush-hush the libraries were back then. It seemed all speech ended at the door. There were no computers in libraries in the 1960's. No one was sending text messages or taking pictures on a cell phone. I can still hear the swishing of card catalog drawers being opened and closed, the squeak of the book cart's wheels announcing the slow but sure restocking of shelves. They were some of my favorite sounds.

I recall all those book spines announcing the titles covered with the plastic covers. I would walk down the aisles looking, gawking. I would dream of my name being there - someday.

Suddenly, there they were. Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine. I think I heard Handel’s Messiah’s Hallelujah Chorus when I found these books. I started reading both. I have been a fan of Bradbury and science fiction since that time.

I checked the books out. I still remember the "bun lady's" pencil. It had a little stamp thingy attached to it instead of an eraser. There was a pocket glued in the front of the book. In it was a card. She took the card out of the pocket. Next, she wrote my name down on that card stamping it with the due date. She filed it away. She then stamped the due date on the slip of paper inside the pocket glued to the front page of the book. I had the books for two weeks. Two adventurous weeks!

At home, I would retire to my bedroom and read for hours. In my mind, I would be it the cupola orchestrating the lights of the town turning off at night. I would experience the rocket winter of traveling from Ohio to Mars.

I journeyed to all those places for free in books. The base library became a favorite destination for me. Libraries are still a place of refuge and solitude for me and hundreds of military brats.

I wrote my first published article in the library at The University of Texas at Arlington in 1974. On a rainy September afternoon in 1981 at Emory University's library in Atlanta, Georgia I wrote the first draft of my first professional magazine article sale.

While today the Internet may bring information into my home, the library is still the sacred shrine for me and many writers. I was in the Los Angeles Public Library and the UCLA library a few years ago. I could see the Ray Bradbury of the 1940s inserting a quarter for another 30 minutes of typing in the pay typewriter. Those still existed when I was in college and seminary.

Nearly a decade ago I was in the Vicksburg, Mississippi Public Library and learned that Winston Groom (author of Forest Gump) was there researching a book on the Vicksburg Campaign of the Civil War.

Just last week I watched a video by Joanna Penn. She was showing where she writes in the London Public Library. She said this was the very spot where Charles Dickens wrote as well as Agatha Christie.

I still smile when I reflect on that Saturday in September 1964 when I got my first library card. I still have a library card. The library along with a bookstore are my favorite places to escape the world. I believe the library still holds a key role for the writer.

Photo Source:
Creative Commons Licence
By Tammy (Flickr: library card)
This photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
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Friday, February 27, 2015

When Night Comes by Dan Walsh

Product Details
I should have known better than to pick up a Dan Walsh book before starting Thanksgiving Dinner. The pages had to be turned, frozen turkey notwithstanding. 

Why is Jack Turner, a successful author of military history, suddenly having very real "back in time" nightmares? These dreams coincide with his return to Culpepper to give a series of lectures for his old history professor, who by the way, is acting very strange.

Throw in several student deaths on campus,  investigated by Detective Joe Boyd who doesn't agree with the natural causes report, and a hired hit man with no conscience, plus a little romance, and Thanksgiving Dinner takes a backseat. I mean, what would you do if you fell asleep in your rented apartment,  but woke up on Pearl Harbor half an hour before, oh wait, don't want to spoil it.

The heart pounding pace grabbed me from the very beginning with strong characters and believable dialogue. The tension and intrigue reminded me of The Bourne Identity. And speaking of the big screen, where I'd love to see this story, Dan Walsh proves it can be done without sex scenes and profanity. This story ran me breathless all the way to the exciting and satisfying ending. I highly recommend this book.


Dan Walsh is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than a dozen novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and What Follows After. His books have been highly reviewed by USA Today and in magazines such as Publishers Weekly, RT Book Reviews and Library Journal. Dan lives and writes in the Daytona Beach area with his wife, Cindi. They have 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren. www.danwalshbooks.com
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Critique Conversations (and Why You Should Be Having Them)

I'm currently in the middle of the last stages of editing my next book release, and it's always a wild and crazy ride. (Can I really say that? I'm only on my 3rd release, and it's the first novel...Hmmm...a question to ponder later.) I'm always perplexed as to whether I'm going to get this done or not.

Graphic Conversation
Photo by Marc Wathieu
Of course, that's probably because when I receive the critiques back from those I have editing my projects, I always have a ton of questions. Inevitably, this means a long, drawn out conversation about the nuances behind a scene, areas I need to deepen or strengthen, and places I should seriously consider changing. I muse back and forth with those helping me about how to do something without breaking the integrity of the rest of the book, how someone is to be related to someone else if I take another person out of the story, and ask myself the deeper meaning behind the relationships of the characters I've created.

For instance, in the project I'm about to release, I had a character who murdered his wife. Note the "had" part of that whole business? After a long, drawn out e-mail exchange, I decide that I needed to dump the husband. But the now-single lady still had to die--it was kinda the point of the story. The solution was to make another character I already had on the outs do double duty and become the killer. It was tricky business, and I'm still keeping my original story in mostly-pristine condition for comparison in the future, but even a few weeks out from releasing it, I can see this is a change for the better.

This would probably never have happened on my own, and definitely not had I asked questions about my friend's critique, although she had suggested it. Without her collaboration, I probably wouldn't have arrived at the solution I did.

And that's why when you get a critique back, you should take the time to read it and dig in. Before I ever published a book, I did this with members of my local critique group. One member in particular and I would sit down for coffee and danish at the Panera Bread between our houses, and we'd talk for hours about each others' projects, discussing different points.

Just when you do it over e-mail, the conversation is (usually) more to-the-point. Even so, in the latest round, I needed to print out the discussion for various reasons, and it was still 17 pages long...and that wasn't even all of it!

Even though the better part of this discussion took well over a week--and it's still ongoing--I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not only am I learning a great deal more about the craft of writing, I'm coming out the other side with a better story. One I hope will delight my readers as much as it's delighted me to write.

___________________________________

Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador. She is the author of Emergence , Retaliation, and the forthcoming Capitulation, novellas/novels in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.

She blogs sporadically at LibertySpeidel.com.
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Guest Post: Moral Premise by Gail Kittleson

Moral Premise
By Gail Kittleson


Some of you may have read The Moral Premise/Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D. Not exactly light reading, this book is a must if our goal is to improve our fiction writing skills, because the premise is the glue that holds our stories together.
        Once you get the hang of it, creating moral premises can be fun. Here’s one for In This Together, my first recent fiction sale—did I say I’m excited?
Playing it safe results in unfulfilled dreams, but taking risks leads to new vistas.
         The premise states the circumstances in which readers meet our heroine or hero, often a predicament requiring growth. How will the characters react to what life hands them, and what must occur in order to reach their goals? The story reveals how characters change and mature as they face challenges.
         Interestingly, a moral premise applies not only to the protagonist, but to other characters as well. A villain may manifest the premise in a way totally opposite our main character, but the reader will arrive at the same conclusion through both of their actions.
         That sounds complicated, but think how we understand a truth—haste makes waste, for example. Hurried, harried people teach us this maxim, but so do careful, efficient folks who manage time and tasks well. Switch the wording—taking time for tasks leads to success.
       Another example: we can become caring adults through good role models. But the back side of this truth works, too—uncaring people show us who we don’t want to become. We all know individuals who rise above bad childhood examples.
       Dottie, the heroine of In This Together, is living proof. Reared in poverty and chaos, she shows no resemblance to her abusive, neglectful father, takes responsibility for herself and her family and finds ways to contribute to her community after losing her son during World War II and her husband soon after.
        That brings me to another moral premise. Grief decimates, but time and friendship bring healing. Which premise best fits Dottie’s story? This one works for her, for Al, the widower next door who bides his time to reveal his attraction to her, and for Bonnie Mae, a new employee at the boarding house where Dottie works.
       Helene, the rather nasty house proprietor, exhibits the opposite of this premise. She concocts bitterness out of life’s challenges instead of making lemonade.
         So we come to several questions. Can a single work have more than one moral premise? And is it essential to nail down the premise before we begin the first draft? What about pansters?
Recently, Tracy Groot, whose successful fiction exhibits strong moral premises, described her writing process. Rather than focusing on the premise, she simply lets her characters live out their lives.
         I can identify. When Dottie’s story presented itself to me, no moral premise was emblazoned on my mind. But as her personality and reactions took shape, a premise emerged. If I’d waited for thorough understanding, the manuscript would still be a twinkle in my eye.


I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on this topic. 

G&L - Version 2 
Gail Kittleson
DARE TO BLOOM!
http://www.gailkittleson.com/
www.facebook.com/gail.kittleson


Catching Up With Daylight inspires through contemporary women’s stories, ancient meditation practices, and encouragement to live in the present moment,
is available on Amazon. She also wrote Celebrating Christmas and Celebrating Easter for Abingdon Press.

catch
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Review of A Heart Deceived


Michelle Griep has single-handedly renewed my love for Regency Romance. A Heart Deceived is no bodice ripper, something I tired of long ago. It's an intriguing tale of a young, unmarried woman who must keep her brother's growing insanity a secret--or he'd end up in an asylum, and she'd end up homeless.
Michelle's  characters are as real and complex as her plot. She included a couple of men in there who I still want to smack upside the head. But her true gift as an author is in her ability to sink the reader in the setting. Of course, nothing enhances the ability to describe a scene better than life-long study and physically seeing the country. Michelle doesn't keep us in a pristine home with blooming flowers and birds chirping. She takes us out for a walk along the waterfront, where the danger lies and poverty abounds and the need to cover our noses with a lacy kerchief is overpowering.
This story illustrates the difference between God's saving grace, and man's pharisaic twisting of His laws. Definitely worth the read.
I enjoyed Michelle's novel so much, I have her newest, Brentwood's Wardon my TBR list.
griepPlace an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why We Need to Keep Telling Our Stories

I was recently reminded about why it was so important to tell my story. We all have stories, all of us have unique experiences that shape who we are. Some of them are positive, wonderful and funny. Some of them are negative. They involve mistreatment and abuse and sadness. I don’t believe in telling your story as a way to define yourself. As a way to remain a victim. I believe in speaking the truth in order to put the ugliness behind you.

Very often, when you tell your story there are others who believe a different story about you. Others who should or do know better, but they cling to the lies they've heard or told. So when you share the truth, there will be people who won’t believe it. Who think you’re “whining” or making it up.



So why bother? I chose to tell my story because first of all, continuing to lie about it all was exhausting. Some families get so used to the lies that they forget what’s real. They lie so much they can’t remember what’s the truth and what’s a lie they helped perpetrate. Forgive these people.

And forgive yourself, because if you’re anything like me, you continued the lie just to please these people. To fit in. To be accepted. To try and feel that you were loved because you were doing what they wanted.

I chose to tell the truth after years and years of verbal abuse (and plenty of hitting, slaps across the face, and financial abuse where I helped fund my father’s alcohol habit) because I knew somewhere there was another little girl who believed the lies people told her about herself.

I’ve told my truth lots of different ways. One of them was during an essay I wrote for NPR’s “This I Believe” in 2006. I had heard they were starting “This I Believe” up again (it was originally a 1950’s radio series hosted by Edward R. Murrow) and were looking for essays. I wrote mine, sent it in, and forgot about it. I didn’t hear anything back at first so I figured they weren’t interested.

Boy, was I wrong. The essay took off. I received a note from the person that oversaw the “This I Believe” series six months later telling me it was the second most popular out of the then 20,000 entries on the site. I couldn't believe it.

And yet, I could. Telling the truth often helps us connect, and I was sure that the reason behind the popularity was that what I spoke about is a common thing, something people don’t talk about that often. We’re afraid to tell the truth sometimes because it doesn't always make us look good. I certainly don’t look back on the decisions I made or things I did back then with pride.

But I do look at my “recovery” (I’ll call it that for lack of a better word) as something I’m so grateful for I can only attribute it to God. He held me, moved me past it all. He brought me here, and where I’m at now is a very good place.



Recently I was told that my essay, which is now nine years old, is still one of the top 100 essays on the site out of 150,000 entries. I’m so humbled by that. NPR also asked me to record my essay and it was really weird to read it again, actually. It seems so long ago, so far away… but that’s another reason it’s important to talk about it again. If you are there right now, in that ugly place where someone who should love and care about you is telling you that you are worthless, please know that there is a way out of that.

And for the writers out there who are wondering if telling your story matters, I can tell you that it does. You may never hear from the people you touch, but know that your words have meaning.



Cherie Burbach is a poet, mixed media artist, and freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and relationships. She's written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. Her latest book is: Emotional Affairs: How to Stop, Prevent, and Move On from an Emotional Affair. Visit her website for more info, cherieburbach.com
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Stories for Soldiers

Google Free Images
I believe I've written about writing our brave service people before, but I want to share something related that our writers group is attempting.

Critique Cafe writes short stories to include in our letters to soldiers. We hope it adds to our gratitude and gives them a small, interesting, and hopefully inspiring diversion. This is how it works:

1. We've chosen to send our letters to Operation Gratitude. There are many other organizations sponsoring soldier letters as well. Follow the guidelines for your chosen avenue.

2. We write a letter expressing our gratitude for their service, and include a little about ourselves. It's nice to describe our everyday life that we are free to live because of their sacrifice and many before them.

3. Then we include a very short poem or story written just for them. The content adheres to the same guidelines as required/suggested by Operation Gratitude.

4. We critique each others' stories in our meetings, polish them up and then gather everything for mailing.

This is a new project for our group. My brother-in-law, who just completed 20 years in the Air Force, thinks it's a great idea. "Anything to help them get their mind off things for a minute. Especially the deployed." We may not ever hear of the results, but hopefully "casting our bread upon the waters" will one day be found to have blessed those sticking their necks out for us.

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions or experience with something like this you'd like to share?
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Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Saving America: A Christian Perspective of the Tea Party Movement

As a rule, I'm about as politically-savvy as our hermit crabs, and like them, I spend much of my
time in my politics-proof shell. I'm nearly useless when it comes to debating my opinions on our candidates and the issues because 1.) I'm usually awash in the garbage that passes these days for campaigning and thoroughly confused, and 2.) my views aren't particularly popular with a lot of people, anyway. I'm staunchly conservative and many of my friends and neighbors aren't.

What's-his-name, the hermit crab
That said, once I read Jonathan Wakefield's Saving America: A Christian Perspective of the Tea Party Movement, I felt considerably enlightened, and yet sadly disillusioned. I recall a time in my life--many years ago when I was a child--when I believed everything our president or senators, representatives, or their staff members told us. I'm not sure, but I think my parents and many of their friends, neighbors, and co-workers felt much the same way I did, but of course not with the child-like awe I felt when I thought of the men and women who governed us. Yes, those were simpler times and news (or rumors, innuendos, or outright lies) didn't spread with the speed of light, but even given that, I think we had far more reason back then to believe our leaders than we do today.

At the beginning of the book, Wakefield clearly admits he didn't want to get involved in politics, but was driven to it by the downward spiral of America's economic, moral, and world standing, and by God's leading. Frankly, I learned more about our government from reading Saving America than I'd learned my entire life. Wakefield has methodically, accurately, and truthfully researched the situation, and not only points out what's wrong, but also who's to blame (and believe me, it's all of us), and how we can rectify the situation.

I found it quite interesting that while the author points out the danger of allowing BGDs (Big Government Disciples) to continue their reign, he also shows that the roots of big government extend a century into the past. This is not a "Bush vs. Obama" finger-pointing session, but rather a close look at how the proponents of big government have been at work through many periods of our history and with the help of (or despite the disapproval of) numerous administrations.

The book not only addresses both major political parties, but present and potential Tea Partiers, Christian and non-Christian voters/non-voters, minorities, celebrities, and the church. Mr. Wakefield doesn't pull any punches and divvies out the blame or accolades as they are earned. There's something for everyone in this book--pastors who are brave enough to spread the word, politicians who do carry out the responsibilities of the job they were put into office to do and who covet the trust their constituents invested in them (and politicians who do neither), and Americans who are just plain confused. While they know something is horribly wrong, nobody has told them just what it is that's wrong and how to correct it.

To be honest, this book enlightened, infuriated, entertained, and scared the living daylights out of me. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know how we got where we are, what we're losing bit by bit, and what we can do about it before it's too late.

Wakefield writes in a non-confrontational, easygoing manner, yet his message is anything but warm and fuzzy. He's deadly serious and after reading Saving America: A Christian Perspective of the Tea Party Movement, I realized I should be too. You'll want to mark up your copy as I have mine to share nuggets of information the next time you want to debate someone who loves big government.

I encourage you to buy it, read it, and talk about it to anyone who loves our country. Jonathan Wakefield has a written a real winner.

Saving America: A Christian Perspective on the Tea Party Movement








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