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Saturday, March 31, 2012

April A to Z Blog Challenge - Writing Conventions

It's that time of year again. The annual April A to Z blog challenge starts tomorrow.

As I have thought and pondered and wracked my brain for my approach to this year's challenge, I remembered an experience from when I was a blossoming writer. In about the 10th grade, seeking and desperately desiring the approval and encouragement of my very stern and somewhat cold English teacher, who, no doubt, was exhausted at that point in her career by juvenile teenager's self-indulgent prose, I presented her with a poem I had written and naively asked for her honest feedback.

She scanned what I had scrawled across a piece of notebook paper. Frowned. Handed it back to me. Then she said, "Why doesn't it have any punctuation?" And she gave me one of those smiles a person gives when she knows she's said something that hurts.

She could not appreciate the creativity or the expressiveness of my poetry because she could not get past the fact that I had ignored writing conventions. And I had no good reason for omitting punctuation, other than I didn't think my poem needed it. She nonetheless assured me that it did.

Bing! An epiphany: Conventions of writing can be usefully violated when the writer has an intentional reason for doing so. And they can only be successfully violated by a writer who first understands writing conventions and how to implement them correctly. AND they should be implemented correctly, unless the writer has an exceptionally good reason for not doing so.

I am so thankful to that teacher for shooting me down. It was the only way I could build my writing up. (I intentionally ended those sentences in prepositions for the sake of balance.)

So my April A to Z effort will address 26 conventions of writing every writer should understand, follow and use correctly (unless he or she can adequately defend the misuse of them and demonstrate how the misuse advances the story or develops the character).

See you April 1st for the first installment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Effects of Aging

I can't be sure, exactly, but I think I suffered the ill-spoken of malady of forty-something year-old women, the unmerciful hot flash. I've always heard that hot flashes can happen at any time, anywhere, and that they are entirely uncomfortable. What I experienced fits those criteria.

It happened when I was walking from my car to the door of the grocery store. I'd been to a DAR meeting and decided to grab a few things before going home. I was wearing a skirt that hits just above the knees, strappy wedges, and a 3/4-sleeve blouse with shirring through the bodice, an outfit I adore.

Dropping my keys into my purse, I looked up to meet eyes with a man in his mid-thirties walking in the opposite direction. I'm not ashamed to say, by the way, that his approving appraisal did a lot for my ego and sent a shiver of I'm-still-pretty down my spine.

Naturally, the shiver caused me to straighten my posture

 . . . which unfortunately caused my right foot to errantly step on a stray rock,

. . . which resulted in my right heel slipping off of the tall wedge sandal,

. . . which sent me wobbling through a clumsy adjustment to catch my balance.

The man, very gentlemanly jumped into action. He grabbed me by the elbow to assist me onto the curb, then asked, "Ma'am, are you alright?"

That's when it happened. Sixty seconds prior I was hot, and then - FLASH - I wasn't anymore. I was ma'am to a thirty-something year-old. And very uncomfortable.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Enough is As Good As a Feast

So, Monday I was doing the evening Bible reading with my children. The passage we shared was the well-known one about the loaves and fishes. Jesus and his disciples faced the daunting task of feeding the thousands of people who had come to hear Jesus speak, to spend time in His presence. Just like my children and me in our reading of the account, they were seeking truths, understanding, knowledge, guidance.

Anyway, our tradition in what my children have dubbed "Hall Time," because we meet for the activity in the large hallway between our bedrooms, is for each person to take a turn explaining what he or she gained or learned from the Bible reading. On Monday, the kids talked of Jesus performing a miracle, the importance of following Jesus, and the necessity of faith; all excellent commentary on the passage.

When my turn came around, I was hit by a sudden epiphany; a very simple message that I had missed so many times before, but that is quite salient in these lean economic years. And it hinges on what Jesus did before He performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand with only five loaves and two fishes.

He gave thanks. He did not despair in the critical shortage of food, but instead thanked His Father for what little He had. I concentrated on that singular, often overlooked detail. He thanked God, then He fed the masses.

It is when we dwell on all that we are deprived of that we starve, that we feel empty, that we hunger, that we feel want. When we thank God for what we have, we always have enough. And enough is as good as a feast.

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