Friday, February 12, 2016

Leap Day February 29: by Darlene Beck Jacobson

2016 is not only the Year of the Monkey on the Chinese calendar, it is also the year we get an extra day.  February 29 was first introduced into the calendar by Julius Caesar over 2000 years ago.  Since then, customs and cultures have attempted to make the most of this once-every-four-years day.

IRISH legend has women proposing to men on February 29th.  A man is expected to pay a penalty -a gown or cash -  if he refuses the proposal.

The GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS has one family producing 3 consecutive generations born on 2-29.  GREEKS consider it unlucky to be born on this day. And - depending on what country you live in - those born on 2-29 on a non-leap year will celebrate their birthday either 2-28 or 3-1. (There really are laws about this in some countries!)

That brings me to February 30th.  Never heard of it?  It happened once in Sweden in 1712.  And, February 30 existed in the SOVIET UNION in 1930-31.  It was introduced there in a revolutionary calendar in 1929.   This calendar featured 5 day weeks and 30 day months for every working month. The remaining 5 or 6 days were "monthless holidays".  The calendar was intended to improve worker efficiency.  It failed because it was too hard for people to give up the popular Sunday rest day.  Still, it wasn't until 1940 that the original 7 day week was restored.

Now that you've had a "mini" lesson on LEAP DAY, how will you spend your extra day this year?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Good Week, a Good Time, a Good Reason to Hibernate

by Jody Feldman

For the last three days, I have neglected most of my email, I have not put on shoes, my dust bunnies are riding on dust horseback, and it’s just a great coincidence that the weather here looks like this and feels even worse.
I have been on winter writing hibernation. And this book—I’m calling it TSN for now—is taking me through a totally different process than I’ve ever used. The reason?  I don’t know if I’m smart enough to give this grand idea its due.

Yes, I’ve said this before. Yes, I’ve pulled it off. This time, though, I’m feeling it even more strongly, which is why I’ve been so slow to start. For the past couple months, the only real writing I’ve done shows in several thousand words of notes, thoughts, and strange meanderings in four computer documents. Plus there are these papers. 32 surfaces (purposefully blurry and swirly; don’t want to give anything away).
Lots of great ideas, but they don’t make up a book. This week, though, I got brave, I summoned energy, I found myself ready to charge out from the starting gate. And so I’m hibernating from the world and the cold and the snow, but I’m fully awake, excitedly alert in TSN’s town of Lower Mayze.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February Theme: Winter Survival For Writers

By Marcia Thornton Jones

In order to survive the gray days of winter when conditions are harsh and food scarce, animals migrate, adapt, hibernate or seek shelter. As a writer, I, too, often face seasons of scarcity--when ideas melt faster than snowflakes and words freeze before reaching the page. When that happens, I thought I might learn a lesson from nature and migrate, adapt, hibernate, and seek shelter.

·         Migrate—treat myself to artist dates, take field trips, write in different locations, shop for writing supplies, plan a vacation, go on a retreat
·         Adapt—modify my process, adopt a playful journaling attitude toward writing, adjust goals, write with different tools, release attachment to expectations and outcomes
·         Hibernate—relax, rest, meditate, take a break and use the downtime to read books, study craft, and watch movies for plotting and character development
·         Seek shelter—cultivate a support system, join writing and reading groups, take classes, sign up for a seminar, go to a conference

It’s worth noting that some animals sleep so deeply during hibernation that their heart rates fall to four beats per minute and they appear dead. But they are not dead. They eventually awaken to another season of abundance. They—and I—just have to migrate, adapt, hibernate, and seek shelter in order to survive these harsh gray days of scarcity.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Emerging from hibernation--with a new book! by Jane Kelley

Hibernation: the condition of an animal spending the winter in a dormant state.

The groundhogs sleep in their special winter burrow. It's deeper than the other one––below the frost line––so that the temperature will be moderate. The groundhogs have bulked up before going underground. In cold climates, they won't wake up for six months. They'll be thin and hungry. But the world has tilted in their favor and they can find food again. Groundhogs are one of the few species that undergoes a TRUE hibernation.

Writers are another. We spend the summer and the fall building up our reserves. Creating the idea. Finding the voice. Adding details to our characters. Researching and rewriting. Discovering the arc. Incorporating feedback. We are completely obsessed with our characters and their world. Every thought circles back to our heroes. How to raise their stakes. How to describe that moment. How to end that scene. It's a fun, intense time. Thank goodness the days are long because there is so much to do. After the manuscript is turned in to the editor, there’s a new period of frantic fixing. The copy editor approves. Hooray! The cover is revealed. It’s all so exciting.

And then there is nothing. For months. And months. 

But it's okay. Really. Because, like our friends the groundhogs, we have stored up what will sustain us. Our vision for our books. Our belief that they matter. Our love for what we do. 

Finally it's Pub day. We come out of our burrows and introduce our books to the world.

Hello, everybody! Meet Mary Jemison, a courageous young woman who lived during the French and Indian War. She was captured by French and Shawnee warriors. Her family was killed. After she was adopted by the Seneca, she had to learn how to live with them. It wasn't easy to adapt to a new way of life, but she did. Could she love them enough to want to stay in their world?

I share the pseudonym E.F. Abbott with three other amazing writers who have also written books BASED ON A TRUE STORY.  For more information about the series, click on this link.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Write What Only You Know by Ann Haywood Leal

In February we are given a day of possibilities at the beginning, with an extra day at the end during a leap year.  My challenge for everyone this month is to combine Groundhog’s Day where anything can happen, with that gift of an extra day, and write without caring what anyone else thinks.  Write with abandon.  Write as if you have all the time in the world, because you sort of do.  You have that extra day, that anything-can-happen day.
But here’s the only rule:   

Write What Only You Know.

Annie Dillard said,  “A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all.  Strange seizures beset us.  Frank Conroy loves his yo-yo tricks, Emily Dickinson her slant of light….” 

She also asks the thought-provoking question, “Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you avert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands?  Because it is up to you.  There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain.  It is hard to explain, because you have never read it on any page; there you begin.”

You can make something interesting to your readers because of your own fascination with it. 

What are the everyday things that intrigue you?

Think about sitting in a restaurant or in a train station, or on the subway.  What makes you give a person a longer-than-usual look?  Why are you drawn to that person?  Is it their distinct, unusual beauty?  Maybe.  But more likely it’s something else—because you are a writer.  Maybe they have a bald spot on the side of their head that they are trying to cover.  But it’s not a man’s comb-over.  It’s a woman’s.  You take it one step further, because you are a writer.

What foods are you drawn to?

What places fascinate you so much, you want to stop your car—even though it might not be a convenient or a safe place to stop it?

You take the everyday--something you encounter or pass each day, and point it out in your writing. 

Chances are, you have no idea why you are drawn to certain foods or people or places or events.  You just are.  But that draw is your key.  You write about it, and you make these fascinations your readers’, as well. 

(Remember, you’ve got that extra day here.  You can take your time.)  Dare to take the mundane and sneak it to the forefront.  But do it as only you can do.  Forgive me for massacring a line from “Field of Dreams”, but … If you write it, they will read.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Inspiration from a Groundhog by Deborah Lytton - February Theme

When I think of hibernation, the first thing that comes to mind is my friend Susanna Leonard Hill's wonderful book, PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS

Image result for punxsutawney phyllis
Phyllis is a little groundhog who is told over and over that she can't follow her dream because she is a girl.  But Phyllis never stops believing in herself. 
How many of us limit our dreams because we aren't _______ (you fill in the blank) enough?  Sometimes the voice we hear telling us why our dreams will never come true is from someone we admire or even love.  And sometimes, the voice telling us we can't is the most powerful voice of all--our own.  Hibernating would be the easy way.  Giving up on the manuscript that challenges us and admitting that we aren't ______ enough after all.  But Phyllis didn't give up.  She never let the voices stop her.  Don't let the voices stop you either.  Every time you think you can't write the book in your heart, think of Phyllis and the little groundhog who never gave up on her dream.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Groundhogs, Hibernation & the Creative Life

Last year – 2015 – I took a break. Not a break from writing, a break from school visits/presentations/etc. I decided to hibernate.

There were lots of reasons for this. Mostly, it was a way to reconnect with my truest self: I'm a quiet, introverted person. I am much more comfortable anonymous in a crowd than on a stage. I enjoy time with my family, time alone, and time feeding my creative spirit.

It was a very good year. One of the best ever. I wrote – and sold – three new books. I traveled to Europe. I learned to play the cello. I cooked beautiful meals. And so much more! THIS is how I want to live, I said to myself again and again. Writing. Not talking about writing. WRITING.

And while I am doing the opposite of hibernate this year as I deliver two new books to the world, I am still carrying with me some of that serenity. I am enjoying my time connecting with readers in a less-stressed way. And I am still writing, though not nearly so much.

Which brings me to that famous groundhog. In the movie GROUNDHOG'S DAY, the Bill Murray character relives the same day over and over until he finally gets it right. O the poetry of repetition!

The groundhog hibernates and comes out again every single year. Not a one-time occurrence, or a full-time occurrence. Seasonal. For whatever reason, this brings me comfort. Last year was a season of hibernation for me. This year is a season of public activity. Neither is forever, and I will get back to each of them in due time.

My creative life continues to be nourished by new habits and revelations I picked up when I participated in THE ARTIST'S WAY group last year. I've spent far too much of my creative life in the past focused on the end-product. These days I am attached to this idea of myself as always beginning – kind of like Bill Murray in the movie. Even hibernation is a way to begin.

Irene Latham is a poet and novelist from Birmingham, Alabama. Her books for children include Leaving Gee's Bend, Don't Feed the Boy, Dear Wandering Wildebeest, and two new poetry collections When the Sun Shines On Antarctica and Fresh Delicious: Poems from the Farmers' Market. She's grateful for the ever-changing writing seasons.

Monday, February 1, 2016