When a Student Becomes a Teacher

I had the honor and privilege this week to talk about being an author with the class of MY FORMER STUDENT Holly McPeak! I had Holly in fourth grade at Oberlin Elementary (I’m not telling how…) many years ago and now she’s a 3rd grade teacher for Missouri Virtual Academy. It was the first author visit I’ve been able to do in a while and it felt wonderful to be with students again. Even though it was online, I enjoyed being with the classes and their teachers Holly, Emily Patterson, and Lenora Scrimsher SO MUCH!

I talked about what I wrote as a child and how books can be friends during sad times. I loved the students’ wonderful questions and hearing their ideas for their own projects. I even asked them to vote on which title they liked best for my soon-to-be book. They chose HOTDOG’S LAST HURRAH!

Something I thought about while preparing my presentation is that not everyone is a writer, but we ALL are storytellers. Stories are EVERYWHERE. We just need to find and share them!

Thank you, Holly, Emily, and Lenora for your excellent work. And thank you for sharing your storyteller students with me.


Letting Out the Dog

I’ve been fostering an old dog in my heart for a long time. I kept hoping someone would love him as much as I do, see his virtues, finally give him a home. But finding a place for this old boy has been darned near impossible. Oh, he’s been close a few times. I mean who can resist those dark eyes? That constantly wagging tail? But no one has quite understood his larger-than-life personality. Or wanted to risk his grizzled whiskers. It doesn’t matter anymore, however, because I’ve decided I’m done waiting. I’m going to take the risk and finally let him out myself. Before the end of 2022, HOTDOG will be real, at least as real as the pages of a book will allow.

I’m not quite sure when I first started writing HOTDOG. Maybe around 2006? I do remember Carolyn Yoder (Calkins Creek) was the first person to lay eyes on it at one of her Highlights Foundation alumni workshops. All because I didn’t do my homework.

I was supposed to send her chapters of a different book beforehand but hadn’t gotten a chance with the job from (#@%!) I had at the time. So, that evening I arrived in Pennsylvania, I gave her those chapters and the one of HOTDOG I’d been playing with.

Bright and early the next morning Carolyn handed me the HOTDOG pages. “Work on these. You’ve got a gift for humor.” It was the first time I’d ever heard my coping mechanism called a gift. But I ran with it and completed six crappy chapters that week. The best thing was that it felt wonderful. The worst was that I had to go back to the (#@%!) job.

I kept slogging away on HOTDOG as I could, taking him to more of Carolyn’s workshops before finally starting to submit to agents in 2011. Life continued as I wrote, rewrote, and kept submitting.

 And now, suddenly, it’s 2022.

The wait has been frustrating, embarrassing, depressing. But it hasn’t been for nothing. For one, I realized that writing this book has been my therapy. It’s helped me work through the grief I was never allowed to experience as a child. I’ve healed because of this book and healing often takes a long time.

I also learned that HOTDOG, like all dachshunds, does not understand the word “NO.” So, though I was often discouraged, I couldn’t let him go. He kept sending me dachshund reminders, scratching at the door.

So, now, I’m excited as I turn this indie publishing knob. Floyd has always been my biggest supporter, forever assuring me that someone would be willing to give HOTDOG a chance. I never guessed that the someone would be me.


Day 125, Year 10 in Glasshalfull

It’s been a week since Floyd’s latest ablation and we’re thankful he’s on the upswing. This one took six hours because they had to go slowly, testing each connection until they found the one that was causing his heart to race. They also had to fix several places that had reconnected since the last ablation two months ago. Now his heart is beating too slowly, but they are adjusting his medication to see which dosage will work best. Thankful his heartbeat was normal last night. We’re hoping this becomes a habit.


Day 116, Year 10

I’m thankful for this beautiful, windless day. I went out early to hang up more hummingbird feeders and took a minute to admire the yard Floyd and I mowed TOGETHER yesterday. And the bushes I was able to trim with MY VERY OWN TINY CHAIN SAW! Using it reminded me of when I helped him farm with the John Deere. Large or small, there’s something about the way power tools get the job done so much faster!

It’s been great to see him mowing again. He doesn’t need his cane on that little Ford tractor, and he can make it from one end of the yard to the other without being winded or worrying about tripping. The healing process from the nerve damage he suffered from Covid is super slow, which has been frustrating. But his fingers are tingling all the time now (a good sign) and he can finally feel his big toes!

Now, it’s his heart that’s demanding our attention. Since March he’s had an ablation, a cardioversion, and an evening in the emergency room with his heart rate at 173. He’s to have another ablation on Thursday which we hope will resolve the a-Fib issues. I teased him that it might be cheaper to get a divorce since I seem to be making his heart go pitter pat a little too much. He said, “In your dreams” which I’m not quite sure how to take. Anyway, we’re thankful that there are so many ways they can approach heart problems these days and so many skilled doctors and nurses there to help.

It’s just a continual reminder that every minute is precious and to appreciate every day, windy or not.


Empty

(original post: November 9, 2020)

My glasshalfull is feeling pretty empty tonight. Floyd had a downturn over the weekend and is being transferred to a bigger hospital tonight. Please keep him in your prayers and continue the positive deeds and thoughts. Thank you and God be with us all.


Introducing Glasshalfull

For years, my family has complained about my positive nature. I am always pointing out the brighter side of things which they do not always appreciate. But I can’t help it. It is either that or be a grouch. And there are enough of those in the world already. Nine years ago, I began a series of posts called Glasshalfull on my Facebook page. My intent was to talk about things I was grateful for and to point out the positive side of negative events. Little did I know how much I’d need that outlet in the dark days to come.

In late October, early November 2020, my husband and I contracted Covid 19. As a way to cope, I began writing about our experiences. I have compiled those blogs here in the Glasshalful, Covid Edition category.


Covid test: positive

(Original post: November 4, 2020)

Day? Year? in Glasshalfull–I’m too tired to count it up tonight.

Just wanted to share some news so everyone will be aware. Floyd tested positive for Covid today. He is doing okay, still has his smile, is teasing me as normal, but is in the hospital to be on the safe side. I haven’t gotten my results yet but am doing okay and will be quarantining. We don’t know how we got this because we wear our masks, use hand sanitizer and wash hands, socially distance, and go out at little as possible. Yet, here we are. My ask with this message is for prayers and positive thoughts, of course. But also, that we each take time to do an act of kindness for someone in the next few days. That’s what Floyd has always tried to do and I’m convinced that the positive vibes you purposefully create will be healing for him and for us all.

UPDATE: Well, it seems I am officially positive, too. But as you know by my Glasshalfull posts, that’s what I try to be, so not too surprising. Floyd is still doing okay in the hospital and we talk a lot on the phone. Reminds me of our dating days way back when, only the conversations are much older but, hopefully, a little wiser.

UPDATE2: Floyd is home again! He had plasma last night and is home now enjoying his recliner. Still sooooo tired but that comes with this territory. Thanks to all for the positive support.


BLOG

Notice the creative single-word title of this entry? I’ve been thinking a lot about how so many books have mono titles these days. This has made me wonder, would my book find a home faster with a one-word name? I mean we know lots of books by one word even if they have a longer moniker. Lassie did it (Lassie, Come Home) and Toby/Bailey/Ellie/Buddy in A Dog’s Purpose…eventually.

So, why not Hotdog? I guess I could keep Hotdog since I and everyone else in workshops with me have referred to it as that since its inception. Still, Hotdog doesn’t really TELL what the book is about. But do any of the mono titles, really? Or are they only meant to hint at what’s inside? To tease at the plot, the character, the theme? WebCharlotte—Friendship

Hmm… 

Maybe?

Wait.

Ironically, coming up with one word is asking a lot of me considering I was the over-achieving sophomore in Leavenworth High who penciled three pages, single-spaced when our English teacher challenged us to compose the longest prepositional phrase. And as a junior I rewrote Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales based on Woodstock (the New York music festival, not Snoopy’s bird). Oh, and I can’t forget the endless notes I passed between classes with my best friend, Jaymee, in middle school, before texts were even a twinkle in any techie’s eye.  

Where does this title trend come from then? Is it a backlash to the word salad we face these days? Our cry for help in the verbiage avalanche? Our way of coping with mass media madness?

Whatever. I’m willing to give it a go. But how do authors come up with one-word wonders? Do they start like a grocery list?

milk

eggs

tp

That can’t be right. A grocery list is what you’re out of, not what already stocks the shelves. A title list would have to be what the book is full of, wouldn’t it? Or… uh… maybe not. Naming that might tricky with some books depending on the topic, the genre…the quality. Don’t get me wrong. I applaud anyone who’s had the guts to write a book, to see it through to publication. Even to a first draft! But I do want to keep this blog middle-grade geared, so I won’t go there. (Although, it would be an interesting discussion elsewhere.)

It can’t be as generic as milk, eggs, or tp either. Is it whole, 2%, almond? Brown, free-range, extra-large? Ultra, quilted, mega-roll? Name choice must be focused to plot, character, theme, of course, but even more so because characters come as casts and themes are intertwined. So, is it possible to isolate so much with a single word? It must be because… well… there’s Holes, Pax, HAMILTON!  It must be descriptive yet succinct. But it won’t be easy. I’m willing to try, though, even if it takes 366 tries. So, here goes.

Hotdog title‒Take 1…. ROADTRIP


Waiting…

I’m terrible at it. Case in point, the time I was at least twelve months pregnant with our third baby. I was jealous of the hens as I gathered their eggs. Resented the cows with their calves in the pasture. I even growled at the barn cats nursing their kittens. It was MY turn already! But Mother Nature, that old hag, had different ideas.

Then, as I was waddling back to the house, my ornery father-in-law drove up in his pickup and leaned out the window. Twinkle in his eye, he nodded toward the beach ball my maternity tent failed to hide and offered to hook up the cattle trailer, give me a lift to the hospital. I glared, then stared, then belly laughed. It was either that or cry. And, as they say, laughter is the best medicine, because a few days later we welcomed Baby Number Three.

Now, Three is in his thirties and I’m…not. But I am waiting again. This time for my book to find a home. It gestated forever but finally, FINALLY, it was time to query. Now I’m pacing and feeling envious again‒of acquisitions and launches and happy book birthdays. But I’m determined to stay busy, to refill the think tank, to start something new. Yes, waiting is as hard as ever. But it’s not the worst. That would be failing because I didn’t try.


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