Taking writing on the road

Writing can be a solitary business. When I’m working on a writing project, as I am now with my novel in progress, I get to my keyboard each day by 9 a.m. and do my best to stay on task until noon. I dive headlong and alone into my story – forgoing phone calls, emails, social media and texts. For the past couple of months, I even set aside blogging. (Did you notice?)

I was urged out of my writing isolation by an invitation from Janet Givens who offered her home on Chincoteague Island, VA, as a retreat space for writers she’s come to know via social media. Since my writing friend Mary Gottschalk and I love a good road trip; we love talking writing; and we love the inspiration that inevitably results from our time together, we loaded the car and headed out.

Friends & writers - Mary, Shirley & Carol

Friends & writers – Mary, Shirley & Carol

We looked forward to joining the authors on Chincoteague Island, but the journey to get there was an equally important part of our experience. In Harrisonburg VA, we spent a night with Shirley Showalter, author, friend, dairy farmer’s daughter, and co-founder with me of I Grew Up Country. The beauty of the Shenandoah Valley grew more vibrant in color and meaning as Shirley and her husband Stuart shared their Mennonite and family history. Thoughtful conversations about next stages in writing and life made it difficult to move on.

Natural beauty deep in the earth.

Natural beauty deep in the earth.

After a morning at Luray Caverns and an afternoon in the Shenandoah National Park, we were welcomed to Charlottesville, VA, by Joan Rough and her husband Bill and their dogs – Max and Sam. In between tours of Monticello and the University of Virginia, we tucked conversations on Joan’s upcoming memoir, Bill’s playwriting, and art in general since Joan’s creative talent manifests in many directions.

Making avatars into real people. Mary, Carol & Joan.

Making avatars into real people. Mary, Carol & Joan.

Monticello in spring

Monticello in spring

 

 

 

Finally on Chincoteague, we joined Janet, poet Merril Smith, memoirist Marian Beaman and author/nurturer of women’s voices Susan Weidener. Loosely structured, the retreat became whatever each of the authors wanted. Blogs. Poetry. Editing. Essays. Marketing. Technology. Who knows what will result when a group of creative minds come together? Friendship. Sharing. Support. Inspiration. Synergy, for sure.

Synergy: the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

Every day of the trip brought new thoughts, new inspiration, new friendships and richer understanding of renewed friendships. I hope you’ll take a moment to look into each of the women from this writing journey. You won’t be disappointed.

Cooking together deepens the writing experience.

Cooking together deepens the writing experience.

Even though writing can be solitary, I’ve never felt alone. The synergy of weeks like this are one reason why. As I return to working on my novel, I’ll do it with renewed enthusiasm and insights ignited by this trip.

 

One bit of Synergy: Our discussions of social media techniques led me to make a couple of changes. I added a box you can click to notify you of responses to comments you make. And, I moved the share buttons to the handy position below. If you find these posts interesting or helpful, please share with your friends.

Incredible Women in Historical Fiction

As Alex Myers wrote his book Revolutionary, the story of a woman who disguised herself as a man to fight for the Continental army during the Revolutionary war, he found himself wondering what women his character would have met. That led him to creating the list of 10 Absolutely Incredible Women in Historical Fiction he posted this week.

Since Liddie Treadway, a young woman struggling to decide her own future, is the main character in my upcoming historical novel Go Away Home, I thought I’d weigh in on this topic, too. I think Liddie is pretty great, but readers will decide if she rises to occupy a place on any Top 10 list.

In the meantime, I’m sharing Myers’ list, adding incredible women from my own reading, and asking you to share the Incredible Women you’ve found in your historical fiction reading.

10 Absolutely Incredible Women in Historical Fiction

By Alex Myers

Too often, even in the twenty-first century, history’s all about the men. That’s just one reason why I love to read and write historical fiction: It provides the opportunity to explore or create or re-energize the roles of women across the ages. As I wrote Revolutionary, I kept wondering which women from history Deborah Sampson would have known. In 1782 Massachusetts, she probably read chapbooks that told the stories of Joan of Arc, or Mary Rowlandson (who survived being captured by Native Americans) or Hannah Snell (who disguised herself as a man and served in the British Navy). I have no doubt that these stories inspired Deborah to set off on her own adventures, disguising herself as a man, enlisting in the army, and fighting for a year and a half in the Revolutionary War.

How fortunate are we, then, to live in an era so abundant with texts that champion the role of women throughout history. Here are my 10 favorite works of historical fiction that feature women in the main roles. These women come from all sorts of time periods and class backgrounds, but every one of them has to fight and has to believe in herself, no matter what society tells her. Whatever the era, whatever the setting, these are the universal challenges that brave women face.

1. Orleanna Price in The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

2. Sethe in Beloved by Toni Morrison

3. Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

4. Anna Frith in Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

5. Orlando in Orlando by Virginia Woolf

6. Villanelle in The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

7. Mary Sutter in My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

8. Joan in Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

9. Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu in Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

10. Dinah in The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Myers shares his thoughts on why each of the women in these novels deserves to be on his Top 10 list. To read his entire post, click.

Several of the books Myers lists are also on my list – The Poisonwood Bible, Pope Joan, and The Red Tent. I also nominate the following women and books to a list of historical fiction’s great women.

One Thousand White WomenMary Dodd of One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus: Mary Dodd is one of a group of white women (and one black woman) who travel to the western United States to intermarry with the Cheyenne Indians as part of a controversial “Brides for Indians” program sponsored by the U.S. Government under President Ulysses S. Grant. The alternative for these women is incarceration in an insane asylum. Mary and the others show remarkable fortitude, resourcefulness, and adaptability through this fascinating story.

Snow Flower and the Secret FanSnow Flower and Lily in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See: Snow Flower and Lily are two women in nineteenth century China. Rigid rules of conduct governed women in that era, beginning with the excruciating practice of foot binding. Yet the women have their own secret language and formed life-long friendships outside the view of men. Lily and Snow Flower are laotong, bound for life, but that relationship is challenged when Lily learns that her friend is of a lower social class.

I know as soon as I post this, other incredible women of historical fiction will come to mind. But I bet this list gets your minds churning. Who would you add?

Doing what they can for the war

Before women were on the battlefield, they played an important role

Whether on the battlefield or on the home front, women have been involved in supporting war efforts since the beginning of time.

In honor of Veterans Day, I’m re-blogging Ben Marks’ post highlighting how women around the world were utilized in propaganda posters in support of the Great War.

A heart-felt thank you to all the men and women who throughout the ages have put themselves out there to protect us all.

Women and Children: The Secret Weapons of World War I Propaganda Posters

November 6th, 2013

WillYouGo

 
JoanArc

Haskell Coffin produced this image for the U.S. Treasury Department in 1918.

Armistice Day is a time to reflect upon that defining moment at the end of World War I, at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, when soldiers stopped shooting at each other along Europe’s Western Front. At its close, most observers assumed that nothing would ever match the “Great War” for its sheer volumes of death and destruction, and for decades after, people around the world stopped whatever they were doing at that hour to observe two minutes of silence in a mute echo of the quiet that must have blanketed the battlefield. As the world soon learned, the sadly quaint practice of holding one’s tongue for 120 seconds, once a year, would not be enough: After World War II, the holiday’s name was changed in the United States to Veterans Day, while countries in the British Commonwealth observed Remembrance Day.

Read more and see all 24 posters …

How does spring inspire you?

It’s fall and during fall we think of endings. The end of summer. The end of good weather. The end of vacations. So it’s with delight that I attended the launch of a new book that focuses on spring–a time when things are beginning.

Spring – Women’s Inspiration for the Season of Hope and New Beginnings is the second book in a four-book series edited by Debra Landwehr Engle and Diane Glass.

According to Glass, Spring speaks to the yearning within all of us for bringing new possibilities to life. In this new book, 36 writers share poems, essays and stories with their experiences and insights into dreaming of and preparing for growth, giving birth, and nourishing the tender new shoots of life.

Winter – Women’s Stories, Poems and Inspiration for the Season of Rest and Renewal launched the series earlier this year. Glass and Engle say the final two volumes featuring Summer and Fall will be published yet this year.

The four books share women’s diverse voices around themes central to Tending Your Inner Garden, a program of spiritual and creative growth that has guided hundreds of women internationally in finding meaning and purpose in life.

Here’s one essay from Spring, reprinted with permission from the author.

My Bucket List

By Pattie Flint

The springs in Seattle can be described by two words: unending rain. Only native Seattlites can brave this incessant drizzle without a feeling of a slow and painful drowning, but even grizzled Northwesterners can sometimes feel a little depressed when each new day brings rain without hope of summer. Often it drives us inside to the comfort of our couches and kitchens, and it was on such a dreary March evening that I plopped down in my my favorite armchair to watch “The Bucket List.”

Overall, I didn’t much find the movie that interesting. But afterward, in a spurt of aimless creativity, I decided to start my own bucket list. Never mind that I was only 20 years old, and it would hopefully be decades before I really had to worry about what I had accomplished in my life. It would probably also be decades before I had enough money/time to do any of the things on my bucket list anyway. To combat my boredom, I wrote down everything I could remember wanting to do. I stuffed the sheet of paper in my drawer and forgot about it.

Several weeks later I found myself pulling it out and really looking at all the things I wished I could do. I crossed out a couple of silly things and added several new entries. I posted it on my refrigerator door and marked some of the smaller, easier ones that I could work on right now. With a reminder posted where I could see it nearly every day, I was astounded to realize how much of my time I spent on menial, repetitious tasks when I could have been doing something better with my time.

I eventually gave away my TV because I spent too many rainy nights watching movies, and I cancelled my Facebook account. With a keen eye on my bucket list, I taught myself French and threw a tea party in my living room, complete with a Mad Hatter hat. I jumped into Lake Washington in the snow on New Year’s Day, and I kissed a man–a complete stranger–on the mouth when I saw him picking out a book I loved at a bookstore.

I can’t say why I wrote, “Kiss a complete stranger” on my bucket list, but he and I have been together since that day. He has added items to my list and helped me check others off.

I got over my fear of heights when I rock-climbed a mountain in Colorado at dawn. I forgave my father for abandoning our family. And while there are things on my bucket list I’m not sure I’ll ever accomplish, such as meeting the President, bungee jumping (okay, I lied–I didn’t completely get over my fear of heights) and flying to the moon, the list on my fridge is a constant reminder of how I should be living each day to its fullest and treating every action with ceremony. After all, someday when someone asks me what I wish I could have done with my life, I hope I’ll be able to answer, “I did everything I ever told myself I wanted to do.”

Except, maybe, make Seattle springs any less wet.

***

To get your copies:

Winter and Spring are both available through the Tending Your Inner Garden Bookstore. Winter is also available on Amazon and Spring soon will be.

Links:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tending-Your-Inner-Garden/117449911667979
Twitter: @YourInnerGarden
Blog: http://tendingyourinnergarden.com/
GoldenTree Communications

Find Pattie on her website: http://pattieflint.weebly.com/ and follow her on Twitter @PattieFlint

The importance of a smile

Mother’s Day is Sunday. How could you miss it with all the advertising these past weeks? 

In honor of my mother and moms everywhere, I’ve joined with a group of indie authors to celebrate all mothers. Our little group will be blogging for the next five days about our moms and assorted mom topics.

In addition, we’re offering an ebook from each of us for 99¢ at the usual online booksellers. Our genres run the gamut from memoir to adventure to thriller. This promotion–and the special price–are good from May 11-May 15. The list of authors, books, and links to points of sale are listed below.

If you’d like a give a gift to your mom or grandmother or aunt or sister or neighbor or dad or someone else this Mother’s Day, you might find one – or all – of these books the perfect gift. How can you miss when you can load up their e-reader for $5?

My mom - Ruby Denter

To get the blog ball rolling, I’d like to introduce you to my mother – Ruby Belle (Jensen) Denter. She lived life fully for 91 years. Raised in town, Mom found herself tied to country life.

She taught in a one-room country school for several years. When she married a farmer, she quit teaching (of course, that’s what you did in 1942) and committed herself to being, in her words, “the best farm wife I could be.” She raised three daughters, milked cows morning and night, made garden and canned or froze most of the food we ate, cooked three meals a day, and sewed most of our clothes.

This picture was taken the day before she died in August 2007, and it shows just what a full life she lived. She was canning tomatoes that morning. She was always fond of flowers and usually had a bouquet of some sort on the kitchen table. Because she had macular degeneration, I’d brought her this big bouquet of black-eyed susans. She liked them in particular because yellow was a color she could still see well.

Mostly, notice her smile. She loved to have company come visit and she always made them welcome with a smile and something to eat. As her eye sight failed, she believed her smile was more important than ever. Though she could see well enough to know that someone was approaching, she couldn’t see well enough to know who it was.  She said, “I smile so they’ll know I’m happy to see them whoever they are.”

That’s having a good attitude, don’t you think?

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!