Tag Archives: Writing

Word Power

My little granddaughter, Sidney, is now five years old. Her world has expanded from preschool and the back yard mini-trampoline to kindergarten and Saturday soccer, now an enthusiastic “Purple Dolphin Tails” team player.

And to email.

I got my first message from Sidney’s own gmail address with the subject line, “hi gramsey.” Though probably typed in by her mother, the words stirred an immediate inner awww. Below, in the message box, Sidney had written:

[?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?]Hands typing on the computer

Have you ever seen a message so profound? Doesn’t it show she has a curious mind? And perseverance? So many question marks! That’s a lot of work.

When the second email came yesterday, the message was a simple “gramsey.” Even though my daughter said Sidney tired after so much precise typing and left to play other games, it was enough. Rather like a girl in love who delights to hear her name on the lips of her beloved, reading mine typed by those tiny fingers brought bliss.

Ah! The power of the written word. And of the writer.

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Rabbit Trails

Max & Ruby. Ruby & Max. Two cuter bunnies have not been seen since Beatrix Potter gave us Mr. McGregor’s garden-gate-crashers.

Inspired by the Rosemary Wells children’s books I have loved for years, these DVDs star mischievous Max and his long-suffering-big-sister, Ruby. My granddaughter, Sidney, likes these sweet adventures. Me, too. I’ve bought more than a few for us to enjoy together.

The other day, I found an unfamiliar episode called “Ruby Writes a Story.” What could be better for a writer? It made sense to add it to my collection of writing-related DVDs. Maybe I could show it at our writer’s group, Quills of Faith. A legit reason to keep a Max & Ruby story for myself, right?

Max & Ruby: Ruby Writes a Story

Ruby Writes a Story

I was all anticipation as I shoved the disc into my computer. What wonderful wisdom would Ruby have for us writers? After all, her creator, Rosemary Wells, was a prolific children’s book author. Maybe there was a wee writer nugget somewhere in this little story.

But I didn’t love it.

The characters were still adorable. I related to Ruby’s struggle to start her “Once upon a time” story, while Max, astride his stick horse, roped his wind-up lobster and herded toy chicks. Such distractions are a part of the writer life.

I detected a wee gem, too: the story you seek might be right in front of you. And it could start, “Once upon a time, there was a cowboy….”

But for me, the best part of the Max & Ruby adventures is sharing them with my granddaughter, Sidney. Hearing her cute comments and contagious giggles always pushes the experience over-the-top.

The new DVD and I are planning a trip soon.

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Just Do It!

Recently, I signed up for a workshop to learn to make a little quilt called, “Emma’s Legacy.” It’s just the kind of pattern I like best – very old-fashioned and scrappy. Reminiscent of the collection of quilts in grandma’s linen cupboard, tenderly pieced with parts of grandpa’s best shirt or baby’s christening dress. In those days, folks used what fabric they had, giving it new life in the form of a functional coverlet. A treasure cherished by generations that followed.

As Jane Austen would say, “I was all anticipation” until I heard that this pattern was so very complicated. The pieces are small and there are a lot of them to sew together in an intricate way. And then, there are the points! Oh, my.  All those points must match perfectly. One gal told me that after attempting the “Emma’s Legacy” quilt, she had renamed it “Emma’s Lunacy.” She failed to finish it.

After hearing her take, I thought about backing out of the workshop. Seriously. Did I want to set myself up for failure?

I called a meeting with me, myself, and I to regroup. Where was that old American-can-do-spirit? What about “nothing ventured, nothing gained?” Or “say ‘yes’ to the dress?”

Okay, maybe that last cliche doesn’t apply here. But you get my drift.

So I decided not only to take the class, but to complete the quilt on my newly acquired 1945 Singer Featherweight. A tiny sewing machine for a tiny quilt.

I feel a little victorious before it’s time, facing the lunacy project with renewed passion. But I am confident that with a little American ingenuity, I can see it through to the end. Now, to focus that same spirit toward a certain writing project I’ve been tickling around the edges. It’s time to plunge forward into the fray, ready for battle, expecting victory.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh?

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One Quilt Begats Two

After putting together my daughter’s quilt, I found myself again collecting material for a new quilt when I really should have only been collecting a different type of material. Research for a new book. (Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.)  To justify this new blankie to myself, I labeled it “Legacy Recycling.” Sounds important, right?

If one is inclined to think I’m too politically correct – and no one has ever accused me of that – the premise behind the idea is to reuse some old squares stitched into a quilt nearly forty years ago by my mom. Sadly, the quilt is no longer useable. The sashing and backing are worn and torn. The batting has separated from itself, giving the quilt a lumpy effect. Even the yarn ties are frayed.  Still, I never could toss out that tattered treasure, all these many years.

The inner squares, depicting the story of The Wizard of Oz, were in great shape. I could remake this quilt, once lovingly crafted for my own little girl, into a sweet story-quilt for my granddaughter, Sidney Anne.

I purchased some wonderful, fresh fabrics to encase the old squares into a log-cabin design with a charming backing of cozy flannel. My fingers were itching to stitch.

Before I began, I wanted to finish up a sock monkey I’d meant to send Sidney ages ago. That project had spent too much time waiting on the shelf and my granddaughter was growing fast. So I got busy. I crocheted a flower for the hat and made Miss Monkey a frilly skirt, for a ballerina affect.

Once the monkey was on its way, I returned to the little quilt. But I got distracted when I found a gorgeous pop-up book of The Wizard of Oz at Costco.  Wouldn’t it be fun if I could read the story aloud to Sidney, pointing to the quilt squares at the right time?  Then she could tell the story to her baby dolls or young cousins, or that darned sock monkey, using the quilt as a guide. Unfortunately, the book turned out to be too scary for our precious three-year-old.  Since then, I’ve spent a lot of quilting time (and writing time) haunting various bookstores, attempting to find the perfect, age appropriate story of Dorothy’s adventures. No luck so far.

There have been myriad other diversions to keep me from finishing the quilt. Christmas is coming and there are homemade ornaments to make, home-baked treats to whip up for holiday potlucks, and practice time for Christmas concerts.

Besides, I need to abandon the quilt project for a while. And write. Which I should have been doing all along. A new project looms with a self-imposed deadline. I don’t want to miss this great opportunity. But what’s with me and unfinished quilts?

At least there’s a completed monkey on my resume. Which is better than a monkey on my back, I guess.

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Game Change

Like many of you, tonight I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Vancouver. It’s something I’ve looked forward to with almost addictive fervor. “Hi, I’m Cathy and I’m an Olympiholic.”

To be honest, I was glad the USA wasn’t hosting because who could compete with China’s stunning ceremonies two years ago? They set the bar impossibly high. I was concerned for Canada and the comparisons that would obviously be made.

So when groups of native peoples danced over the ice – each doing their own versions of the steps with no apparent attempt to synchronize the show – I thought, “Oh-oh.” Granted, the native costumes sparkled with unique ethnic beauty, and the set was definitely a wow, but I had all that perfect Chinese precision in my head. Wasn’t Canada going to even try and compete?

But it didn’t take long for me to get caught up in the power of the story. With techno-visuals that must rival Avatar (I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say for sure), the stage of ice broke and parted; the seas simmered with salmon, great whales, and other creatures. I was glued to the TV, wanting to see more. I didn’t even miss the precise moves that so awed me in 2008 because I was captured by the story of Canada, seen through the eyes of its patriots. I watched to the last…to the spectacular lighting of the torch.

As a writer, I should have remembered. Story is king. Even if all the words are perfectly placed and tantalize the ear with fabulous phrases, if you don’t have a good story no one will read the book. Or not for long. No one will publish it either. The key is for the reader to be swept up into the story, to go on an emotional adventure with the hero. Maybe in this case, with many heroes who have many stories to tell.

Precision is one thing and in China, it was intoxicating. But story is all.  And Canada captivated me with hers. I’m anxious to find out what happens next.

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Filling Up the Cup

Along with missing the January 1st goal on my first blog post, I also was way behind sending out Christmas cards. In fact, it never happened. Again.

This was getting to be a habit, though my excuse this year was a good one. From the end of July until the 16th of December, I was writing (and rewriting) my new cozy mystery – Medals in the Attic – the second book in a continuity series. The time line for the project was incredibly fast and I spent almost every spare non-day-job-minute at my favorite coffee shop, typing on my keyboard, willing a mental growth-hormone into my manuscript.

All that writing…yet no time to write out Christmas cards. That troubled me, because it’s the only time of the year that I contacted some folks. What if I lost touch with some of them? Or maybe they would think I didn’t care about them. Not good. I couldn’t help but view my cup – or maybe that was a mug – as half-empty.

Once the book was completed and Christmas a memory, I decided to write out those pesky cards anyway. Dear ones wanted to know how my 90-year-old Mother was doing, I was sure. And coincidentally, I had a great new picture of my granddaughter to share. So I was really doing them a favor.

I found a couple boxes of cards on sale at T.J. Maxx and got busy. Dropping the completed stack into the mail box was a deep sigh moment for me. Nice! But still, I felt a bit embarrassed since they were so late. And they weren’t even Christmas cards. Would anyone mind? Another deep sigh.

Then, the other day I came home to a phone message from my cousin, Sam. “Got your Season’s Greetings card for next year and I wanted you to know how much I admire you for being so far ahead of everyone else!”

Wow. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But she does make sense, you know. I imagine myself kicking back, relaxing during the next Christmas season, knowing my cards are already sent. It’s a good feeling.

In fact, I think I see that half-empty cup starting to fill.

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