I realized something last night. There is always a bit of chatter before our romance writing group settles down to write each week. Last night, we discussed our RWA chapter’s upcoming conference. A thought occurred to me while we were talking last night.
First, some backstory. I have attended our chapter’s annual event every year since I joined, save for last year. The first several years, I attended every workshop and wrote down nearly every word said. I knew next to nothing about writing and was trying to absorb every bit of knowledge I could.
After the first few years, I still attended the workshops, but my notes, while still lengthy, were not as copious as before. More and more of what I heard made enough sense that notes weren’t needed. Some of it was timely reminders of things I realized I already knew.
Then came the years I was too busy running around helping to run the conference to attend all of the workshops. While I regretted missed opportunities, I discovered the world didn’t end.
This year, I am going as a simple guest. I anticipate much, much less stress. Beyond that, my epiphany last night was about my purpose for going. I primarily want to socialize and see people I haven’t seen for a year or two. In prior years, I noticed many “old guard” writers found comfortable chairs to chat and catch up. I guess I’m becoming part of the old guard.
We do have some great speakers lined up, and great agents & editors taking pitches. I won’t ignore them. I’ll share more thoughts on conference when I return from it in a few weeks. Until then, I’ll focus on other topics to blog about. I hope you’ll come back next week!
I wonder if writing may be in my DNA. I always knew about an aunt on my dad’s side who published several regional stories via a university press. I recently learned my mom typed up her own cookbooks years ago.
I was at my mom’s house a couple weeks ago, and she showed me something – two somethings, actually – she found in the back of a closet. They were homemade books of her recipes she typed up so many years ago, she doesn’t remember doing it. The thicker cookbook was a wide range of desserts, and the thinner cookbook was other things, such as bread, main dishes, and salads. Almost every page had two or three recipes on it.
The book pages were all typed on an electric typewriter. And not only did she punch three holes in every page for binding, but every single hole included one of those white reinforcement rings. She even made covers from heavy cardboard covered with pretty shelf paper. I can’t imagine how many hours it took her to complete this project.
This was actually the first of two collections she created. Five years ago, she showed me a more recent collection she did on her typewriter one long winter. I made copies and put them into binders so each member of my family could have a set of her recipes. I knew there were recipes from my childhood which weren’t included, but I had no idea they were typed up and hidden in the back of a closet, waiting to be discovered. When she showed me these other two books, I scanned and printed them so all of us could add them to our first set.
Two things excite me about this find. First, I love having more of her recipes, and knowing they are saved for posterity. I now have recipes like her Sweet and Sour Pork, Spoon Bread, and her Chess Pie.
Secondly, I am amazed by the effort that went into creating these books, especially given the few tools she had at the time to help her. I would love to know what drove her to do this. Was it her own urge to write, coming out in the form of recipes? Unfortunately, since she doesn’t remember, I don’t suppose I will ever know.
Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time know I occasionally share one of my mom’s recipes. Now, I have even more to draw from! So stay tuned, because one of these days I will pick a recipe from the new collection to post on my blog.
It has been a few months since I did a blog on “If These Walls Could Talk.”
As I flipped through many photos of buildings this morning, looking for inspiration, I came across this picture. I was soon struck by the contrasts in it. First, I admired the pretty blossoms on the tree. Then I noticed the cannons front-and-center in what looks like a peaceful springtime setting.
As you might guess from the cannons, this is a former battlefield. More precisely, this was the Battle of Antietam (or the Battle of Sharpsburg for those living below the Mason-Dixon Line) which occurred near Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862. There were over 22,000 men dead, wounded or missing afterwards, which gave it the uncomfortable distinction of being the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.
The building is the rebuilt Dunker Church, which was attended at the time by some local German farm families. The Dunker religious sect, so named because of how they baptized, were similar to Mennonites or Amish in that they lived very simply and plainly and were strong pacifists.
I mention the pacifism because it must have made the battle even more horrifying for the members of this church. They could hear the cannons from another battle seven miles away when they came to church on Sunday, September 14th. By Tuesday, there were Confederate soldiers and artillery being positioned around their church. The battle took place on Wednesday the 17th and raged for hours in this vicinity.
The photo below was taken after the battle. Honestly, I don’t like to think too much about what this church saw, or the stories it could tell from that day. Or what the church members saw when they came to check if it was still standing.
However, when I look again at the recent photo, and see the green grass and the blooming plants, it makes me wonder what it was like to be there the following spring. After a horrible fall, with nightmarish death and damage and scars of battle, what was it like to see spring burst forth again? Did it seem like a mockery, after what the people endured? Or did it give the people hope for better things?
My Wish Now
I hope the spring blossoms brought hope and peace and a sense of renewal to these people, and to others who lived near a battlefield. The American Civil War was a terrible, bloody time in our past, and the walls of any building standing then deserve to have happy stories to tell, to offset that dark era.
When you see an old building like this, I hope you take a moment to pause and reflect on what it has seen, and the stories it could tell. If walls could talk.
This past Monday, I attended a retirement lunch for my older brother. He had been talking for a long time about retiring, but kept putting it off, for various reasons. Not knowing what he would do once retired, perhaps. Or worrying about who could take over his duties for his employer. Maybe there was even a little unwillingness to leave what was safe and familiar. So he teetered on the edge for a long time, between enjoying retirement and working just a little longer.
I believe the sudden death of an old neighbor is what finally pushed him to the retirement side of the debate. This person, a neighbor boy we knew when we were growing up, was a few years younger than my brother. He died suddenly of cancer a few weeks ago.
I think this neighbor’s death provided a powerful reminder to my brother. None of us know how long we have on this earth. My brother worked hard for over forty years, putting away money for the day when he could retire and enjoy the fruits of his work and careful saving. He finally realized it was time to enjoy those fruits while he was healthy enough to do so.
There is a lesson for all of us in this. For myself, it makes me glad I gave up my corporate job to pursue my dream of becoming a published author. The timing wasn’t ideal, but when is it ever? My income might be less than I planned, but I am much happier now, and that is worth a lot.
For yourself, I hope this blog will make you think about your own life. What is that one thing you always wanted to do “one day”? Is there really any reason you can’t start doing it now? Even in small chunks? Don’t wait for the perfect time to do what makes you happy. Perfect timing isn’t nearly as important when death is about to take all of your remaining time away.
So my request for each of you is to think about your wish list. Look for one thing you can stop putting off until “some day” and figure out how you can make it happen now. My brother waited longer than he needed to wait. I hope you don’t do the same.
I write historical romances, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.