In Praise of Plotting

At the moment I’m holed up (who isn’t?), working on the “final final” structure of my novel, removing sequences and putting them back, adding sections and then taking them out. I know all the rules and apply them religiously, until I lose my religion and go on sinful agnostic editing binges. Then I repent, and restore the original sacred storyline. Somehow in the end, my story ends up seeing the light. Hallelujah.

Some things never change:

The First Writer and Editor: 'Take out that part?! Are you nuts? How is the stampede scene at the end of the cave going to make sense without it?!'

Posted in Humor, Memoir, Story Power, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Cabin Fever!

We love our home. No, it’s not in any tourist guides, but it has Us built into it. We miss it when we travel, especially in the mornings and at bedtime (hotel beds just don’t know how to hold us); we miss our kitchen and bathroom with everything right where it’s supposed to be, and nothing missing because we “forgot to pack it.”

And yet when we have to stay home (like, hmm, when the world is in a state of emergency lockdown, for example) we long to get away, to escape to places that are nothing like our home, to relish their beauty and uniqueness, to breath their alluring air. We long to leave home, so we can look forward…

To coming home.

(Click on any image to enlarge it, or to begin slideshow)

“The world’s big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ~John Muir

“The longing for yet another strange land grows especially strong in spring.” ~Vladimir Nabokov

“Not all those who wander are lost.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien

“There’s something about arriving in new cities, and wandering the empty streets with no destination. I will never lose the love for the arriving.” ~Charlotte Eriksson

“I like any places that isn’t here.” ~Edna Ferber

“There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.” ~Kate Douglas Wiggin

“You’ll leave. And then one day you’ll come back, and everything that you once loved about the place will drive you a little bit crazy.” ~Alex George

“It was his home now, but it could not be his home till he had gone from it and returned to it.” ~G.K. Chesterton

“Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.” ~Dorothy

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The Tales We’ll Tell

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2018My Featured Blogger this week is Erik Shinker of Perpetually Past Due. Erik, who apart from his other qualifications simply oozes humility and compassion, has a degree in Literature and Creative Writing. He also minored in Film Studies, so we’re bros all around. His posts, he says, are about the “songs, events, and people (who) have shaped me into the man I am today, and I hope to do credit to their importance in my life.” See what I mean?

Perpetually Past Due

When this is all over,
like the trifling troubles of our early days;
when the quarantines are lifted and
we can once again be social without distance,
when Covid-19 has become a boogeyman of legend,
we will have to tell
those who have yet to come
what happened.

Where we focus our stories will guide the narrative.
Will it be the overused, extreme adjectives
pushed by the press?
Uncertain, unprecedented, shocking.
Will it be based on the buzzwords?
Pandemic, quarantine, market loss, layoff.

Or will we tell tales of care for one another?
Empathy empowering each other.
Of distilleries pivoting production to provide
hand sanitizer for first-responders.
Of the medical professionals who
accept the risk and put the care of
others before themselves
despite the exhausting toll of exposed hours.

Of the small sacrifices we made to
ensure the health of those around us.
Of the games we played and…

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Posted in Quips and Quotes, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

April Fools?

laughing-young-peopleWhat if this virus thing were really just a big, elaborate April Fools’ Day joke? Oh, how we’d all laugh while those merry pranksters were being lined up and shot.

(Sadly, it’s not, so please stay safe and healthy, my friends!)

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Comedy Relief

After performing tragedies, the ancient Greeks always staged comedies, often making fun of the tragedies they’d just presented. Why? Comedy relief. Likewise, humor flourishes during wars and epidemics. Morbidity? No, survival. When we’re under attack, we ridicule our attackers and tease ourselves. Why? Because it helps us cope, reminds us we’re in this together and, well, simply provides comedy relief. Those Greeks had it right.

Click on any image to enlarge it, or to start slide show.

Some Pandemic Humor found Online

  • I’ll tell you a coronavirus joke now, and check back in two weeks to see if you got it.
  • Finland has closed its borders. That’s right, no one is allowed to cross the finish line.
  • I ran out of toilet paper and had to start using the New York Times. Man, the Times are rough.
  • Kids who came of age during the millennium are called Millennials. With all the lockdown pregnancies, will the next generation be called Quaranteens?
  • Just before the lockdown, French people raided the stores for cheese. Now all that’s left is de brie.
  • My coworker keeps farting, asking for my lunch, and playing on his tablet while I do all the work. Now I’m working at home with my 4-year-old nearby. Nothing’s changed.
  • “The people going to crowded events right now are the same people who hear a weird noise in horror movies and decide to go check it out.” ~Jeremy Dooley
  • “Ever since it was brought to my attention that you can say ‘Covid 19’ to the tune of ‘Come on, Eileen,’ I’ve been unable to read it any other way.” ~Dr. David Shiffman
  • We went to this restaurant called The Kitchen. You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal. I have no clue how this place is still in business. ~Unknown
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Infinite Vision

infiniteoneAt the start of the year, I scribbled down My 2020 Vision. And then the world changed. So I looked up the meaning of “20/20 vision.” Here’s what I learned:

20/20 isn’t perfect, it’s simply normal. The first 20 represents the ability to see clearly from 20 feet away; the second represents your ability. So if someone brags about having “20/20,” they’re actually bragging about having normal vision. True, not everyone does. But it’s like bragging about having an orange belt in karate, which is only about 1/3rd of the way to a black belt. Good. But not exactly sell-your-story-to-Hollywood good.

Better yet, some people have 20/10 vision, allowing them to see at 20 feet away (twice as far) what 20/20ers can only see at 10. There are even a few people with 20/5. Now, that’s sell-your-story-to-Hollywood good!

Ophthalmologically speaking (say that three times fast), there are three components to vision (spiritual metaphor alert):

  1. The cornea lets light in. To mix metaphors, the good seeds of truth (Mark 4:3-9) are scattered in people’s hearts, but don’t always produce life (or, in this case, light).
  2. The lens focuses light. This is where vision, like seeds, sprouts. Or doesn’t. Cataracts, distortions, can cloud a lens’s ability to focus the light (truth), just as bitterness, obsessions, lust, greed and other delusions can cloud our ability to process truth.
  3. The retina gathers the info that reaches it and turns it into signals we can understand and act upon, truly see. But if light (truth) never reaches it, we’re spiritually blind.

Years ago, when I worked at a bookstore, a young man came in carrying a Satanic Bible. He wanted to check it against a Bible, he said, to see which one “offers the best deal.” When I suggested he ask, instead, which one “offers the truth,” he brayed like a donkey. Talk about a distorted lens.

How’s your vision? Is your lens correctly focusing the light, asking only what’s right and true, or is it distorted? I know an Ophthalmologist who has 20/∞ vision, who, amazingly, teaches people to see through His eyes (2 Corinthians 4:18). Warning: the treatment is expensive–everything you have–but it’s worth it. Because only He can see…

To infinity and beyond.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” ~Matthew 6:22

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Observe the Truth

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I once studied Shakespeare with the renowned British actor Brewster Mason. Each time I would act out the Bard’s words, Brewster would interrupt me and say, “No, no, no, observe the meter, observe the meter!” It wasn’t until years later that I understood what he meant. By breaking up Shakespeare’s verses in ways that “worked for me,” I was losing their meaning. I was trying to make the words serve me, instead of serving the words.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, observe means “to conform one’s action,” to “comply with” or “solemnize” something. In fact, the Latin root means “to serve.”

Is it any surprise, then, that Scripture repeatedly admonishes us to “observe” God’s word? How? By it letting speak to us and through us, not by making God’s word serve us…

But by serving God’s word.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments