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#HoldOnToTheLight

When Gail Z. Martin invited me to post a blog as a part of the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign, I decided to make it personal.

I was one of those kids who was different enough to attract the attention of bullies. A girl interested in science, math, art, fantasy, science fiction, writing, etc. attracted unwanted and negative attention from some of my school mates. Junior high (middle school to you younger folks) was the worse – I was regularly spit on by several “popular” girls on the school bus.

Where are those girls now? I don’t know, and to be honest, I don’t care. The things which made me an outcast then, are the things which I value the most about myself now. But that self-assurance is hard-won.

I’ve dealt with depression and lingering self-doubt for much of my life, because of that long-ago bullying. Which gives me great compassion for those who are different or who feel like outsiders. And though I won’t name names, because it is not my story to tell – I can assure them that many of the writers and artists I’m friendly with have experienced either bullying, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or a combination of those things.

So what’s my message? First, don’t let bullies ruin your life. They don’t deserve that much power. You are unique and valuable. The problem lies with the bullies – not you. Second, when you see bullying going on, stop it if you can, or get help from an adult to put an end to the bullying. Third, don’t be a bully. Always choose kindness.

One of the best things about the science fiction and fantasy community is their willingness to accept those marvelously unique artists, writers, and fans who might be viewed as “outsiders” in the mundane world. And one of the best things about being a writer of speculative fiction, is I get to create and celebrate characters who are different – whether they have physical, mental, or emotional challenges – imperfect characters are the most interesting to read about. Why? Because they’re the characters most like us.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627

As a girl, I loved Little House on the Prairie, and other books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And I still enjoy them today. The television series featuring Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, Karen Grassle, and others didn’t follow the books’ story lines all the time, but nevertheless remained faithful to the themes and spirit of Laura’s books (and life experiences).

Writer-reader geek that I am, I visited the Ingalls farm, school house, and the house that Pa built in De Smet, South Dakota. The area is still beautiful and wind-blown. It wasn’t difficult to image the Ingalls family riding in a buggy to town or to the store where Harriet and Nellie Oleson spent their lives annoying others (including Willie and long-suffering Nels). A bit “off the beaten path,” I’m glad we took the time to visit De Smet.

These memoirs, for that is what Little House in the Big Woods, By the Shores of Silver Lake, and On the Banks of Plum Creek seemed to be to me, breathe life into American history. And I think my enjoyment of history was helped along by Laura’s books (as well as family stories and my father’s fascination with history – especially American history).

Currently, I’m working on several historical projects. They will never obtain the readership or popularity of Laura’s books, but I hope to breathe life into the men and women dwelling in their pages – for history matters!

And these words from a tiny (4′ 11″) pioneer woman still ring true: “The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder.

For those who’d like to view some historical photos of Laura, and learn a little bit about Laura and her family, husband, and life – here’s a link to a wonderful article: The Amazing Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder Part I: Old Photo Archive. Enjoy!

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” – Shannon Hale, author of The Princess Academy and lots of other books.

Great quote by Shannon Hale which reminds writers what a first draft is really like — nothing but a bunch of sand in a box! It’s the rewrites and revisions that take the sand and compress it, shape it, and add a little magic to it. Then, you have your story (or book).

Shoveling sand is where I am on several projects. I don’t mind the shoveling or knowing I’ll be spending lots of time trying to make a castle out of the raw ingredients. It’s all part of the journey.

Today, was a good day. I discovered 2 books which will aid in my research. Both are terribly expensive, but I think they’re worth the cash. I also managed to jot some notes down which will end up in a manuscript. And then there’s the story which I’ve been trying to build — it seems to have a mind of its own. Not such a helpful thing when the story needs to fit in a themed anthology. It feels like every time I get a castle nearing completion, a wave knocks it down and I must start again.

So to my writer friends out there, have a great day, whether you’re shoveling sand or building castles.

People often ask me where do I get some of my more unusual ideas for writing and art work. My response is often, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Then, I tell them some of the “true” things which were the beginning place for a story, poem, or painting.

Yes, I use conversations I over-hear or oddities I spot while traveling, but sometimes the internet has links to marvelously weird science. Here’s the link to a video of 10 of the strange, but real creatures on our planet. If they don’t inspire alien life on other planets, nothing will!

Reading

Reading was my favorite pastime as a child and teen. Even today, a good book and the time to enjoy it make me happy. Which is one of the reasons I write.

When I write, whether a story, poem, or entire book, I try to create something I want to read. It seems a waste of time to create something which you, as the writer, don’t want to read! On the flip side of the coin, when I read an amazing book, I always think, “I wish I’d written this book!”

So what were my favorites as a child/teen? Mysteries: Nancy Drew mysteries (which I swapped with several friends, so we all had a chance to read many of them) -plus, I must confess to reading quite a few Hardy Boys mysteries, too! Magical tales: from the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and others. Folktales. Stories tinged with history, like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series and Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books, plus books of “real” history. JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, CS Lewis’s  Chronicles of Narnia, L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books, Lewis Carroll’s  Alice in Wonderland, Andre Norton’s Witch World series… The list goes on and on.

And the best part of loving to read, was the adults in my life (parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, dear family friends) encouraged me to read. They allowed me to be me, and didn’t force me to join a sports team or other activity just because everyone else was doing it.

I’ve tried to encourage my sons and daughter to find activities they enjoyed, and celebrated the differences between my kids. I try to do the same with my grandkids. Each grandchild is sure to find a path which suits them – and I’m happy each of the paths will be unique. And I’m not the only one. Here’s a link to Home and Garden Channel’s Fixer Upper and Magnolia Market, Joanna Gaines’s post on celebrating her child who’s a reader.

So on this warm July day, no matter your age, enjoy a book! Better yet, share your love of reading with a child.

 

As a mom and granny, I often sing children’s songs (though not very melodically, I must add). Some of the songs and rhymes seem just “silly” with no greater meaning than to entertain the ears and imaginations of the listeners and singers. Others might have their origins in folklore, history, and other places.

Ring Around the Rosies has famously been linked to the Bubonic Plague. And here’s the theory: “Ring around the rosies” – refers to red X with a circled around it that was drawn on the doors of homes to indicate someone inside that house had the plague (or had died from it). “Pocket full of posies” – refers to the boils and blisters that often accompanied the plague. “Ashes, ashes” – refers to the remains of the bodies, homes, and possessions of the plague’s victims which were burned. Or the alternate, “Pussy-cat, pussy-cat” – which refers to the cats brought in to kill the rats (whose fleas carried the plague). “We all fall down” refers to the ultimate end of everyone, whether plague victim or not.

Or maybe it’s just a fun rhyme about kids playing in the garden!

“Jack be nimble, jack be quick. Jack jump over the candlestick.” is another oft-repeated/sung nursery rhyme. Theories on this rhyme’s source varies from gaining good luck or fortune-telling skills from jumping over a burning candle to Yellow Fever prevention. It seems people believed Yellow Fever could be kept away by burning flames (and maybe their smoke), so candles would be lit by the beds of children to keep the fever at bay.

Or maybe, kids afraid of the dark just liked candles (and modern day nightlights) in their bedrooms to keep the monsters away.

A new possible source for me, was the She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain link to the moon goddess put forth in this article. Though I can see the moon image link, I’m not sure it’s a pagan-worship thing. And I must admit to never hearing the “she’ll be carrying six white puppies” verse before, though I have heard/sung the “she’ll have to sleep with grandma” and “she’ll be wearing red pajamas” verses.

How about you? Any children’s song sources you find interesting?

I’ve always liked the description of science fiction as the writing (or literature) of the future. Though if the story involves time-travel, it can be writing of the past, present, AND future!

There are many valuable resources for writers (and readers) of science fiction available online – everything from interviews with pros, market lists, and how-to write ups. A blog I discovered (thanks to Carol Hightshoe and her worthwhile newsletter, Wolfsinger Publications Daily) which is filled with information on science fiction is Contary Brin (David Brin’s secondary blog).

So fellow sf-fans (and authors), here’s the link to a fabulous, information-filled, not-to-be-missed post from Contrary Brin: Explore Science Fiction: The Literature of the Future.

Enjoy!