Like the Rings of a Tree

When Steve saw this picture of the two of us (taken last night at a production of Beauty and the Beast) he responded, “I’m so wrinkly. But I love your smile.”

BB

I told him his wrinkles were one way for me to share his history with him, and suggested we each write a story about our wrinkles.

Here’s my story:

Though they’ve deepened with age, the wrinkles I’m going to write about have nothing to do with age. In fact, I’ve had them since I first remember looking in the mirror.

jan at park2 crop and comp

 

This picture proves it. I was only sixteen here, and see? Wrinkles on the forehead.

 

 

 

 

 

I inherited them from my dad.

dad and jan

There was a time I didn’t like these lines across my forehead—tried to cover them with bangs even. That probably came from my mom always telling me to stop wrinkling my brow or I’d have wrinkles forever. Well, I guess I didn’t listen, because I expect I’ll have them forever.

Maybe it’s because now I have other wrinkles to keep my forehead wrinkles company, or maybe it’s because these days I choose my battles, and the war against wrinkles is truly one I’ll ultimately lose. But they don’t bother me so much anymore. Oh, I’ll admit, occasionally when I catch an unexpected glimpse of myself in the mirror, or worse, when I accidentally turn my iPhone camera on myself, I think, “Oh my gosh! Is THAT what I really look like?” (We must each have an internal pair of rose-colored glasses that shifts into automatic when we “purposely” look at ourselves in the mirror.)

As I told Steve, every wrinkle has a story behind it. Some of the stories are happy and some are sad. But even the sad wrinkles came with lessons that hopefully have made me wiser, along with older.

My forehead wrinkles? Well, they’re happy wrinkles. They came from my dad, and they’ve been born of expressing myself, something I haven’t always found it easy to do.

So, here’s the other thing I told Steve when he complained about his wrinkles today. “Just think of all the new wrinkles we’ll make together.”

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Celebrate Poetry-4/10: FLOWERS

Jan Morrill:

One of the things I miss about living in Arkansas is the dogwoods.

Originally posted on Life: Haiku by Haiku:

The theme for Day 10′s celebrating  National Poetry Month  is “Flowers.” Click  HERE  for details of this haiku celebration of throughout the month of April.

My haiku on flowers is another excerpt from Life: Haiku by Haiku. I wrote it one spring in Arkansas as I drove to the farm. This scattering of lace on the hills is one of the things I miss most about living in Arkansas.

Dogwood flowers bloom
delicate lace scattered like
whispers of spring

dogwood1

Share your haiku about FLOWERS in the comments of this post and you’ll be entered in the drawing for one of three signed copies of LIFE: HAIKU BY HAIKU! Only three rules:

  1. Must be your original haiku (which is typically seventeen syllables, three lines of 5-7-5 syllables each, but I won’t be a stickler.)
  2. Must be entered in the comments of this blog post
  3. Must be about the topic of…

View original 14 more words

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“The Writing Process” Blog Hop

Thank you to Tricia Sanders for inviting me to the “Writing Process” Blog Hop. I first met Tricia at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference and have enjoyed getting to know her over the years on Facebook. See her answers to the blog hop questions and get to know her at http://triciasanders.blogspot.com/.

First, I’ll answer the four blog hop questions, then I’ll introduce you to three friends I hope you’ll visit next on the tour.

1)      What are you working on?

As I thought about the answers to these questions, I had a little chuckle when I asked myself, “Should I give the ‘writerly-correct’ answer, or the honest answer?”

Well, I’ll give both. The “writerly-correct” answer is that I’m working on the sequel to The Red Kimono. And that is true – kind of. I continue to work on the sequel and have completed approximately half of the first draft. But I also have to admit that I haven’t been as disciplined or dedicated to it in the last several months as I should be. But I will.

Raccoon Tommy crop small

 

The more honest answer is that I’ve been working on being a grandma and have recently started babysitting my first grandchild, little Tommy, who just turned three months old. I love spending my days with him and experiencing the world as new through his eyes. I’m curious about how seeing the world in new and different ways will impact my writing.

 

Though I haven’t been as productive on the sequel to The Red Kimono as I’d like, I do have a new book about to be released. Life: Haiku by Haiku. (April 2014) is a book of poetry which, in seventeen syllables, captures moments that touched my life over the last few decades.

LHBH Final

2)      How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My goal in writing many of my stories is to try to give the reader multiple perspectives. Typically, I write in more than one point of view, so that I can show perspectives in one character that another character might not see or consider. I think we often don’t consider what another person might be dealing with, or what he has gone through, before making judgments that often affect both lives.

3)      Why do you want to write what you write?

I think I pretty much answered this in #2, but to expand further, perhaps it would help to read a bit of my bio:

Jan Morrill was born and (mostly) raised in California. Her mother, a Buddhist Japanese American, was an internee during World War II. Her father, a Southern Baptist redhead of Irish descent, retired from the Air Force. Many of her stories reflect memories of growing up in a multicultural, multi-religious, multi-political environment as does her debut novel, THE RED KIMONO, which was published by the University of Arkansas Press in February 2013.

My childhood—growing up with the customs and traditions of two very different families—has helped me to see the world from different perspectives. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve seen how sometimes people make judgments about a person based on his/her race, religion, political philosophy, sexual orientation, social class—the list goes on and on. Often, that judgment is made out of fear and before knowing much of anything about the person.

Much of my writing is about characters in conflict over their differences. As in real life, sometimes they overcome these differences and sometimes they don’t.

4)      How does your writing process work?

While I was writing The Red Kimono, my process was to get up very early, usually around 5:00 a.m., have a cup of coffee, then start writing until about 8:00. This worked for me because I wrote before most of “my world” awoke and before the swirling around in my head of all the day’s activities began. I think that’s one reason I haven’t been as successful getting on track with the sequel. I haven’t managed to get into that kind of routine again.

Perhaps that should be my goal. That is, rather the goal of writing a certain amount every day, I should focus on finding a set time to write, and stick to that time long enough to establish a routine again.

Anyway, thank you for the hardly-veiled opportunity to brag about Tommy. :)

And now, I’d like to introduce you to three of my writer friends. Hope you’ll hop on over to their blogs next Monday, March 31.

Linda Austin is the author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight and Poems That Come to Mind and encourages lifewriting through her Moonbridge Books blog at http://moonbridgebooks.com.

Meg Welch Dendler is the award-winning author of the Cats in the Mirror middle grade science fiction/fantasy series and over 100 articles and interviews.

Links:
http://www.megdendler.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MegDendlerAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6951290.Meg_Welch_Dendler
Twitter: @megwelchdendler and @kimbababy

Books:
Why Kimba Saved The World
Vacation Hiro

Shirley McCann’s fiction has appeared in Woman’s World, Alfred Hitchock Mystery Magazine, as well as numerous other fiction publications.

Blog: http://shirleymccann.blogspot.com

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The Lusty Month of May

Okay, okay. I’ll admit it. I used the title of a song from one of my favorite movies, Camelot, as a brazen attempt to attract your attention. But, my post does have to do with May.

I love May for at least two reasons:

  1. Spring should be in full bloom by then, though with the winter we’ve had, one might have some doubts.spring
  2. The OWFI Conference!! I CAN count on that! This year’s conference will be held May 1-3 at the Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City.

owfilogo031014

Take a peek at the wide array of presenters at this year’s conference — including me!

Here’s a teaser for the three different workshops I’ll be presenting:

Characterization: Using Letters & Photos to Bring Characters to Life
Friday, May 2, 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.

Are you challenged with getting your characters to “talk” to you? I have a couple of successful methods I’ve used to “trick” my characters into telling me their stories. In this workshop we will:

  • Write a letter in our character’s point of view (To our character, from our characters or between two characters.)
  • Describe a photo or painting through our character’s eyes

# # #

Interviewing Your Characters
Friday, May 2, 1:30 p.m.- 2:30 p.m.

This is one of my most popular workshops. Would you like to know how to develop your characters and story line by “coaxing” them to tell you their secrets? In this session, I’ll demonstrate how you can do this through writing exercises and live interview. Time permitting, I may even put a character on the psychologist’s couch!

For a sample of what you might learn, read my blog post, “Happy Hour with Nobu.

# # #

Keeping History Alive Through Fiction
Saturday, May 3, 11:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.

Gardner HistoryThe books we read in history class taught us the events of history. In this workshop, I’ll talk about resources and we’ll do exercises to demonstrate how historical fiction or creative non-fiction can help a reader to absorb historical events by experiencing them through a character’s eyes.

# # #

So, lusty or not, as you can see, May is a wonderful time of year. Here’s a video that Heather Davis put together with photos from last year’s conference, just to give you a peek at how much fun we have.

And best of all, there’s an early bird discount, but register before March 15! Click here for the registration form!

See you there!

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My “What-Should-Have-Been-Obvious” Epiphany

Steve and I like to do writing prompts together. These 10-minute sessions often stimulate our creativity, get us “unblocked,” or teach us something we didn’t know, either about each other or ourselves.

Today, I was flipping through a book titled 365 Questions for Couples, looking for a good prompt for both of us to write about.

Here’s the question I landed on:

prompt

I’m embarrassed to admit my response:

I’m not working right now, so I don’t have a career. Ask me another question.

Whoa! That was my next thought, and I’m sure it was prompted by the inquiring look on Steve’s face. My inner voice immediately began to scold me:

You mean to say, you’ve published 2.75 books (that means two books published with one just about ready to release,) and you don’t consider your writing a career? No wonder you’re not any farther along than you are on that sequel!

As noted in my title, this was a “should-have-known-better” epiphany. How many conferences and workshops have I been to that have taught me how to practice writing as a career? How many blogs have I read that preach we must take ourselves seriously and as professionals? How many writing mentors and friends have set that very example for me?

And all along, I’ve thought, “I know, I know. I think of myself as a professional. This is my career.”

But actions speak louder than words, and in the last year, but actions have screamed that I am not looking at my writing as my career.

While working on The Red Kimono, I was focused, dedicated and determined. I looked at it as a job, and had a certain time of every day set aside so that all I did was write. (That was typically, 5:00 a.m. – 7:30 a.m., before the rest of the world–with the exception of my dogs–awoke. Or, at least started bothering me.)

But in the year following my book’s release, I spent almost all of my time marketing, and since then, I haven’t gotten back into a routine. Oh, I could use all of the following excuses to placate myself:

  • my move into an apartment following my divorce
  • marketing The Red Kimono
  • fulfilling my duties as Conference Chair for OWFI and President for OWL
  • my move to Dallas following the news I’d be a grandmother
  • blah, blah, blah

 

But you know what? Most of those things are over. And have I gotten back to the career of my passion? (That would be writing.) No.

And until this morning, I didn’t realize that I’d quit looking at writing as my career. Why? I’m not sure. But following are the questions and commentary that swirled around in my brain following my epiphany:

You must be afraid of something. What are you afraid of? Failure? Failure of what? That you won’t ever get the sequel finished? That you won’t find a publisher? That people won’t be interested?

Who knows why for sure. All I know is, I do want to get the sequel to The Red Kimono finished, and I do want to get the other books and stories queued up in my head written.

So, after today’s “should-have-known-better” epiphany, I’m back to work. Back to my career. Back to dedicating two hours a day to my JOB.

See, like I said earlier. Sometimes these writing prompts are good for learning something about ourselves.

 

 

 

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Life: Haiku by Haiku

My new book, Life: Haiku by Haiku, contains more than 150 haiku. It is scheduled for release in April.

Life Haiku by Haiku

Here’s an excerpt:

the first crocus pokes
bright yellow through icy snow
long winter’s farewell

I think many of us are anticipating long winter’s farewell!

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The Song that Came to Mind

box2

Last night, I drew another prompt from the writing prompt box I recently created:

Write about the first song that comes to mind.

Music…a song…can take me back in time faster than almost anything, except perhaps a scent. So, I enjoyed this prompt.

I’m sure it will be obvious to you that I changed a name to protect the innocent. And, it’s funny how the mind fills in details that have been forgotten, so perhaps there are a couple of minor embellishments. But it’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Following is the song and the story that first came to mind. I would LOVE to hear about the story behind the first song that comes to your mind!

Yesterday

One of my most romantic moments came when I was in fourth grade. Back then, romance was made of fairy tales, of princes on white stallions and happily-ever-afters.

I was born in California, and in the next five years we moved to bases in Texas, where Cyndie was born; Georgia, where Kim was born; and Bermuda, where Tami was born. Finally, we returned to California again, where my brother, Chuck, was born. From then, I was lucky enough to be in one place from first through fourth grades, long enough to be lulled into a sense of getting to stay in one place.

But at the end of my fourth grade year, the fairy tales and happily-ever-afters faded away and the world became all-too-real again when I learned we’d be moving from the home I loved in California to a dusty Air Force Base in Altus, Oklahoma.

It was bad enough that I had to leave my friends, but move to Oklahoma? We were going to be Okies? Even in my pre-pre-teen years, I’d already decided I was much more suited to being a California girl than an Okie.

Not to mention I’d just learned that Billy Bobblehead, a boy I’d known since first grade, had a crush on me. Having just graduated from the “cooties” stage—when my friends and I wrote “C.V.” on our palms to vaccinate ourselves against catching “cooties” from the opposite sex—Billy Bobblehead was my first crush. Or, more accurately, he was the first boy to profess his crush on me. I’d had secret crushes on boys since kindergarten, but “C.V.” had prevented those crushes from coming to light. But this was fourth grade — serious stuff.

So, my heartache about leaving California was intensified by the fact I’d never see this love come to full bloom.

But it was after we moved that my first romantic moment—a memory that will live in infamy forever—happened. Maybe it’s because it happened at my saddest moment, when I missed my friends, missed being “crushed.” I learned about it in a letter I received from a very-missed friend:

Dear Jan,

You’ll never believe what Billy Bobblehead did after you left…

I hesitated to read on, dreading that Billy had already found himself another. But, with a lump in my throat, eyes burning with impending tears, I bravely read on.

Then, I smiled. Relieved, I floated on Cloud Nine.

Every day he sings this song. He says it’s for you. It’s by the Beatles and it’s called ‘Yesterday.’ It goes like this:

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now, it looks as though they’re here to stay.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Was this love? I only knew one thing for sure—even before I entered the fifth grade. Whatever it was, life would never be the same again.

jan upside down

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