Something Wonderful

December Leaves

The fallen leaves are cornflakes
That fill the lawn’s wide dish.
And night and noon
The wind’s a spoon
That stirs them with a swish,

The sky’s a silver sifter
A-sifting white and slow,
That gently shakes
On crisp brown flakes
The sugar known as snow.

Kaye Starbird

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Energy Enliveners

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As we hit the end of the week, our attention can flag and makie it harder to focus. Here are a few simple tips to help you stay more alert and upbeat all day:

Nod at nutmeg: Unique nutrients in this savory spice can rev up the output of energizing brain chemicals, boosting your alertness, concentration, and feelings well-being within 10 minutes. Why not add this brain booster to your coffee, morning smoothie, or afternoon yogurt?

Soak up sunshine: If your energy dips in the late afternoon, open your window shades or take a quick walk for 10 minutes. In a recent study, people who did this scored higher on alertness tests for up to an hour – nearly the same benefit a nap offers! Why? Sunlight blocks a sleep-inducing brain chemical that builds up in our body as the day wanes.

Pep up with protein: When a bout of fogginess or drowsiness hits, we tend to grab a sweet for a quick energy surge, but British scientists have a better plan: Eating a protein-rich afternoon snack – like hummus, or a hard-boiled egg — gives you a bigger energy boost than sweets. Protein-rich foods stimulate brain cells and make you more alert.

Goose your gray cells: Brainstorm! Princeton researchers have learned that tired workers who take a few moments to brainstorm an idea –- from how to organize a delivery to what to have for dinner — instantly become more alert. The brain loves to be challenged: Getting creative triggers a flood of excitement-inducing brain chemicals that can give you a second wind.

Writers, rev your engines! Alert and energized, let’s all write on!

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“Many Rootlets”

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“I am done with great things and big things and great institutions and big success and I am for those tiny invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets or like the capillary oozing water, yet which, if you give them time will bend the hardest monuments of [human] pride.”   William James

What a wonder our boy William is – there’s much to ponder here in our work as writers!

How often do all of us get lost in grandiose visions of what a project we’re working on might become? The “big” and mighty vision we want to express, perhaps, or the “big success” we hope and long to enjoy? We can get so caught up in all this so easily that it becomes a trap – one that stifles our creativity and limits some of the craft choices we make. And yet, wise William offers us a different, less stressful, way to work:

We can forget about all the big goals we feel we can and should to strive toward.

We can forget about the “great institutions” we hope to win recognition from.

We can forget about the big success that we crave and feel we must have.

Instead, we can pursue a different and ultimately more promising path:

We turn our focus to the “tiny invisible moral forces” that unite us all.

We can think of writing as sharing ideas and experiences “from individual to individual.”

We can think of the words and sentences we write as “so many rootlets” taking hold.

How liberating all this can be! We let go of grand goals and chasing success and just focus on our work from day to day, letting all the rest take care of itself. Instead of putting huge amounts of pressure on ourselves to be “writers,” we just write. Like water, we flow calmly and steadily, moving quietly and contentedly where our work takes us. We trust that we are going in the right direction and will get where we need to go.

What a simple, joyful, doable way to work. Let’s take the “many rootlets” approach to sharing our work and ideas as we all write on!

 

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Young Readers

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“Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day began when my children were little and I was going to story time at bookstores nearly every week. Did all children know the pleasure of spending time in a bookstore? I wondered. Of being drawn into a magic world for a while, then being left to choose treasures on the shelf? I wanted to begin a holiday that would expose as many kids as possible to this joy.” Jenny Milchman

Jenny Milchman, my friend and a talented thriller writer — her newest book, The Second Mother, launches in July of 2020 (stay tuned!) — started “Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day” in 2010 to bring young readers and books together. What began as an inspired idea has turned into a movement, as book bloggers and book lovers took the idea viral and brought their local bookstores on board.

This year, on Saturday, December 7, more than 800 bookstores in all 50 states and on 5 continents will take part and host events designed to share with kids all the treasures their shelves hold. Let the “Tenth Annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day” begin!

As Jenny says so well, “Bookstores hold a place in the hearts and times of our community. They are places to discover an author, a story, a life. Nothing affords the conversation and interaction among books and book lovers that a bookstore does. In the future, whether you download your story or pluck a volume off a shelf, a bookstore will be able to accommodate. But in order for bookstores to flourish and thrive, we must expose future generations to the unique pleasures they offer.”

So why not give the kids in your life a trip to your local bookstore this Saturday, December 7 or buy some children’s books to donate or send as gifts? I’m planning a trip to Watchung Booksellers, my favorite local indie, to pick up a few picture books for the kids on my holiday list. To learn more, visit: http://takeyourchildtoabookstore.org/

Bravo, Jenny — write on!

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Attitude Check

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“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”   Zig Ziglar

Zig was a highly successful motivational speaker and author. His snappy little comment captures a lot of wisdom and packs a powerful punch, doesn’t it? Attitude is definitely a word with plenty of attitude! Here’s how Webster’s defines it:

1) a position assumed for a specific purpose;
2) a mental position with regard to a fact or state;
3) a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state;
4) a state of readiness to respond in a characteristic way to
stimulus (as an object, concept, or situation);
5) a negative or hostile state of mind;
6) a cocky or arrogant manner.

Wow, that one word covers a lot of territory! And here’s something to ponder: In a study of 3,000 top achievers, 85% of them attributed their success to their attitude — and only 15% to the skills they developed.

Someone once asked a couple of questions that really hit home with me:

How much would you pay for your attitude?
If your attitude was a horse race, what place would it come in?
If someone stole your attitude, would it be a blessing?

Attitude is a big issue for us as writers. If we come to the page feeling frustrated by a rough patch or yesterday’s results, then it’s going to be tough to get our motor going. On the other hand, if we arrive on the page hopeful and fascinated by all the possibilities before us, then who knows what might happen? Don’t get frustrated, get fascinated! That’s what my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert* is fond of saying.

So let’s meet the page today with a winning attitude as we all write on!

* Check out his fabulous Success Hotline (973.743.4690).

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Happy Thanksgiving!

 

God’s World
Edna St. Vincent Millay

“O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide gray skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with color! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, world! I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known the glory of it all
But never knew I this,
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart. Lord I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is all but out of me — let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.”

Have a happy, peaceful holiday weekend!

 

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Contest Alert

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A heads up: the deadline is fast approaching for the Fall Fiction Contest sponsored by The Masters Review. The winner will receive $2000, online publication in The Masters Review which spotlights emerging writers, and a note from its judge on why the story was selected. A previous Fall Fiction Contest winner, Ruth Joffre, published her story collection with Grove Atlantic. Contest deadline: November 30.

Guidelines:

  • Submissions are open through Nov 30
  • 6000 word limit
  • Fiction only
  • Emerging Writers only.  The Masters Review offers a platform for new writers. Self-published writers and writers with story collections and novels with a small circulation are welcome to submit. Writers with novels published with a circulation of fewer than 5000 copies can also submit.
  • $20 submission fee
  • International submissions allowed
  • Previously unpublished work only
  • Translations allowed, providing the story has not been published in another language
  • Multiple/simultaneous submissions are allowed
  • Winner receives $2000 and publication
  • 2nd and 3rd place stories receive $300 and $200 respectively, as well as publication

For more information,  view FAQ here

If you have a story in the 6,000-word range and you are an emerging writer, why not throw your hat in the ring? Write on!

 

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