Summer’s Winding Down

Robins are supposed to be harbingers of springtime … that time when everything is becoming vibrant and new. This one is tattered, a little tired-looking and worn. Maybe that’s to be expected as we go into the last weekend of the summer.

Autumn Robin

I read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that Robins can produce three broods each year. If that’s the case, I can understand why this one might be feeling a little frazzled and frayed. Parenting can be demanding! Then again, it’s said that although “the entire [robin] population turns over on average every six years,” the occasional one can live up to fourteen years, so perhaps this one is just showing his age.

All winter long we wait for summertime, and when it finally arrives we exult in relaxed schedules, vacations, and the opportunity to catch up on everything we didn’t have time for in the preceding months. We garden and travel, make time for afternoons on the beach and backyard barbecues. Then, all too soon, we see it …

Autumn Glimpse

… the unwelcome hint that it’s all coming to an end.

We’re already back into September routines and any vacation time we might have had is little more than a distant memory. I should feel refreshed after several weeks of cottage time and family visits, but in reality I’m a little breathless. The weeks zipped by like a roadrunner on caffeine. I enjoyed my activities, but I’m taking stock and discovering that a lot of what I hoped to accomplish during June, July and August didn’t happen. What became of all that extra time I expected to have?

Perhaps having a summer birthday and acknowledging the passing of yet another year in my life makes me more aware of time’s elusive nature. Like the Robin, I’m getting a little worn around the edges. It takes me longer to get things done — although that may be less to do with aging and more to do with stopping too often to appreciate the blaze of changing colours or breathe in late summer’s distinctive scent.

Yesterday was subdued … a mist drifted through the trees most of the day and mingled with a cool breeze. The alders have begun letting their leaves loose to flutter down and clutter the freshly mown lawn, and down at the marsh there’s a hint of gold. We’re approaching the last weekend of summer and I’m feeling a little melancholic about it.

~

“The whole earth is at rest and is quiet;
They break forth into shouts of joy.

[Isaiah 14:7]

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 SS-BUTTON

Staying Focused

Living rurally provides me with opportunities to enjoy wildlife of several varieties, literally on my doorstep. You’ve seen photos and read stories here of deer in our garden, bear on the back lawn, raccoons on the deck, and a great assortment of birds and critters at our feeders.

Deer 3

This nice looking buck appeared in the back yard early in July. It was the first buck we’ve seen here … at least, the first one bearing a set of antlers. He had a doe in tow who was casually munching on my rhododendrons. She wasn’t concerned that I stood in the window taking her photo; her buddy was keeping a wary eye on me. When I started moving to a different window for a better shot, he told her it was time to leave, and they immediately disappeared into the woods.

Deer 2

In August while we were driving in a town on Vancouver Island, we encountered this doe on the lawn of a church. We pulled over and I rolled down the car window to take her photo. She apparently decided I was relatively harmless, and she returned to nibbling the grass. Still, she kept a cautious eye on me while slowly working her way to the back of the church property where I lost sight of her in the trees.

Deer 1

This doe was either very smart or very stupid. Last week our daughter’s Rough Collie was on the back porch of their rural home in Cranbrook, barking furiously at the brazen intruder. Perhaps the deer recognized that the dog was on a chain, because she showed no concern, just continued to stand and stare.

Deer 4

After several moments, a noise in the bush caught her attention. I’m not sure how she even heard it over all the barking.

Deer 5

Her ears perked as she evaluated the disturbance.

Deer 6

Deciding it was a possible threat, she turned to face the woods. Then her tailed flagged, and before I could take a final shot, she wheeled and bounded off in the opposite direction. Only seconds behind her was the neighbour’s tubby Basset Hound, running as fast as her stubby legs would go … easily outrun by the swift deer.

The deer have a lesson to teach me about focus. All too often, both as a writer and as a follower of Christ, I get hung up on trivialities and miss out on the important things. I need to pay more attention, evaluate situations and respond appropriately. I believe it was the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca who said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

I need to be better prepared and learn to focus on what matters so I’m aware of opportunities when they occur. How about you?

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Writing in a fog?

Vivid blue skies accompanied us during the entire 800 kilometre drive on Saturday… at least, they did after the fog lifted. Until then, there wasn’t much of anything to see.

Morning Fog

As the early morning mist thinned, beautiful Moyie Lake was revealled.

Moyie Lake (East Kootenays), BC

Moyie Lake (East Kootenays), BC

After that, the rest of the trip was a joy… just one cloudless vista after another.

Kootenay Pass (Selkirk Mountains), BC

Christina Lake, BC

That resembles some of my writing days. I blunder along, searching for the direction a story should take, but it’s like being in a fog. Everything feels unfamiliar, although it shouldn’t. After all, the route, the basic storyline, is my own. Still, the way ahead is obscure and I can’t see where to go until a fresh breeze of inspiration finally opens up a glimmer of an idea. Once I can expand on it, my writing picks up speed.

That’s where I am right now. There’s a non-fiction article I want to write, but the idea remains murky. Unfortunately, I’m running out of time (it’s for a contest), but I’ll persevere… I’ll keep concocting one sentence at a time, waiting for the breakthrough to happen.

If only the fog would dissipate! Do you think it would help if I set up a couple fans in my office? :)

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September Clouds and Shadows

Clouds and sunshine, light and shadows… September’s weather can be an unpredictable mixture. Often the first week of school is summery, making it hard to be closed into a classroom. This year it hasn’t been, at least, not here. There have been clouds and showers every day so far, with occasional sunny breaks. Any clear skies seem to appear only in the evenings. We’re hoping for sunny days towards the end of the month with a family wedding in the offing, but you never know.

Clouds 1

 

Clouds 2

(A click on either photo will enlarge it for a closer look.)

This month of new beginnings has its pros and cons. It elicits enthusiasm, but it can also overwhelm. So much happens, and all at once. Holidays end, school starts up (well, everywhere except in BC’s public schools where the teachers are still on strike!), clubs and meetings resume, and we suddenly come face to face with all the tasks and commitments we put aside at the end of June.

We stumble into September with good intentions, maybe even with fresh goals, but without much forethought as to how they will be accomplished. As the proverbial snowball gets rolling and the calendar squares start filling, the highest priority activities get the attention they demand while the less obvious ones slip quietly into the background. Too often they turn out to be the ones we subconsciously think of as self-indulgent and expendable.

Does writing fall into that category? If we consider it a hobby, then it’s okay to relegate it to leftover fragments of time. However, if we’re aiming for a writing career, be it primary or secondary, it must be treated as a serious commitment and given its due time in our daily schedules.

If we don’t give serious thought to our needs as writers it won’t be hard for life’s storms to build up, envelop us and devastate.  Self-preservation isn’t an indulgence!

When we finally acknowledge that we can’t do it all, and a grey cloud of discouragement begins to hover, what can we eliminate to keep from being overwhelmed?

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Blogging hiatus and a little R & R

The hot weather’s back and the timing is perfect for me to take a bit of a blogging break. I’m heading offline for a couple weeks, hoping to get a little extra writing done and maybe squeeze in some R & R.

R&R

I’ll be back in the traces and on schedule again by mid-August. Probably. Maybe. (But don’t count on it if this heat sticks around.) :|

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Is there envy or jealousy within the writing community?

On our recent oceanside holiday we had regular nightly visitors. Along with twilight came the geese, in several gaggles of varying numbers.

Geese Arriving

They didn’t come ashore, but found convenient logs on which they claimed a spot to settle for the night.

Geese Settling

Their attitude toward one another was fascinating. In flight, it’s known that the lead bird of the typical V-formation will bear the brunt of the wind resistance, with all the others gaining benefit of the upwash from the bird ahead. The front position is rotated periodically to share the flight fatigue among the others in the flock. It’s an aerodynamic thing.

But when it came to sharing a resting spot on that log, some of the more dominant members weren’t as cooperative.

This one, for instance. I don’t know what the criteria was for a comfortable nighttime perch — most of the others spaced themselves out —  but he challenged any bird that approached the log he had claimed. He wanted it all for himself. His attitude eventually was his undoing, when his antics started the log rolling. It became a birling competition… goose versus log. Guess who lost?

Lucy Goose

This is MY spot!

 

 

Goose Shove Off

Shove off, bud!

Ackkk!

Ackkk!

Oops!!! Can someone lend a hand... um, a wing, please?

Oops!!! Can someone lend a hand… um, a wing, please?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greed, selfishness and envy are very unpleasant emotions, often more so for the person experiencing them than the one to whom they might be directed. In the writer’s world there are many opportunities for the green-eyed monster to raise its nasty head. Between blog awards, contest wins, new contracts, best seller list placements, sales numbers and book awards, someone is always mounting a pinnacle of success ahead of others who look on, regretting that it isn’t them.

And yet… and yet, I’ve found there is very little jealousy evident. Oh, I don’t mean there’s no wishing, but at the same time most writers I’ve encountered seem genuinely happy about the successes of their peers. Any announcement of special achievement is met with collective happy dancing and abundant congratulations. Maybe it’s because we’re all well aware of the steep climb everyone has endured on the journey.

There is an expansive community within the writers’ circle, one enriched by camaraderie and support. That goose could learn a thing or two from them.

Have you had any experience with envy or jealousy during your pursuit of publication? How did you deal with it?

~

Swimming Goose

Book Review — Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic, by K.M. Weiland

When I first read Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, I took it as a Victorian romance, later realizing it was also a vaguely autobiographical account of a girl’s complex and difficult life, and a critique of the social issues of the period. I never imagined I would encounter the story again decades later and reread it as a highly effective teaching tool for writing fiction.

19336035In Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic, K.M. Weiland examines Brontë’s story from the unique perspective of an author and writing instructor, and reveals the many techniques that helped make it one of the most successful novels of its era and an enduring classic. Weiland not only identifies the techniques as the story unfolds, she thoroughly explains them.

Let me offer two examples:

In discussing characterization, following a section of dialogue a sidebar notation says, “Successfully using dialogue for characterization requires several ingredients,” and Weiland goes on to identify four – “(1.) Character voice, (2.) Choice of subject, (3.) Treatment of others, and (4.) Speaker tags and action beats.” She doesn’t just label these, but also expounds on each with specific references to how Bronte has used them in the text.

After another section of dialogue, Weiland points to Brontë’s inclusion of backstory and explains how and why it works so well. “To begin with, this conversation serves to keep the backstory front and center in the readers’ minds. Even as the main part of the story progresses, Brontë will continue to make references to the mysterious backstory. She never lets readers forget about it. She is also careful to introduce at least one new fact into each reference. She doesn’t rehash the same old information over and over. … Finally, she keeps the backstory fresh by weaving it into the body of the main story. Here she uses it to cement the foundation of the relationship that will grow between Jane and Rochester.

“Info dumps or lengthy flashbacks would only serve to slow down the story and sap the tension. But carefully placed clues offer just enough new information to keep readers panting after the truth.”

km-weiland-avatarKatie Weiland’s own writing is well crafted and easy to read in a conversational style that still manages to be concise and instructive. Her intimate familiarity with Charlotte Brontë’s classic story along with her extensive knowledge of the writing craft, have combined to produce a book that other writers will find extremely useful. It is not just another companion to the story of Jane Eyre, but a comprehensive guide to good writing that I believe should be on every writer’s bookshelf.

Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic by K.M. Weiland will be available at all major outlets upon release August 1st. Check it out on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and visit Katie’s website, Helping Writers Become Authors, for lots more information.

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