Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reading in the New Year

As we approach a new year, the time comes for fresh ideas, resolutions, and commitments. I pondered my New Year’s Resolution, mulling over what to give up or what to add to my plate. Should I exercise more (which for me would mean I would have to start exercising), eat healthier, spend less time at work… there are so many choices! In the end, I selected an option far more selfish but also more enriching.

My goal for 2013 is to read broader. I want to be brave in my selections, have a more open mind, and try genres and authors never chosen before. I tend to stick with the same categories, rarely straying far from my interest path. When it comes down to it, I am rather hypocritical. As a teacher, I am always urging my students to new books but on my own, I seldom heed my own advice. So in 2013, I am going to read freely, without restraint, and prejudgment. 

To all of you, I wish you a joyous new year. May your 2013 be filled with laughter, friendship, good health, happiness, and abundant book selections! – Karen

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Gift of a Letter

     I’ve always loved sending and receiving letters. I remember my childhood days, writing letters to various friends, pen pals, and family members. I would look for special paper, fun stickers, and colored pens or pencils before sitting down to write. I am certain I put some thrilling information in those notes too! I would eagerly await the return correspondence, ripping open the envelope in excitement. I recall reading those letters again and again, and I have some of them still today. 

     There is just something about a handwritten note. Perhaps it is the unique personal touches – the penmanship, style, or flair. I think it is more that someone took the time to stop what they were doing and write to me. It made me feel special, important, and loved.  The advances in technology, while making life “easier” have stripped away some of these personal connections. Few of us, me included now, take the time to write letters to people. A quick text, an email, a call and we have sent out message. We are all about sending and receiving data.

     Christmas time always reminds me about the joys and beauty of letter writing. The kids’ letters to Santa continue to warm my heart. The beautiful messages added to holiday cards can brighten the hardest of days. This year has been different than most though. This year, I have seen copies of some of the most heartfelt letters. Most of them written by children, they were composed in the darkest days following the massacre in Newtown. These letters, while not fancy or colorful, ring with truth and sincerity, reminding us that life is short. The one I have included here, in 28 little words, has the power to move mountains.

     Often times, it is our children who remind us of what is important. Take some time and write a letter to someone you love.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Media Responsibility

     As the news of the horrors developing in Connecticut streamed in, I found myself regularly checking various news websites for updates. I was at work, like many of you, so I could only quickly check in and get an update. As the day progressed, I found myself more confused by the reports. 

     The first story I read noted that a there had been a shooting at an elementary school. One teacher had been taken the hospital with a gunshot wound to the foot and that the gunmen were dead. That was it, didn’t sound too terrible in the whole grand scheme of things. A shooting is terrible, please understand I am not minimizing this, but the report was vague and made it appear as it if the situation had been resolved rather quickly. 

     The next time I checked, I found myself reading a report that differed dramatically from the first. This update stated that close to thirty people were dead, most of them kindergarten students. It also noted there was only one gunman, a former student at the school.

     How could the reports be so different in as little as thirty minutes? All day long this continued. Every time I checked, a “fact” appeared to have been changed from the last report. The shooter’s name, his age, the weapons he used, where his mother was killed, and on and on. It was as if the media was closing their eyes, spinning in a circle and playing pin the tail on a “fact” (term used loosely). 

     When did we start allowing this? Where did we break down in our expectations that the media would check and verify the facts before they reported them to the masses? We have turned a blind eye to this, allowing for a print now and apologize later mentality. 

     I am writer of fiction, and yet I am still required to research characters, setting, and key elements of the plot before I write. My readers would not allow me to create a piece without having done this background work, and again, this is for fiction. I would not insult their intelligence in doing so. 

     The events that took place on Friday in Newtown are beyond words. The loss of such life is a tragedy. My frustration with the media is minimal in comparison with any sadness or despair experienced. I do, however, feel the mishandling by the media throughout the day and into the night made the sting burn a little deeper for a nation in mourning. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Importance of Fun

Volkswagen has an initiative called The Fun Theory. It's dedicated to the idea that having a little fun is the easiest way to change people's behavior for the better.  Innovative thinkers shared their best ideas to help prove this theory. The world's deepest trash bin and a soda machine functioning like a slot machine for recycling old cans have been produced based on this theory. 

If you think about your day, where does the fun factor fit it in? Chances are, it is often pretty low on the list. Maybe it is time to re-think this idea. In schools, we try to incorporate fun realizing that if our students are having a good time, they will be more motivated and committed to their work. They are often more willing to keep working, even if the task is difficult. 

As we grow older, we often abandon the idea of fun, thinking it is a kid concept. We just don’t have time for these kid games, or do we?  Volkswagen recognized that we don’t outgrow the need to cut loose, relax, and have a little downtime. By taking a step back and having a little silly fun, we can find ourselves in a much more positive place. 

The fabulous ladies in my critique group having some fun! 

As I close out this year, I am focusing on having fun! I am spending quality time with the people I love. I am making time for the events I may have previously pushed aside. I am recognizing the small wonders and seeking out opportunities to create new ones. I am having fun and hope you will too!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Success in the failure

December is upon us, bring a close to Nanowrimo and the month-long quest to churn out a novel. So now for the million dollar question… did I finish? Oh my goodness, no, not even close! I wrote 20,000 words, falling far short of the goal. Ashamed you ask? Oh my goodness, no, not even close! 

I wrote an amazing 20,000 words which is about 19,000 more than I typically ever write on a story (remember I normally write children’s picture books). I am pretty impressed with myself to be honest. Nano was more about making me put my butt in the chair and write. It was about avoiding distractions, focusing on a goal, and getting the words down. I know I came up short in the great Nano’s eyes, but I feel nothing but pride in producing my story. 

So is it complete? Oh my goodness, no, and I think you know the rest. I am not sure many stories are ever truly finished. I need to add a bit more to the manuscript and then begin the grueling process of editing, revising, and formatting. Maybe that will all be finished by next November just in time to kick off a new challenge!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kick in the Pants - Thanks Authors!

   I had the pleasure of attending a Local Author Event tonight at one of the St. Charles City-County libraries. Close to 50 authors from the St. Louis area gathered in the library, chatting with guests and selling their different works. 

   It was great to see Keith Hoerner (author of Missing the Mark) again, as well as Chad Odom (author of The Last Archide) and Peggy Archer, author of several children’s books. I met several new authors and grabbed another book or two for my “to-be read” pile that is clearly getting out of control! I even found a few Christmas presents that I am sure my family will love. 

    Throughout the night, a reoccurring thought ran through my mind. I want to be sitting here next year with these talented people. I want to have a table with a sign, my book, and people asking me about it. Is that too much to ask? I certainly don’t think so and I am committed to making it happen. The best aspect of these events is that they provide the extra kick in the pants we sometimes need to enter another contest, write another draft, or research a new topic. The work continues!

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Buscema