Aprons, a journey into our pasts–

I recently visited Forks, Washington during their Hickory Shirt Days celebration.  To my delight, the walls of the new Rain Forest Arts Center were adorned with aprons.  Not just a few but lots of aprons.  As I wandered along the walls I realized that aprons provide a journey into our pasts.

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My maternal grandmother always wore an apron.  She used it to gather eggs from the hen-house, lettuce and spinach from the garden, and to protect her Sunday dress while she prepared Sunday dinner.

My paternal grandmother also wore aprons. But, for her making aprons was an art form. She made gingham aprons with fabulous cross stitch designs and she made embroidered aprons with birds, flowers and all manner of kitchen utensils.

My mother also had her collection of utility aprons, but she didn’t live on the farm like Grandma Bochman and she led a much more social life than Grandma Jensen.  Mother’s aprons included aprons made for special occasions.  She had little sheer aprons that were a rectangle of net or organdy with a ribbon tie.  These were often used to serve punch and cake at weddings or Woman’s Club teas.  She also had aprons made from holiday prints. Aprons of reds and greens were always available for anyone who came to help with Christmas dinner.

My favorite apron is a crocheted apron made by my late Aunt.  It is far too pretty to wear.  But it is a wonderful reminder of growing up in the 1950’s.

What memories do aprons conjure up for you?100_2324

 

 

 

 

Sentence Structure, Observation and Detail

The concrete highway was edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog’s coat, and foxtail to tangle in a horse’s fetlocks…..

From the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

 

Lately I find that I analyze what I read in a different way than I used to.  I think that might be because I am doing more writing than I have in the past.  As I read a novel, I find that I am consciously looking for techniques and patterns that will improve my own writings.

A few weeks ago I reread the works of some well-known authors of the past, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck and The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald.  Both of these books forced me to think about sentence structure.  The authors both use complex and compound sentences extensively.    Using a combination of complex and compound sentences mixed with shorter simpler sentences gives each of these pieces a sense of rhythm.    This observation has forced me to look at the sentence structure and the rhythm of my own writings.

In both of these novels, compound and complex sentences are an effective means of providing the reader with descriptive detail.  To write this kind of detail, obviously requires the writer to be acutely aware of his environment and experiences.    It requires accurate observation as well as intimate memory of the details.

As I journal daily I am trying to be more aware of the intimate details of what I see, hear, smell and touch, as well as how the daily experiences make me feel.  I hope that by this increased awareness and attempting to write these experiences in better compound and complex sentences I will improve my writing.

A Side Note:  I was surprised to realize that these stories, (not the piece itself, but the basic story line) especially The Grapes of Wrath, could be applicable in todays economic climate.

My quote for today:

               Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.

–John Steinbeck

 

 

 

Please Critique Me

Please critique me,

I don’t mind.

Please be honest,

but be kind.

I  have just finished reading Alan Ziegler’s, The Writing Workshop Note Book.  This book is one that I will add to my desk top. It is more than just a guide for you if you are attending a  writing workshop. It introduces you to the mechanics of a writing workshop and it provides tips for reading, writing, critiquing and teaching the craft.

Ziegler acknowledges that writers’ have different approaches to writing by sharing examples of students he has taught, writers he has known, as well as what he knows about historical writers of the past.  He encourages you as a writer to find your own style and voice.

Interlude 1 is a collection of writing exercises that provide inspiration for all writers, no matter what you write.  One suggestion has already helped me create a long list of new pieces for my memoir collection.

The section called Prepping for the Workshop, is an approach to revisions.  It provides guidelines for critiquing the work of others, but you will also go back to it frequently  to revise your own work.

The closing section has advice to help you accept the critiquing process and to get the most out of it.  Zielger shares several short antidotes about his own experiences that will amuse you and remind you that everyone can benefit from thoughtful critiquing.

Read to Write

I took a writing class one time at a nearby bookstore. When the discussion leader asked us what we read, one of the participants said, “I don’t read. I’m too busy writing. I haven’t read anything in years.” I found this unbelievable. Reading other’s work is the best creative outlet I know. I seldom read anything that doesn’t prompt me to make a note of something that I might write later.

Reading other blogs has become one of my favorite ways to come up with ideas for writing. Recently J.T. Weaver, one of my favorite bloggers shared a story about his son playing soccer. It reminded me of watching my 4-year-old granddaughter play with her team. (I’ll share that story later.) Another of his stories about planting tulips with his daughter once again reminded me of my 3-year-old-grandson helping pick potatoes. And even less directly, J.T.’s blog prompted this blog post. Thank you J.T.

How does one write, even fiction, without reading?

 

Get Out of the Way

Recently I discovered that writing a novel is like raising my children.  There came a point in time when I had to allow my children enough independence to be the people they were meant to be.  My novel is at that point.  Despite all of the planning and outlining I have done; despite all of the characters I have carefully developed; and despite the beautiful complex settings I have imagined, my novel has decided to take its own course.

No matter how hard I try not to hover like an anxious parent with a scrawny child, I find that I am still devoted to my original plan.  I try not to fight my muse.  But when I want my character to walk up the hill and he is determined to walk down it instead, I still fight at first.  But little by little I am learning to give in.  Page by page I am learning to let go.

I know that letting go is essential.  I know that when the first draft is completed I will have to start the rewriting process.  I know that there will be sections that I consider beautiful prose that will end up in the scrap pile.  I know that when the characters get done telling me who they are and what they are going to do, that there will be earlier sections that no longer fit.  It isn’t always easy.  But just like raising children, one must eventually let go.

So for now, I am trying to “get out of the way” and let my novel be the story it was meant to be.

 

Written for J.T. Weaver’s The 270  and Thom’s Three Word Wednesday.

J. T., I think I achieved the goal, exactly 270 words in the body of the post.

The three words this week are:  anxious devoted and scrawny.

 

 

The Short Business E-mail (270)

Today the short business e-mail has replaced the memo of past generations.    Things have not improved much since the hand written MEMO forms of yesteryear.   Today’s messages aren’t smudged from the carbon backing and they aren’t handwritten, but they still arrive making little sense or none at all.  And the senders seem to have no filters.  They send personal messages within business correspondence.  I receive these short emails from businesses, charitable boards, hobby associations and even government entities.’

 A memo-type email should be short, well written and contain useful information.  A well written message saves time, reduces misunderstandings and makes a good impression.  It should be sent only to people who need the information.  Make sure that the recipient knows both the name of the person sending the message and the organization involved.  When sending the message to multiple recipients respect their privacy.  Use the blind carbon copy (BCC).

 Choose your words and your tone carefully.  What seems funny when you are face to face with another may come across as rude, silly or disrespectful in an email.  Make certain that the acronyms that you use are appropriate for the recipient.   

 Keep business emails professional.  Don’t use your business email for personal messages.  Do you really want the boss to know that you and Max went out for drinks four times last week?

 Before you hit that “SEND” button, reread the message out loud. Check spelling and grammar. Re-check the recipient  field because nothing is worse than sending a message to the wrong person.

This post originally started out as almost 900 words.  I have rewritten it to fit               J. T. Weaver’s challenge to write a post using 270 words or less.