The answer to that question requires only one word, and most writers know what it is, but Gold also answers the moreimportant question, “How should we approach writing advice if even the most frequently shared advice is often wrong?”
I use LibreOffice Writer and love it. I made a donation when I downloaded the program (app?) and do so again with each upgrade. But that’s voluntary. As Haines says, it’s totally free. Check out LO and nine others.
The word isn’t her topic–that’s oakus, an old name for something many of you possess–but origami, the art of paper folding.
In my third-grade class, we students made snowflakes. That isn’t exactly origami, because origami is sculpture, three-dimensional, and our snowflakes were flat. But it’s a distant cousin.
Our teacher, Mrs. Calk–a kind, funny, thoroughly delightful woman–demonstrated the process. Take a sheet of typing paper, fold it this way and that, cut with scissors this way and that–the cuts would make each of our flakes unique, like the real things–and then unfold it into a perfect six-pointed snowflake.
So we folded and folded and cut and cut. And sure enough, the many-layered triangles opened into perfect six-pointed snowflakes.
Except mine. It had eight points.
I was counting them for the third time when Mrs. Calk reached my aisle. She’d been walking along, supervising, congratulating every student on the beautiful creations.
I showed her my anomaly. That stopped her in her tracks. She showed me how to fold–in teacher training, I learned this is called individual instruction–and told me to try again. She walked on. I tried again.
More encouragement from Mrs. Calk.
Mrs. Calk finally told me she believed it was time to stop folding.
I still haven’t managed a six-pointed snowflake.
Which brings me to origami. I once watched a librarian fold and fold while she told a story. Just as she reached the end of the story, she unfolded the paper, and there in her hand sat a little bird.
The woman was magnificent–her dexterity, proficiency, artistry. It was one of the most breathtaking performances I’ve ever seen. I mean, she talked and folded at the same time, and everything came out right.
The only thing I can fold is an eight-pointed snowflake. And I don’t dare try to talk while I’m folding.
I shouldn’t have been surprised the woman could tell a story and make a paper crane at the same time. She was, after all, a librarian.
Images of paper cranes, public domain, via Wikipedia
My Day Q post is recycled from last year, a short-short story prompted by this photograph by Fatima Fakier Deria, on Friday Fictioneers. The event it’s based on occurred in 2002, but it will forever live in infamy.
Beautiful . . . waves, sunset . . .
Deck chairs . . .
Can’t wait, two nights at sea,
then—Can Cun. We’ll shop till we drop.
Uh-uh. Swimming, sunbathing, siestas. Bar open yet?
Soooooo relaxing. Waves rocked me to sleep.
Hurry, let’s claim our chairs.
Chairs. There’s pizza near the pool.
Wearing your patch?
Don’t have one.
Sit here. Sea air helps. ‘Bye.
Find a doctor.
You’ll be fine.
Move, or I’ll ruin your sneakers.
I’m going home . . .
You’ve had a shot of phenergan—you’ll be fine.
. . . if I have to walk on water.
Phenergan worked!Can Cun! Let’s shop till we drop.
. . . I’m queasy.
Author’s note: Day 3 is fiction. The speaker in green did not become queasy. Life is not fair.
K is obviously for Kathy, a name at the heart of a lifelong kerfuffle.
The plan was to name me Katherine for my great-grandmother and to call me Kathy. But at the last minute, when the nurse came in and asked for the baby’s name so they could type up a birth certificate, my mother added Mary for my grandmother. Later she told my father what she’d done and he said that was fine with him. He liked his mother-in-law. My grandmother liked the name.
Mother later told me she’d wanted to spell Katherine with a C, but she was afraid her grandmother would say I wasn’t really named for her (the family was funny that way).
Thus was I denied the privilege of assuming the mantle of romanticism connected with hearing Heathcliff call across the moor, Catherine! Catherine! (I don’t think he did that in the book or the movie, but I have a good imagination.)
The precaution turned out to be unnecessary,because every time my great-grandmother, whom we called Grannygirl (that’s another story) wrote my name, she spelled it Catherine.
(I was glad I’d been spared her first name, Minna. She didn’t like it either and changed it to Minnie but later wished she hadn’t.)
Otherwise, my name was fine with me, too, as long as we stayed put. But when we moved and I had to enroll in a new school in the middle of second grade, the teacher said they already had a Kathy so I had to be Mary. I didn’t mind–it was just one more of the slings and arrows of being uprooted from my hometown and moving halfway across the universe*–but when I discovered the other Kathy was always called Kathleen, I thought the teacher’s reasoning was a little off.
The next September, I sat with twenty-something other third-graders and their mothers while the teacher called names from a stack of book cards. She got to Mary K. Waller; my mother marched me up and said she’s here, and she’s called Kathy; the teacher said, No this is Mary K-A-Y. I sat back down. Mary Kay didn’t appear. The teacher went through the no-shows and once again, Mary Kay didn’t appear. My mom said she thought that must be a clerical error–one person read the names, another person wrote them down?–and so I settled in as Kathy.
The next year, mothers didn’t hang around for the settling in–I suppose fourth graders were deemed able to fend for themselves–and when the teacher called Mary Waller? I let it slide. Later when my mother asked why, I said something like, “Meh.” Vicki, my best friend from third grade, called me Kathy; others who’d known me before took their pick.
Fast forward to college: Roommates said Kathy, but otherwise, I was Mary. Once I was Mark. The first time the philosophy professor called for Mark Waller, I said nothing, but when Mark didn’t answer the second time, I raised my hand and said in a small voice–one doesn’t want to accuse a prof of illiteracy on the first day of class–Mary? he rechecked the list and laughed. Since then, two more people have made the same error. Perfectly understandable: when you’re skimming, Mary K. resembles Mark.
I was a bit miffed, however, last Christmas Eve, when the young man at Best Buy told me he didn’t have my order. I said the computer said he did have it. He said he didn’t. I said would he check again. He pointed at his monitor and said there was only one Waller on the list.
I said, “Mark?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Mary K.?”
He said, “Oh,” and forked over the box. I was as sweet about the situation as I could manage, considering it was Christmas Eve and I knew he’d been extra busy; but, considering it was late afternoon on December 24th, and I’d started shopping on December 23rd, my store of sweetness was at low ebb. My words might have carried an undertone that said, Knothead.
My adult life has comprised a series of minor tangles with officialdom. Minor, because I’ve defaulted to Mary. Sometimes I forget. Last week, the nurse assigned to handle my infusion looked up from her monitor and said, “Hi. I’m Holly.”
I said, “I’m Kathy.”
Her expression changed from welcoming to stricken. I got it, admitted I was Mary, and watched her begin to breathe normally again.
My mother once said she thought I didn’t like my name. I did, and I do. It has a pleasant sound, and my written initials have a pleasing symmetry.
It’s sharpened my mental acuity and flexibility by requiring me to (usually) remember who I am in (almost) any setting.
But there are drawbacks. The first hearkens back to the third-grade Mary Kay thing. I do not like being confused with a cosmetics company.
The second concerns two questions I’m asked more and more frequently by young people who don’t understand that Mary Katherine was a perfectly acceptable, mainstream, plain, ordinary, everyday name before it gave way to Lisa and Jennifer and Ashley and Madison:
Are you Catholic?
Are you a nun?
I’m a member of a large Protestant family that recycles names.
* About 250 miles to the southwest, to Del Rio, on the border with Mexico. It was a nice place, and after a few months, I loved being there. Sometimes I wish we’d stayed.
Blogging with a theme would have helped. Instead of choosing topics, I’m wallowing around in a sea of them, waiting for one to come to my rescue.
April was a ready-made topic for Day A, because I planned to write about Texas bluebonnets anyway, and April is their peak time. But I could have published the same post on Day B, for bluebonnets.
Ben Hur, Day B’s official topic, appeared by chance–I checked the television schedule; I’ve always done my homework with half my brain trained on the TV–but about two paragraphs in, I remembered I had something to say about boo-boos, and say it I did. But instead of dropping Ben Hur, an any reasonable person would have done, I put Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd on hold and wrote an extra post about boo-boosfor a different blog, and then went back and finished Ben Hur. That was a big time waster.
Day C? Before choosing contrariwise, I considered contraction, Compositae,color, campfires, cats (of course) . . . chaos . . .
As I was explaining on Day C before I strayed onto Alice and Lady the Horse, I considered making contrariwise my theme for the entire challenge. Instead of blogging from A to Z, I’d have blogged from Z to A. The topic of the Day A(Z) post would have been zither, specifically the one from James Thurber’s“The Night the Ghost Got In.”
In case you’ve forgotten, Thurber says it began this way:
I had just stepped out of the bathtub and was busily rubbing myself with a towel when I heard the steps. They were the steps of a man walking rapidly around the dining-room table downstairs. The light from the bathroom shone down the back steps, which dropped directly into the dining-room; I could see the faint shine of plates on the plate-rail; I couldn’t see the table. The steps kept going round and round the table; at regular intervals a board creaked, when it was trod upon. I supposed at first that it was my father or my brother Roy, who had gone to Indianapolis but were expected home at any time. I suspected next that it was a burglar. It did not enter my mind until later that it was a ghost.
He woke his brother Herman and they went to the top of the stairs and listened. The footsteps had stopped, and Herman wanted to go back to bed, but Thurber insisted something was down there–and as soon as he said it, the invisible something ran up the steps toward them. Herman ran into his bedroom and slammed the door. Thurber slammed the door at the top of the stairs and held it closed, then cautiously opened it. No none was there. That should have been the end of the story, but in the Thurber household, nothing is ever the end.
The slamming doors woke Thurber’s mother. She decided there were burglars in the house. Because the phone was downstairs, she couldn’t call the police, so she “flung up a window of her bedroom which faced the bedroom windows of the house of a neighbor, picked up a shoe, and whammed it through a pane of glass across the narrow space that separated the two houses.”
After Mrs. Thurber finally made the neighbor, Mr. Bodwell, understand the burglars were in her house, not his–which wasn’t easy, considering he’d been awakened by a shoe shattering his bedroom window, and Mrs. Bodwell was in the background saying, “We’ll sell the house and go back to Peoria”–he called the police.
The police came and broke the door down (Mrs. Thurber wouldn’t allow her son to go downstairs to let them in because he was still dressed in a bath towel and would have caught his death of cold). A search ensued:
Downstairs, we could hear the tromping of the other police. Police were all over the place; doors were yanked open, drawers were yanked open, windows were shot up and pulled down, furniture fell with dull thumps. A half-dozen policemen emerged out of the darkness of the front hallway upstairs. They began to ransack the floor: pulled beds away from walls, tore clothes off hooks in the closets, pulled suitcases and boxes off shelves. One of them found an old zither that Roy had won in a pool tournament. “Looky here, Joe,” he said, strumming it with a big paw. The cop named Joe took it and turned it over. “What is it?” he asked me. “It’s an old zither our guinea pig used to sleep on,” I said. It was true that a pet guinea pig we once had would never sleep anywhere except on the zither, but I should never have said so. Joe and the other cop looked at me a long time. They put the zither back on a shelf.
Had contrariwise been the theme, that’s what I would have written about on Day A. What I’d have posted on Days B(Y) and C(X), I don’t know.
Nor do I know what I’ll write about today, on Day D. But by Day E, I’ll have something worked out.
`If you think we’re wax-works,’ he said, `you ought to pay, you know. Wax-works weren’t made to be looked at for nothing, Nohow!’
`Contrariwise,’ added the one marked `DEE,’ `if you think we’re alive, you ought to speak.’
`I’m sure I’m very sorry,’ was all Alice could say . . .
`I know what you’re thinking about,’ said Tweedledum: `but it isn’t so, nohow.’
`Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, `if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’
I was seven years old, lying on the back seat of my Uncle Joe and Aunt Laura’s new car, on the way home to Del Rio after a week-long visit with family in Fentress, and reading Alice in Wonderland, when all of a sudden, my stomach revolted. We stopped at the next service station so they could hose me down. My grandfather, who occupied the other half of the back seat, somehow managed to stay out of the line of fire. Aunt Laura said, “I told you lying down to read would make you carsick.” But it never had, and it hasn’t since, so I think other forces must have been at work.
Anyway, I’ve loved contrariwise ever since. Go figure.
I learned the base word, contrary, long before Alice. My great-aunt Ethel used it to describe her mare, Lady. It was an apt term. That horse personified the expression, “Beauty is only skin deep.”
She never unseated anyone; she simply refused to cooperate: hard to catch (she could walk faster than I); hard to bridle (she was taller than I); hard to saddle (she found the nearest pecan tree, leaned against it, and walked ’round and ’round while I followed, holding the saddle shoulder high and trying to heave it across a moving target.
Once saddled, she gave up being a moving target and became a stationary one. If I wanted to go one way and she wanted to go another, she didn’t insist on her way. She just stopped. And stood. And stood. And stood.
When I was four or five years old, my father let me ride her around in the little fenced enclosure where we kept chickens while he worked. Every time we neared the gate, she stopped. I would holler for my dad. He would come, say, “I told you not to let her get near the gate,” and lead her past. We would make another circuit. She would stop. I would holler for my dad. He would come, say, “I told you not to let her get near the gate,” and lead her . . . You get the idea.
Changing directions now, I’ll mention few blogs I read:
Travels with Kaye Kaye George is the author of four mystery series: Imogene Duckworthy, People of the Wind, Fat Cat (as Janet Cantrell), and Cressa Caraway Musical. I mention Immy Duckworthy first because it’s my favorite, drop-dead funny and unlike any other mystery series ever written (I’m sure of that). Last summer Kaye published a short story anthology she edited, Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse. She has stories in many publications, including Austin Mystery Writers’ Murder on Wheels and Lone Star Lawless and was instrumental in getting four writers published for the first time. I shouldn’t mention this, but I will: Kaye is also Grand Pooh-Bah Emerita of Austin Mystery Writers. She was facilitator of AMW before she escaped for greener pastures, but the eyes of Texas were upon her. We gave her a title so she could not get away.
“Who am I?” the blogger writes. “I’m still discovering just who I am, I suppose.” She shares books and photographs. Her posts are brief, eye-catching, and–eclectic. I never know what she’ll post next, but I’m always glad I found out.
My friends know me as Kathy, but I now write under the name M. K. Waller. The CFO of Coca-Cola is also named Kathy Waller, and she keeps coming up first in Google searches. M. K. fares better, at least when I look for her.
A group blog I write for is seeking bloggers to write one or two guest posts next month.
We’re also looking for bloggers interested in posting once or twice a month on a regular basis.
If you’ve published books or stories, or if you aspire to publish, blogging with us is a good way to publicize your work and to show readers what you do. Other members of the group will share your posts on their social media, so there’s the potential for hundreds, maybe thousands, of readers to see your work.
We’re family friendly, but aside from that, topics are up to you.
If you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll get in touch.
Earlier this evening, I had an idea for a post. I knew the first line. I was confident I could write the middle without too much suffering. I didn’t know how it would end–I never know the ending when I start out–but I believed what I’d already written would lead to an appropriate close.
I opened WordPress to the Add New Post screen and put my fingers on the keyboard. And wrote–nothing.
I’d forgotten everything: topic, first line, the whole shebang. I think the topic had to do with a comment on a post novelist Terry Shames put on Facebook, but I’ve forgotten which comment. Re-reading her post didn’t help.
I stared at the blank screen for a few seconds, then moved on. Obsessing over memory lapses guarantees the thought won’t return. It’s more effective to go on with life and wait for the universe to cough it up.
I added a few words to the WIP (work in progress) but then realized the ending I’d planned will not do. So far I haven’t worked out an alternative ending, but that’s all right. The universe will cough one up when it’s ready. If the universe doesn’t, Austin Mystery Writers will. That’s what I keep them around for.
have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.
The Paris Librarian is on my list of 20 Books of Summer. It’s a pretty good book. That’s pretty good as in I-sat-up-until-two-o’clock-this-morning-reading-because-I-had-to-know-who-done-it. So there’s one I can check off my reading list.
Concerning #2 above, I had a blast visiting with Kaye George at the BookPeople coffee shop last Thursday. Conversation meandered through a number of topics, but we kept coming back to (more Blatant Self-Promotion) Austin Mystery Writers’Murder on Wheels and the Silver Falchion award it won for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology at the Killer Nashville conference. To those who’ve read about the Silver Falchion before, I apologize for bringing it up again. The excitement hasn’t worn off yet.
If I read both books, I’ll have finished seven of the twenty I set out to read by September 5. Of course, I didn’t really set out to read twenty. I got a late start and set out to read what I could. Seven, or six, will be what I could. I fear I’ll not have Mark Twain’s Autobiography and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex read before Monday, but Tuesday is another day. I read The Second Sex in graduate school. It’s worth reading again, but not this week.
And so ends this post. As a writer who forgot what she intended to say, I think I’ve done well.
Edit the AMW story for its last (I hope) critique; Not yet, but tomorrow I’ll get a critique from another partner. It’s better to have everything in before making changes.
Write and schedule the WWW post at least two days before the July 19 deadline; It’s finished, and SIX days before the deadline. I’m going to the doctor to see what’s wrong–I never finish a piece SIX days before the deadline. I’ll continue to change little things, but it’s polished enough to be posted today. So I’m putting this one in the Watermelon Met* column.
Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and turn in to AMW for critique;
Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe,” the story I started last week;
Complete the piece for the AMW blog and schedule it to post before midnight tonight. I posted it. Not before midnight. At 3:00 a.m. But I met the AMW deadline, and that’s close enough. Watermelon Met.
Summary: I set out to meet two deadlines and met them. The three remaining tasks aren’t time-sensitive. They carry over. The first, polishing the story for the proposed AMW anthology, must be finished by August 1, so it’s priority.
I’m adding three new goals to the list. Then I’m going to take a nap.
Edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe,” the story I started last week
This blog was offline during April while I tampered with its appearance. I tried nearly every theme WordPress offers. I tried nearly every color WordPress offers.
I understand that for blogs, white is in fashion, but I like color. I’ve played with the colors a lot. My main specifications:
Background must be light enough for text to be easily read.
Font must be dark enough for text to be easily read.
Colors must enhance header.
Colors must be attractive.
Numbers 1 and 2 are easy enough to satisfy, but 3 and 4 are just bears. Grays are too brown or too blue; whites are too yellow or too pink; blues are too green or too gray; greens are too blue or too yellow; reds jump out at you; pinks and yellows are insipid.
All I want is what I want. It shouldn’t be that difficult to get.
After serious consideration, I’m putting Telling the Truth, Mainly back in public view.
What if soy milk is just milk introducing itself in Spanish?*
To Write, etc., has been dormant for a while because I’ve been (a) playing spider solitaire, and (b) working on two pieces of literature:
(1) a story entitled “When Cheese Is Love,” which needs to be 5,000 words but is currently 6,200 words, necessitating radical surgery and the murders of a few darlings; and,
(2) a post for the Austin Mystery Writers blog that would have been online last Monday had I not suffered at tiny fall (and, no, I’m not going to tell how it happened), which rendered me indisposed for just long enough to figure out the post wasn’t coming together as I wanted because I was trying to write about two different topics at once.
I can’t complain about an indisposition that allows me time to realize the first half of a post I’ve drafted says one thing and the second half contradicts it.
My next project will appear right here on To Write, etc. It is tentatively entitled “Snakes I Have Known.”
Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. . .
He remembered the good times with them all, and the quarrels. They always picked the finest places to have the quarrels. And why had they always quarrelled when he was feeling best? He had never written any of that . . .
No, he had never written about Paris. Not the Paris that he cared about. But what about the rest that he had never written?
What about the ranch and the silvered gray of the sage brush, the quick, clear water in the irrigation ditches, and the heavy green of the alfalfa. The trail went up into the hills and the cattle in the summer were shy as deer. . .
About the half-wit chore boy who was left at the ranch that time and told not to let any one get any hay, and that old bastard from the Forks who had beaten the boy when he had worked for him stopping to get some feed. The boy refusing and the old man saying he would beat him again. The boy got the rifle from the kitchen and shot him when he tried to come into the barn . . .
So there it is. Hemingway threw away all those stories by putting them inside of a dying character thinking about the stories he will never write.
And Hemingway never wrote them either. He wrote about them. What a waste.**
Heaven forfend that I should meet a similar fate. I’m not going to write about those snake stories. I’m going to write them.
So watch this space.
In case you don’t care for snakes, don’t worry–I won’t include pictures of them. And no one will be bitten. All my snake stories are true, but I kept my distance while they were happening.
*The question is rhetorical and appears only because I’m feeling whimsical. And because this is my blog and nobody’s grading it and I can do whatever I please. So there.
**For most of this post, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek, but this paragraph comes from the heart. It’s sad that Hemingway left stories untold. It’s sad that any writer does that. And I guess they all do.
By No machine-readable author provided. Johntex~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons
Remember when Murphy Brown and her colleagues cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter, and Miles brought in a bunch of live turkeys in his BMW (nobody had specified they were to be ready for the oven, and on arrival the inside of the BMW was not in good shape), and the turkeys ran all around the kitchen, and no one wanted to kill them anyway, and the turkeys refused to stick their heads in the oven so Murphy could turn on the gas (her suggestion)?
I don’t know what happened next. I was laughing at the turkeys and couldn’t pay attention. All I remember is the whole thing slid downhill fast.