Thirty Years & a Tassel Toss: What One Non-Writing Prof Taught Me About Writing

Biola Sign 4

“I can’t believe it’s been over three decades!” she quipped, blue eyes dancing. “Didn’t we just graduate last year?”

Looking backwards quick enough to generate dual whiplash, my friend and I peeled back thirty+ years in a single bound, recalling cafeteria food, favorite chapels, best profs, dumbest assignments (yes, I confess), a championship basketball team, dorm life, concerts, and The Dreaded Finals Week like they were… well… last week.

Later, I thought about all the people I met during my college career. Those years generated countless friendships, fond memories and shining moments as well as a few “speed bumps” and disappointments. Funny, isn’t it, how the down times seem to fade into irrelevance and the good times loom large as time marches on?

Another Recollection

“You won’t remember much from the academic part of this class” I recall Dr. George Nishida, Sociology Prof Extraordinaire, saying one bright fall morning. “You won’t remember today’s lecture or this week’s assignment or Friday’s exam after you’re graduated and gone,” he smiled, adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses. “What you’ll remember is the people. The best part about your college career will be the people you shared it with. What matters is the relationships.”

Only People Can Do That

This was before the Internet. Before Facebook. Smart phones. Or email. (I know, I know. I’m a dinosaur.)

But you know what? Technology can’t offer the kind of insight Dr. George did. The Internet doesn’t connect those dots. Social media can’t take the place of lunch in the cafeteria. Cramming with a classmate to pass Dr. Mitchell’s Old Testament 1 final. Or stringing popcorn garlands and sipping hot chocolate with “Dr. George” and his family at their annual Christmas open house.

Only people can do that.

Let Me Ask

So let me ask: if your web site, blog and social media accounts gave up the ghost tomorrow, would it matter? A fair amount of pulled-out hair would doubtless ensue, but would a technology crash – like a computer crash – totally destroy all of your relationships?

My blog and other outlets have given me the chance to meet and interact with some really cool people. I’ve gotten to know and learn from some awesome fellow travelers. I’ve grown to appreciate each one, especially those who are generous enough to leave a quick comment or respond with a sentence or two in response to my latest post.

But here’s the thing: although it may have helped establish those relationships, technology isn’t at the heart of those relationships. People are.

Bottom line: If you’re Facebooking or tweeting or blogging to ignite that kind of connection, great. Just don’t stop there. Kick it up a notch or two. Likewise, if you’re using social media just to boost your numbers, increase your stats or as a head trip, you’re pretty much missing the point.

Not Exactly

Long-term isolation isn’t exactly a writer’s best friend. You can’t spend all day, every day staring at a computer screen, checking your email every five minutes or logging status updates ten times a day and expect to develop as a writer. To do that, you need people. Other writers. Their creativity, energy, and yes, productive critiques and “utches.”

I get some of my best ideas by bouncing them off other people. I’m inspired, encouraged, challenged and uplifted by connecting with other writers. By “connecting” I mean face-to-face if possible. Grabbing a latte, a book review, writer’s group or a luscious slice of raspberry white chocolate anything together. When distance or other factors makes this impossible, how ’bout a personal phone call, card, letter or email – as opposed to the blanket list-y stuff?

Only Another Person

Technology is a great tool. But it will never take the place of a living, breathing human being. Because you can’t have a “relationship” with an electronic gadget. Only another person can offer that.

Dr. George’s words still ring true. I have no idea what the answer to question #10 was on my final exam for his class. But some thirty years down the road, I’m still in touch with many with whom I once shared a college campus. Shared experiences can become shared lives. And sometimes shared lives become lifetimes, lasting far beyond – and meaning much more – than final exams and a tassel toss.

***

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Books to Grow By

NARADA FALLS RAINBOW RESIZE

Books to Grow By:

Have you seen the list of Books Everyone Should Read that floated around Facebook awhile back? I read that list. IMHO, several of the titles were questionable and many books that should’ve been included weren’t. So I came up with my own list: Books to Grow By.

Classic, contemporary, and just for fun titles are included, plus some surprises. (Note: With apologies to high school English teachers everywhere, I simply cannot abide ‘stream of consciousness’ prose a la Faulkner, which is one reason The Sound and the Fury isn’t included. Ditto Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby.) You’ll also find evidence of my conviction that some of the finest literature ever written can be found in the Children’s Section. Selections appear in alpha order by title.

How many of these have you read? What are YOUR favorites?

Click here for the list. 🙂

Best Book-ish Quotes for Your Instagram

There I was. Stretched out in a pool of sunshine. Minding my own business. Working on my tan. When Mom comes along with her mobile Doo-Hickey. She says all sort of nonsensical stuff: “Smile, Kimber! Sit. Roll over. Lay down. Stay. Say ‘cheese.'” While the Doo-Hickey is clicking away.

So annoying.

Anyway, Mom says she’s going to “post” the clickey things from her Doo-Hickey. Whatever that means. Then she stops. “Kimmi,” says Mom – not usually a good sign – “How’re we gonna caption these?”

What “we,” Kimo Sabe?

I trotted over to help her check out some online suggestion. Mom nixxed most of ’em as too: 1) Rude and crude; 2) Stupendously sophomoric; 3) Booooring, or my personal favorite: 4) You’re kidding, right?

We then put paw and pen together. Got to work on swiping appropriating 40+ Top Book-ish Captions For Your Instagram. (Not all are strictly bookish. A few strays wandered in looking for a good home.)

Here they are, divided into six basic categories:

UPBEAT:

  1. “Very few things in this world are certain, but morning is one of them.” – Gregory Maguire, What-the-Dickens
  2. “The world stands aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.” – Earl Hamner, Jr., Spencer’s Mountain
  3. “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.’ – C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle.
  4. “Hope is the thing with feathers.” – Emily Dickenson
  5. “Wishes come true, not free.” – Stephen Sondheim, Into The Wood
  6. “We’re here, and then we’re gone, and it’s not about the time we’re here, but what we do with the time.” ― Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave

A DASH OF SASS:

  1. “It is always sad when someone leaves home, unless they are simply going around the corner and will return in a few minutes with ice cream sandwiches.” — Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid
  2. “Of course I’m not always full of ginger. Sometimes I’m asleep.” – Mom
  3. “Laughter is the best revenge, although being rich and famous and outliving all your enemies are good ones, too.” – Patrick F. McManus
  4. “You don’t have to live forever. You just have to live.” – Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
  5. “I would always rather be happy than dignified.”—Charlotte Brontë , Jane Eyre
  6. “Hand over the chocolate and no one gets hurt.” – Mom
  7. “Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief.” – Jane Austen
  8. “Stay gold, Ponyboy.” – S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders
  9. “All children, except one, grow up.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
  10. “Oh no, young Skywalker. The ugly is strong in that one.” – S.J. Kincaid, Insignia

NATURE/LANDSCAPES:

  1. “The moving moon went up the sky, And nowhere did abide.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  2. “The ocean glimmered on the horizon, spangled with moonlight.” Mary Downing Hahn, Look For Me By Moonlight.
  3. “It’s a strange word, ‘twilight.’ It makes me think of endings, of things done or left undone, of things over, of evening. But there are two twilights in every day, and one of them does not foretell darkness, but dawn.”― Erin Bow, The Scorpion Rules
  4. “All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
  5. “Wind’s in the east, there’s a mist coming in, like something is brewin’ and ’bout to begin.” – Mary Poppins (the movie)
  6. “Bravery is a choice that is yours to make. Dont let fear steal your will.” -Erin Summerill, Ever The Hunted

SPRING (for those of us impatiently awaiting winter’s wind down)

  1. “It’s spring fever. … And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” ― Mark Twain
  2. “It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.”― John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga
  3. “Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
  4. “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party’!” – Robin Williams.
  5. “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.”—L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
  6. “One more dawn. One more day. One day more!” – Les Miserables (in concert)

MOTIVATIONAL:

  1. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Walt Disney
  2. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”Howard Thurman
  3. “There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction.” Franz Kafka
  4. “You must never feel badly about making mistakes … as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”— Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
  5. My advice is, never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.” — Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
  6. “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” —Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank
  7. “Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”— Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
  8. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
  9. “It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  10. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a d…” (Well okay. Maybe not that one.)

JUST BECAUSE:

  • “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
  • “You don’t love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.” – William Faulkner
  • “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl
  • “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”—T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
  • “To love another person is to see the face of God.” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (in concert)
  • “Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.” — William Goldman, The Princess Bride
  • “Let the wild rumpus start!” – Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are
The beauty of this thing? Only people who read are likely to get these. Thinking of swipe appropriating a few of these myself. Soon as I figure out that Doo-Hickey.

Instagram: @kimmi_theamazingbordercollie and @thymelesswon

10 Warm & Wonderful Dog Books For Wet Weather (Or Anytime)

I don’t know about your neck of the dog run, but here in the Northwest it’s been pouring rain for so long, I may be sprouting gills.

Not that I mind, mind you. Mom says this is great reading weather. Something about curling up by the fire with a good book. I don’t really get it. I just like sitting in her lap while she turns pages. And tells me what a “good dog” I am.

As if I didn’t know that already.

Anyway, here are 10+ top picks fur wet weather. (That’s not a typo.) These books are brisk and engaging. With good solid story lines. Lots of adventure. As much “flavor” and “texture” as those beef broth and steak treat thingies Mom makes. And of course sparkling canine personalities. Like mine. You’ll enjoy these even if you’re a feline fan. (Yech! Can’t believe I just said that.):

  1. The Black Dogs Project: Extraordinary Black Dogs and Why We Can’t Forget Them. Photography by Fred Levy.  Poignant personal narratives combined with stunning photography of some of the most beautiful canines on the planet! (You might detect a slight bias here. See photo, above.)

2. Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery– Spencer Quinn. (Told from the dog’s point of view) A good ‘ole fashioned “whodunit” mystery with a dog who’s way smarter than Bernie, his crime-solving human. Laugh out loud funny in places.

3. Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls. Old Dan. Li’l Ann. A young boy growing up in the Ozarks and sacrificial love. Bring tissue.

4. Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod – Gary Paulsen. Told in the first person. You can almost smell the cold and feel the snow crunch!

5. The Empty City (Survivors #1) – Erin Hunter. Lucky is a golden-haired mutt with a nose for survival. He’s always been a loner, relying on his instincts to get by. Then the Big Growl strikes. Suddenly the ground is split wide open. The Trap House is destroyed. And all the longpaws have disappeared. Is it time to find a Pack?

6. The Journey Back – Priscilla Cummings. #2 in the Red Kayak series. Not strictly a dog book. But Digger’s daring escape from a juvenile detention facility includes hijacking a tractor trailer, “borrowing” a bicycle, stealing a canoe, and befriending a stray mutt who becomes Digger’s best friend.

7. Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers – Gary Paulsen. Minnesota author and dog musher Gary Paulsen reflects on the growth of his sled dogs as he and his animals discover the world around them.

8. Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, An Unexpected Journey, and Me (Jon Katz)

A story of faithful love, unswerving devotion, and understanding without words, Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, An Unexpected Journey, and Me effervesces like a bottle of Cristal Brut Methusalah.

An abandoned, half-feral border collie reluctantly taken in by author Jon Katz, Izzy becomes a hospice dog. Somehow Izzy learns what can’t be taught: how to help the dying leave this world with dignity – “Oh! A dog! Where on earth did you come from, you handsome thing?” – and how to best comfort those left behind.

Lenore – from the Edgar Allen Poe poem – is a “portable happiness generator.” “The UPS driver threatened to steal her,” says Katz. Big hearted and good natured, Lenore can pierce the armor of the hardest heart. As Katz battles a deep depression and phantoms from his past, the rambunctious Lab pup gently reminds him why he wanted to work with animals in the first place.

9.  The Dog Who Was There (Ron Morasco).

Set in first century Jerusalem,  The Dog Who Was There is a heart-warming, surprising story about a little dog, Barley (that’s not a typo), and a Teacher from Galilee. This wonderful story is soaked in loss, loyalty, sadness, promise, and Great Joy. I’ve never read anything quite like it. You won’t want to miss this one.

And of course:

10. Forever, Eve: The True Story of a “Cast-Off” Dog Who Never Stopped Loving

Wait. Is that a patch of blue overhead?

How Hiking Makes Me a Better Writer

Some combinations are no-brainers: Peanut butter and jelly. Whine and cheese. Politicians and… Okay. Let’s not go there.

When it comes to writing, however, I discovered a connection that is easily overlooked: writing and hiking. That’s right. Hiking. Think of hiking as Walking With Attitude. In The Great Outdoors. Under achingly blue skies. In soft mountain meadows marinated in wildflowers. In forests so dense and quiet, you can almost hear the trees grow.

I’ve been hiking since the sixties (I’m way too young to be that old. So don’t tell anyone). But I recently realized that some of my best ideas, inspiration, and peak productivity are connected with an outdoor sport I’ve been doing pretty much all my life: hiking.

Here are eight ways hiking makes me a better writer:

To continue reading, click here…

Reader’s Choice

The ball is ready to drop and PAWpourri is ready to ring in a New Year. Before we start tossing the confetti, let’s take a quick look back at our top posts and most popular topics of 2017.

The Top 5 PAWpourri posts of 2017 were, in descending order:

It’s your turn to weigh in. Which post was your favorite? Vote in the poll below. You can vote for more than one post, but you may only vote once. All votes are confidential. The poll will be open for one week.

What’s in Your Stocking?

Mom just called me in from the yard. ‘Bout time. That big yellow ball in the sky is starting to spread across the horizon like a giant egg yolk. Temperatures are dropping. The Powder Puff just sauntered past. Why that canine lets her owner deck her out in that green and red jacket + reindeer antlers, I’ll never know. 

Anyway, when Mom opened the porch door, I caught a whiff of Something Warm and Wonderful inside. She says, “Kimber, dinner! Come.” I don’t need to be called twice. No siree, Lassie! I bounded up the stairs and into the house like Rin Tin Tin after a bad guy. Sure enough. Something Warm and Wonderful was waiting for me.

A little later The Kid walks into the living room and turns on that squawk box thingy in the corner. It lights up. Sounds come out of it. Voices from people no one can see. These invisible people must be really small to live inside that box where they make their voices go up and down. They “sing” about telling it on the mountain. Angels fom the realms of glory. Letting heaven and nature sing. A little town of Bethlehem. Stuff like that.

I snuggle into the recliner with Mom for a little snooze. She says “Kimber, you’re really pushing the envelope for ‘lap dog.'” Is she suggesting I drop a few pounds? Maybe not. She always says that. Laughs. Then gives me the signal that it’s okay to join her. I have to wait for the signal. It may take  a bit. But it always comes. Especially on these cold winter nights. So I can’t complain. Besides. My stocking smells so good!

Tonight the family is watching lights wink and twinkle, among other things  They say the lights have “colors.” But they all look the same to me. Go figure. My peeps finished “putting up the tree” the other day. (I was only trying to help. Honest. Incidentally, “tinsel” looks way better than it tastes.)

The fam has settled in with steaming mugs of something I can’t have, apparently. That’s okay. Because Mom and Dad say the Best Gifts of  Christmas – faith, hope, love, joy and peace – can’t be found in red stockings. Or under the tree. But in the human heart. Like:


 

May the Best Gifts of Christmas be yours!

Why I Wrote An ‘In the Corner’ Holiday Story

Candles in the window. Lights up on the tree. Sleigh bells. Mistletoe. Apple-cheeked kids rushing in from a snowy sled run. Hot chocolate and marshmallows. Carols and cantatas. Family. Friends. And…  loneliness so thick and heavy, it could crush a camel.

Yes, friends. The holidays aren’t full of fa-la-la-la-la-ing for everyone. In fact, this can be an especially tough time for some. Those facing a job loss or a cut in income. A divorce. An involuntary move. The frostiness of an unresolved conflict. Bad news from the doctor. Betrayal. Feeling utterly alone in the middle of a crowd. Too much money at the end of the month. Distance. One less place set at the table. One less gift under the tree.

If you’ve been there or are there, you know what I mean. And how difficult the holidays can be. Especially if you’re Alone. Or feel that way.

I hear you. It’s one reason I wrote Man in the Corner: A Holiday Story. About newly divorced Mae Taylor and her son Josiah. Their plans to start over solo are jostled when they move next door to Mr. Tom, a lonely widower and retired school teacher. Together, the unlikely trio finds a second chance at faith, hope and love with help from Gettysburg, cookbooks, an attic secret and two ‘Christmas ghosts.’

 

While we’re on the subject, I also want to offer a video to those who may be struggling this time of year. You’re not alone. Give this Mark Schultz piece a listen:

Grace. And Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Candle image credit: Creative Commons Zero – CC0.

 

Merry & Bright: 7 Splendid Seasonal Reads

Ready for reading that’s merry and bright? Here are seven uplifting, engaging reads to help celebrate the season with faith, hope, and love. In no particular order:

The Christmas Box. A perennial favorite from master storyteller Richard Paul Evans.

A young family moves in with a wealthy widow just before the holidays as caretakers. The father, Richard, is so engrossed in getting his fledgling  business off the ground that he is unaware of his misplaced piorities. Sensing this, the widow Mary Parkin is determined to not let Richard make the same mistake that haunts her past. Can she reach him before it’s too late?

A rich, warm tale of family, faith, and the brevity of life. Beautifully written.

The Homecoming. It’s Christmas Eve in the Blue Ridge Moutains of Virginia during the Depression.  Clay Spencer, patriarch of a large family, is overdue. While the Spencer clan anxiously awaits Clay’s homecoming,  the older son, Clay-boy, goes in search of his father. 

The novel that launched The Waltons.

Like The Christmas Box, I read this story every Christmas season.

Homespun Christmas.

Can love be kindled in the seemingly dying embers of this small logging town? Can the Christmas wishes of one young boy once again ignite the fires of optimism in the inhabitants of Hope? Will one Christmas centennial celebration change an inevitable outcome?

Four multi-published, award-winning authors present a heart-warming story of people working together for a common cause and finding love. Just fun. I can almost hear the sleigh bells!

 

Shepherds Abiding. The eighth Mitford novel provides a glimpse of the best present of all: one’s heart.

Father Tim discovers an old nativity scene in need of repair. Even though he’s not exactly the “artsy” type like his wife, Cynthia, he decides to undertake its restoration because he know how much she’ll love it. Through Father Tim’s journey, readers are treated to a seat at Mitford’s holiday table and a wonderful tale about the true Christmas spirit.

The Christmas Secret. A struggling young mother saves the life of a stranger and sets in motion a series of events that no one could’ve imagined as she navigates crushing defeat and disappointment on the way to hope, faith, and love. Warm, wonderful characters and a rich storyline.

Note: The timeline gets a little muddled as it skips back and forth between present and past. Also, the POV flips between first and third person and can get confusing. Still a cozy read for cold winter nights!

The Gift of the Magi. One of O. Henry’s most poignant and best-loved short stories. It’s Christmas and neither Mr. nor Mrs. Jim Dillingham can afford to buy the other a gift. Selfless sacrifices and an O. Henry ending ensue. A lovely read.

Because Easter begins with Christmas.

Honorable Mentions:

A Christmas Carol -Charles Dickens

How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss

The Mistletoe Secret – Richard Paul Evans.

What are your seasonal favorites?

Just Wanted to Say “Thanks”!

Mom says it’s time to “count my blessings.” Not sure what that means exactly. But if it means I can swipe that last slice of roast turkey while everyone’s “counting,” I’m game! Besides. You know how moms are, right? 

Hope you enjoy our little video greeting from the Pacific Northwest. We’re calling it our “November Closeout Special.” Threw in a few scenes from some of our favorite places. Like Mount Rainier National Park. Not quite sure what “national park” means either. But it has great smells! Besides. You know how moms are.

If the video doesn’t play right, blame Mom, okay? You know how… oh, never mind!