A Belated Happy Cranberry Thanksgiving

I meant to write this post before Thanksgiving. Clearly, I didn’t get around to it. Sorry. But since I was thrilled to recently run across this well-loved secondhand copy of Cranberry Thanksgiving, a book I fell for when I was a little girl in New Jersey, I still want to blog about it. You are what you read.

I also enjoy cranberry sauce maybe too much, so maybe this book has had undue influence on my eating habits as well.img_8219

The book shares the story of young Maggie and her grandmother who live adjacent to a New England cranberry bog. Grandmother is well known for her famous cranberry bread that she made every Thanksgiving. She guards her recipe carefully. When Maggie invites a friend, Mr. Whiskers, to share the holiday meal with them, Grandmother is irritated that the man she considers uncouth and overly hairy is coming to dinner.

She prefers Mr. Horace, a well-dressed man with a gold cane who is nevertheless alone for Thanksgiving; she invites him to eat with them. And she doesn’t trust Mr. Whiskers. Not to spoil the story, but the prized recipe nearly gets stolen and it turns out that Mr. Horace owns a bakery, so…

Here’s the recipe, in case you’re feeling like doing some post-Thanksgiving baking.

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Sorry, no great and grand lesson here. No writing instruction to speak of. Just a good memory, a heartwarming book about people not being who they appear to be, and what may well be a tasty recipe. If you try it, let me know. Alas, I haven’t tried it yet.

 

 

Think, Act, & Be Happy

I’ve been remiss: Think, Act, & Be Happy: How to Use Chicken Soup to Train Your Brain to Be Your Own Therapist, another fine Chicken Soup book, was released September 25 and I am just now getting around to mentioning it. Because life. 🙂

You may know where this is going. I’m so pleased to announce I have not one but two stories reprinted in it, complete with Dr. Mike Dow’s dissection of how the methods I used helped me reach my goals. (He did the same for all the featured stories, of course.)

Not only was it cool to hear I got some things right, it was also great to be reminded that it was time to get back to some of them that I have let go by the wayside.

The first story in the anthology is “Wake-Up Call,” from Dreams and Premonitions in which I write about a dream — a nightmare, really –helped me quit taking my husband for granted. I’m certainly not perfect at this, but I’m better than o used to be. He’s a pretty great guy!

The second comes from Shaping the New You. “Ready to Listen” discusses my ongoing battle with my weight and the hints that work best for me — when I work them. And I’m once again using my own tips to tame that tiger!

Our local newspaper is writing up a feature on my inclusion in the book, which is always fun.

The book includes the usual touching, personal stories, but it also includes a list of powerful cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to change how you think and act. It follows up with questions to ask yourself, pen in hand. It’s like a bowl of healing Chicken Soup paired with powerful vitamins!

While I am incredibly proud to be included, I’m also proud of how Chicken Soup continues to innovate and evolve. In these dark political days, they give us something to celebrate, something to enjoy, and now, something we can do to help ourselves.

Graduation and More, Kyoto Style!

It seems like my husband, Barry, just started attending Spalding MFA’s Creative Writing Program, but this July, he graduated in Kyoto, Japan. That means there are two — yes, two — Spalding grads in the house!

What an honor and privilege to be there to cheer on all of his hard work, hear him do his graduation reading, see him receive his well-earned hood. Barry, I’m so proud of you. Much love!

A highlight of every Spalding trip is spending time with writing friends, old ones and new. (Please, no comments about my hair. Let’s all agree that it does not travel well and leave it at that.)

I’m passionate about architecture, and Japan’s was refreshingly different from that of most countries we’ve visited. We were staying about ten minutes from Toji Temple, so we took an early stroll one morning to view both the temple and its extensive grounds.

The group took a day trip to Hiroshima. It was, as you can imagine, a sobering experience. We heard a survivor talk and we visited the various monuments and museum.

There were more casual gatherings, like the night a group of us went out to karaoke. We gathered in a room, maybe a dozen of us, at a long table. Passing down drinks and mics, we ended up singing most of the songs together. Lady Gaga songs were a favorite, as well as songs by the Beatles. Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of the evening, but it was so much fun!

Here are miscellaneous shots of our hotel. I spent time writing in the lounge pictured. The hotel had kimonos and Samurai outfits for us to try on, so of course we did.

If I’m not mistaken, I’m the student/alum who has been on the most trips with Spalding. I was on the program’s second trip abroad, and have been on every trip since as a student or an alum. While Barry and I are welcome to go on any future trips we want, it will likely be a few years before we go again. (Which isn’t as sad as it sounds, because there are plenty of places in the U.S. we want to visit.)

I’ll close with random photos from the trip and try not to cry when I imagine not getting together with our Spalding family abroad soon. I’m sure we will go to homecoming in Louisville, though, most years. At Spalding, you’re always family.

Is There an Idea Store?

As far as I know, there is no idea store. At least not as such.

Some freelance writers find that their biggest obstacle is coming up with ideas. My mother has an inquisitive mind. She’s curious about everything, and she passed that gene onto me, I guess. I come up with too many ideas some days. (Not all of them are good, but still.)

Because of my nature, when I go for a mammogram and someone gives me a rose, I thank them first and then ask why I’ve been given such a sweet gift.

From that recent question came an article I wrote that is just out over at Radiology Today. While I don’t always share everything I write so as not to overwhelm, here’s the story, if you’d like to take a look.

Writing this was engrossing, involving discussions with caring health professionals and a patient or two. And the editor was a dream to work with.

Ideas can come from anywhere. They can come from annoyances, from curiosity, from passions, from wondering, from lack of knowledge, from observation…there are endless sources of questions/ideas.

Pretend you’re a two-year-old and keep asking, “Why?” If you do, you’re halfway there. Of course ideas have to be refined and angled. That’s a whole course in itself!

Oh, and what did I mean by there isn’t an idea store “as such?” If you read publications and websites and identify a gap, well, that’s your signal to ask if they would like to have that gap filled. It’s called sending a pitch or a query. What they typically publish tells you more than anything what they’d like to see more of, or what they need that they don’t yet know they need. Sometimes you’ll get an enthusiastic response. Sometime you’ll hear nothing. Keep pitching.

Sure, there’s a world more to be said about this topic, but this will get you started. Happy idea hunting. Don’t forget to bring along paper and pen, or your phone if you prefer to record ideas.

Writers, where do you get your ideas? What inspires you? Readers, do you have a list of topics you wish writers would write about?

idea bulb paper sketch
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Thanks for stopping by. I value every page view.

XOXO,

Drema

We Shall See: Write Your Story, “Right” Your Life

Recently I was honored to be asked to deliver the keynote address at the Learn More Center commencement in Wabash, Indiana. Having taught there in the past, I was delighted to speak. These students are some of the hardest working I have ever seen.

In case you weren’t able to attend, below are my remarks.

One day in late summer, an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So he left his horse loose to go to the mountains and live out the rest of its life.
Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, “What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?” The farmer replied: “Who knows? We shall see.”
I am so honored to be here this afternoon and to share this precious life event with you. Because I was once an instructor here, I feel like I already know your life stories and the struggles that brought you here. I know how hard you’ve worked to accomplish what you have.
I’m not sure if the Learn More Center intake process is the same as what it was when I was here. When I taught here, new students had to write down their goal and the possible obstacles to achieving them.
Then they had to list what they would do if those obstacles came up.
What if your car breaks down?
What if transit is two hours late?
What if your child is too sick to go to school? How will you make it to class?
You literally took pen and paper and wrote ways to make your life right by creating a plan. Now that’s some power!
You already told yourselves you could do it or you wouldn’t be here today. You already decided that there is nothing that has happened to you, good or bad, that you can’t overcome.
Doubters might look at your past situation and judge you based on what you did or didn’t do then: “Oh, you didn’t finish school. You must not have cared about your education.” Just like in the story of the wise man and his son, others decided they could interpret what your life would be based on what they thought they knew of your circumstances.
You knew better. You said, “We shall see.” You came here. You worked hard. You sacrificed your time and energy. You gave up time with family. TV time. You stayed up all night after work studying. Some of you spent gas money you didn’t have and went hungry to get here.
That doesn’t sound to me like someone who doesn’t care about an education. And it doesn’t to you, either, or you wouldn’t be here. You knew the truth of the matter. You didn’t let others decide your story.
Two days later the old horse came back now rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides while eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral.
Word got out in the village of the old farmer’s good fortune and it wasn’t long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck. “How fortunate you are!” they exclaimed. “You must be very happy!” Again, the farmer softly said, “Who knows? We shall see.”
But aren’t you too old to be at LMC?, those voices of doubt might say, it’s too late for a high school education, and vocational training, isn’t that for younger people? Why try?
Whether it was others’ voices or your own, you ignored your fears. You said, “We shall see.” And you found your way here. You proved that you’re never too old, never too ‘behind,’ never too whatever they said to discourage you.
You are a visionary. You have authored a new story. And you’re on the way to making things that went wrong, right.
“We shall see.” Now in the story, the wise man means that as we don’t know. We can’t always know what it means when something happens. But I have a feeling you all meant that “We shall see” with a little more attitude, a little more swagger: “We shall see,” in your terms might be, “I’ll show them.” And today, you have.
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer’s only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer’s son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer’s latest misfortune. “Oh, what a tragedy! Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself, How will you survive? You must be very sad,” they said. Calmly going about his usual business the farmer answered, “Who knows? We shall see.”
Think of every blessed class you sat through, every TABE test, every Pick Your Poison worksheet (do you still do those?), every essay you had to write – and you persevered.
You said, “we shall see what I can do.”
Some of you have been studying for years, not giving up even when no one would have faulted you for it. Your home life might have been chaotic. Your relationships challenging. You’ve gotten discouraged at times and wanted to quit. You didn’t.
Every time you got up when the alarm went off even though you had been up late with a sick family member and came to school anyway, every time you packed lunches for your kids but didn’t have food to pack for yourself but were determined to go to class anyway, every time you wanted to cry because you just could not figure out why you needed to understand math word problems because who would ever need to cut a cracker into 7/8ths, you said, “I’ll show them.”
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor’s army. As it happened the farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. “What very good fortune you have!!” the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. “You must be very happy.” “Who knows? We shall see,” replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.

Sure, you could have read your circumstances to mean just what those others did: that you’re not smart enough, young enough, thin enough, rich enough, whatever enough to succeed. You could have given up. But you didn’t.
You could have assumed that how things look was the only way they could be interpreted, but instead you wrote yourself a new story, started a new chapter. You decided that what things seemed to be didn’t have to be what they were. That facts are only data, not foregone conclusions or the inevitable way things have to turn out.
From here, after today, the possibilities are endless. You’ve written your own story by making the necessary changes in your life to get here. You’ve proven you’ve got what it takes. Now all you need to do is sit down sometime after you’ve taken the time to pause and appreciate your efforts. Celebrate today because you’ve earned it.
Those of you who are being inducted into Honor Society, we salute you. Pay attention to these who are graduating and what they’ve done to succeed too. Model their behavior. When you want to give up, remember that they didn’t.
Graduates, I applaud you. As I said, I know some of your stories well. I actually worked with some of you, and I’ll never forget your courage and tenacity. You taught me how to teach you, and I thank you for that.

As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again the neighbors came to pay their condolences. “Oh what bad luck. Too bad for you.” But the old farmer simply replied; “Who knows? We shall see.”

The teacher still in me won’t let you go without saying this, graduates and students: after you’ve had cake until it comes out of your ears, after you’ve hugged everyone you love and have enjoyed this day you might have thought would never come, consider sitting down with either the Learn More Center staff (and we know they’ll be asking you to do this if they haven’t already) or by yourself. Literally get out pen and paper, or a laptop, and write out where you want to be in five years, in one year, even. Work backwards and ask yourself what’s the first step you need to take to get there, and then the next and the next. Plot your future.
I doubt I have to tell you that, because it’s likely your vision doesn’t stop here with this already remarkable achievement. Today is the path to that career you have in mind, or a job you’ve been promised if only you get your HSE. You might have promised a relative you’d do this, but now that you have, you’re ready to do something just for you.

With all your gumption, though, and I know you have plenty of it, sometimes you need help. If you don’t know how to find the resources to achieve your dreams, ask. Someone somewhere is doing what you want to be doing. Someone knows how to achieve the success you want.
As it turned out the other young village boys had died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able-bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: “Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy,” to which the old farmer replied, “Who knows? We shall see!”

Today is a milestone. Tomorrow is another. What will the future hold for you? You’re the teachers. You’re the ones showing us what is possible through seemingly impossible odds.
Show us, graduates, and as you intended us to, we shall see.

Thank you.

Note: the version of Farmers Son is borrowed from the http://rainbowbody.com/newarticles/farmerson.htm.

Ordering Business Cards Can be Vision Clarifying (Not to mention, fun)!

Yesterday I ordered my new business cards! The special offer was for 500 cards, and right now I can’t imagine ever handing out so many, but hey, you never know. Lately I’ve had people asking me about my services, and while my website is handy, it’s nice to have a piece of actual paper with my contact information on it to hand out.

As I scrolled through the color choices and debated fonts, it occurred to me how vision clarifying it was to fit my writing services on one card. Okay, so they didn’t all fit, but the important ones did.

I found myself pondering how to explain why what I do is so important to both me and to my clients on a tiny, 3.5 by 2 inches card! What I came up with had me teary-eyed. That’s when I realized that I’m part writing coach, part freelance writer, part novelist, and all parts cheerleader. Please don’t criticize my math here. I’m making a point. 🙂

While there’s nothing like putting your own hands to the keyboard and creating, the next best thing to me is helping someone else do the same. I’ve been a teacher. I’ve taught classes and workshops on writing. I’ve sat side-by-side with clients and talked through their work. And I love it all. Writing out this card reminded me of how much I enjoy waving pompoms! Isn’t that what we all need, someone to believe in us, someone to hold our hands when we’re scared to write, someone to tell us when we’ve left the path and help us nonjudgmentally back on?

So here’s what I came up with for my business card:

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(Forgive the blurry image, but I had to take a screenshot. The real cards won’t be in for a couple of weeks yet. I’ll add a new photo then.)

I wrote on the card, “Everyone has a story. I’ll help you tell yours.” And at the bottom of the card I added, “Because stories live on.”

This is not where I go off on one of my frequent tangents on writing a legacy. It is where I acknowledge that humans are unique creatures every one, to be redundant for emphasis. We all have a story, and there’s nothing better than helping someone tell theirs.

Fiction and nonfiction are included in storytelling. The best truth comes from fiction, but nonfiction can wring your emotions like little else. (As a fiction writer, I’m wanting to qualify like crazy here. Both forms can do everything. It depends on your goal.) When it comes to my clients, I have both kinds, and I see similar reactions when they finally say what it is they wanted to say, fiction or no. There’s a release, a relief. There’s pride and hope for publication, often. And often there’s another idea following closely behind.

This lesson I learned from creating a business card could apply to most everything. If you’ve lost your way, try putting what gives you the most joy on a business card as a miniature mission statement. Find someone who will relentlessly cheer you on toward your goal. (For writing, that would be me. My husband and I also provide a “writer’s nag” service to remind you of your goals and to ask if you’ve achieved them for those of you who might find that helpful…contact us at drema@writingallthethings.com or go to writingallthethings.com/nag. )

And if you’ve got a burning story idea, a tiny spark, or you just want to write your memoir for your family, let’s chat. Email me: drema@dremadrudge.com.

 

 

 

Announcing: Writing All the Things!

After nearly a year of plotting, planning, and tweaking, Barry and I are happy to announce the launch of our website, Writing All the Things!

You can explore our (evolving) website at writingallthethings.com. There you’ll find a slowly unfurling study on writing and reading literary fiction, a bit about us and the writing services we provide, and more content to come.

Writing All the Things b and white and blue

 

Our aim is to make reading and writing literary fiction less mysterious and reveal how enjoyable it can be. We want literary fiction to be more accessible to those who are intimidated by it, and more fun for those who already love it. While there’s certainly a writing focus to our study and analysis, there’s definitely a reading component as well.

We have other fun side projects for the website planned, too.

Please follow our blog and us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook (see our website for links). And share with your friends and writing pals!

Let us know (over there, or here) what topics you’d like us to take on, what aspects of literary fiction you’d most like us to delve into.

Let’s start Writing All the Things! (www.writingallthethings.com)

There Should Be Tech Support For Writers!

 

 

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I’ve been doing lots of “techie” tasks lately on my website, and while it’s been challenging, for the most part there’s a person to contact or a video to watch to solve most technical issues. As a result of all of this back and forth, I found myself telling Barry that there ought to be tech support for writers! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

But in reality, how would that phone call go?

“Tech support.”

“Yeah, um, I’m writing a novel and I need help.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

“I don’t know. The middle doesn’t flow.”

“Flow? Let me check my manual.”

The sound of typing.

“Ma’am, I can’t seem to find anything. Can you be more specific?”

“Flow. You know, it seems choppy. Like, the first hundred pages are fine, but then it seems to sag.”

More typing.

“There’s something here about middle-of-novel problems being common, especially in first-time novelists’ work.”

The sound of flames would come out of my mouth, no doubt: “I am not a first-time novelist, and there is something WRONG with the middle of my novel. Can you just get someone to come take a look?”

Typing, typing, typing, then.

“If you had sentence fragments or comma splices, maybe I could help you, maybe, but a middle problem? I’m afraid the best you can do is find a writer friend to troubleshoot it or hire an editor.”

“Right.”

Sometimes I wish novels were widgets and you could at a glance know when they’re finished, know when something’s out of place. As someone who has helped others with their novels, I can say with all confidence that yes, there are ways to make books much, much better. And thankfully, I do have a way of knowing when my novels are finished. I’ve learned when it’s time to walk away from my book for a few days or weeks. I’ve learned when to persevere. 

Wouldn’t it be great, though, if there were tech support for novels?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pssst…This Blog, it is a Changin’

I wanted to show you my new desk because for one thing, it’s currently clear. The sweet Kate Tilton  over on Twitter challenged me to clean my clothes-littered desk in the new year. I sent her a pic of the empty desk top before the end of December — challenge crushed.

That said, maybe I should explain my humble desk. I have a place I can buy all manner of suitable, sturdy furniture for decent prices, but I wanted an inexpensive desk that I could totally ruin with spray paint and not feel guilty about it. Because, well, you’ve already seen the fun I’ve been having with paint this year. So I visited our local thrift shop and bought both the desk and the chair for $10.

The painted desk is not the shade I expected, but it’s fun. (Hardware change still to come.)

 

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My thrifted desk and chair after hitting them with spray paint. 

But what’s this post’s title all about, you ask?

Many of you know I’ve been a freelance writer in the past. I’ve continued some of that, but this year will see a greater emphasis on it. To that end, I am going to revamp my site over the coming weeks. There will be less of the personal, more on writing, my published projects, etc.

I know, I know, no one likes change. But you know me — I’ll manage to make something I really want to discuss relevant, one way or another.

Remember, you can always find me on social media. And here, just in a different manner.

Because I do enjoy new projects, I’m kinda excited to take new photos, get all artsy, etc. here. Hey, we’re all works in progress. Why shouldn’t a website be? This blog, it is a changin’.

If you visit this blog because you’re a writer or are interested in the writing field, please feel free to leave a comment saying what you’d like to see more of from me in the coming year. I’ll see what I can do.

As always, thanks for stopping by. May 2018 bring the fulfillment of your most cherished dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATED: “Never Too Poor to Give” to be Featured on Chicken Soup for the Soul Podcast

I wanted to let those of you who don’t follow my social media know that my story, “Never Too Poor to Give,” will be featured on the Chicken Soup for the Soul podcast on Monday, December 4, 2017.  You can find it on iTunes or anywhere you listen to podcasts. I’ll try to embed a link when it comes out, but if you miss it on Monday don’t worry, because you will be able to find it later in the archive.
How honored I feel that they are going to broadcast this story of mine from the Count Your Blessings book, out a few years ago.

Here’s the link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-chicken-soup-for-the-soul-podcast/id1085746482?mt=2&i=1000395572674

If for some reason that doesn’t work, it’s episode 148. If you want you can look it up. 😁

I don’t want to spoil the story, but nonspecifically, it’s about a student at the Learn More Center where I taught who gave me a Christmas gift when she could ill afford it, and the desire to give it prompted in our household.

This is a great time of year to count your blessings, and one of mine is certainly that my story has been chosen. Recalling the circumstances that brought me to write it brings me back to a time and place I enjoyed, a pleasant reminder of the many students and colleagues I worked with who were and continue to be a part of my life. I could write stories about them for years to come.

Aside: Am I the only one, or does the title of the book remind you of the hymn “Count Your Blessings?” It’s a fun, bouncy little song that I hear in my head sometimes, but it bears considering.  Just in case you wondered, if you’re reading this, I count you among my blessings, too.