Congratulations to the Maryland Writers Association for organizing an excellent annual conference, March 23rd and 24th. About 150 people are hearing speakers and participating in workshops, all excellent.
“Oh, no,” I thought, “the trunk lid’s partly open.
My wife, Beatrice, and I had driven in my new Honda, with its electronic gadgetry, to a Latino book fair in Alexandria, Virginia. It was in a school in a so-so area, a little west of the city’s famous Olde Towne. She had left her purse in the trunk. I had just picked up our income tax return, and it were there also.
We spent, perhaps, two hours in the building looking at books and hearing authors present them. There was also food as well as music and dance performances. We were happy when we went outside, but, “Oh, no.”
I hurried to the car and lifted the trunk lid with trepidation. Miraculously, Bea’s purse and our papers were intact. Not a thing was missing.
“Maybe we didn’t close it well,” I thought, but the same thing happened again, in a restaurant in Gaithersburg. As before, Bea’s purse was in the trunk and, as before, it was untouched. “I have to take this car to the dealer,” I said, but I procrastinated.
Not long thereafter, we took friends to Great Falls National Park and decided to go for a short walk. Bea left her purse on the floor in the front seat, but the doors would not lock. I clicked to close them, and they clicked to open again. Finally, it occurred to us: Bea’s key to the car was in her purse. You can’t lock that car with a key to it inside; It won’t let you.
Too much technology is too much for me. I can’t live without it, but I have to start learning from experience a whole lot faster.
By Ellie Yambrach,
I sat by the maple tree and took off my back pack. I pulled out a blanket, set it out on the grass, and lay down. Gazing at the sky my eyelids grew heavy; I drifted.
Solitude and peace.
Then came the words, angry and furious.
“How could you?”
“Why would you do that?”
“You spent it all?”
“You’re so selfish!”
He was angry at me. SO angry. And I did not have answers.
My consciousness stirred, the argument faded. A cool breeze pulled me out of the turbulence. My eyes opened; the dread from the dream stayed with me.
I tried to shake the feeling. This was to be a good day. We were having good days. I wasn’t going to let a dream ruin the celebration I had planned.
I checked the time. He was going to arrive soon. I told him it was a surprise. I gave him specific directions where to find me at the park.
I unzipped the other side of the backpack. One by one, I pulled out the delicacies he liked. Brie cheese, a French baguette, Greek olives, an assortment of charcuterie, a bottle of pinot noir, two wine glasses and two of the most beautiful Gala apples I could find. This was to be a celebration.
I reached into the bag one more time to be sure I had everything. My fingers touched a piece of paper. I grabbed hold of it. My eyes recognized it immediately; my dream was predicting a disastrous event.
Or replaying it.
Between my fingers was a baseball ticket. The date June 28, 2009. This same day, eight years ago, his birthday.
We had been going through a rough patch, arguing about everything; work, family, household chores. Mostly we argued about money, because we had so little. But, he loved baseball and I wanted to make everything better by taking him to the game for his birthday. I checked out our account. We had enough. I bought the tickets; seats a few rows right behind home base. He was going to be so surprised!
But when I met him at the Metro and told him where we were going he became upset. He asked what the tickets cost and how I got the money.
Then he revealed to me that he had been putting the money aside to take me on a long weekend for my birthday next month. It was so sweet what he had planned!
But he was mad. So mad that I had spent the money first! Now, he didn’t know what to do for my birthday.
He complained that I spent money on an event that would take an afternoon, whereas his plans were for us to spend a long weekend together. I explained that I wanted something special for him just as he wanted something special for me.
But he wouldn’t give it up, and that made me furious.
By the time we got to the stadium, we were both enraged.
At the entrance I handed him his ticket. He looked at it with a disdainful smirk.
“Fine!” I said.
I ripped my ticket to shreds.
“I don’t’ want to go. You don’t appreciate what I do for you.”
He placed his ticket back in my hand.
“Neither of us will go then.”
He walked away.
I imagined an afternoon of cheering and holding hands and sitting with his arm around me. Now, with his back to me, he strode around the corner, alone.
I didn’t go after him.
I shoved the ticket into my backpack, and walked in the opposite direction.
For a long time we didn’t talk. But when we did, we realized we wanted to give each other something special from the little we had. The incident deepened our love and understanding of each other.
A cool powerful wind swept up and blew around me in circles bringing my thoughts back to the day; this day.
My heart filled at the sight of him making his way towards me. I had news.
Between my fingers was an unpleasant reminder. I raised my hand and released the ticket and let it flutter away in a current of air.
He Had To Vote
My phone rang early on Election Day. Jan said her husband was in the hospital. He had a stroke. “Was there any way he could still vote,” she asked. I didn’t think so but suggested she run to our polling place and talk with the Chief Judge.
Late that afternoon Jan and her husband walked in, very slowly. Al was limping badly, his face motionless. Fortunately, the polling place was not crowded.
Jan watched him check in and receive his voter card. She let him talk for himself. It took several minutes. When they came toward me to get his ballot privacy sleeve, Al offered his left hand to shake and asked how I was doing. He gave no sign of self-pity.
Another judge guided him to a voting booth where he could sit down, and Jan and I waited for what seemed a long time. Finally, he stood up, bracing himself on a table, and we all walked very slowly toward the scanner. He inserted a page of his ballot, and the machine rejected it. It showed a message – something like “extraneous marks.” Jan was ready to ask him to complete another ballot when the Chief Judge suggested he try putting it in another way. The scanners in our County accept ballots either side up and in either direction.
Cries of “First Time Voter” rang out for a young man as Al turned his ballot around and tried again. The machine was merciful. It accepted the page and also accepted Page 2.
As a student helper gave Al an “I voted” sticker, his wife told us he had just been dismissed from the hospital and she was driving him to another location for intensive rehabilitation. He had asked her to stop on the way so he could vote.
In most presidential elections, just over half of the people of voting age actually cast ballots, and this man struggled to cast his as he was transferring between medical facilities. What a citizen! What an example to the rest of us!
How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo: Your 4-Week Success Plan
September 23, 2016 By Janice Hardy 39 Comments
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If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November , you’re likely gearing up to plan your novel in October. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days takes work, and starting the month prepared makes it easier to hit your goal — or even surpass it.
Since all stories are about an interesting character solving an interesting problem in an interesting way, your first step is to figure out your main character(s), the story problem, and the main goal.
In a few sentences, describe what this novel will be about. This summary will be your guide for October, and help keep you on track all through November.
Week 1 (October 1 to 7): Focus on the novel’s setup
Beginnings introduce the characters, story problem, and story world or setting to readers, and they set the stage for the rest of the novel.
A strong start will provide you with solid scene goals, giving you something to write about every day.
Things to determine:
How the protagonist is introduced
What traits do you want readers to know right away? How might you show those traits in action? What likable qualities does your protagonist have? How can you show those qualities in your opening scene or first chapter?
The problem the opening scene deals with
An opening with an interesting problem to solve gives the story drive and the characters reasons to act. What problem might your protagonist face when the novel opens?
Remember, the goal of an opening is to a.) hook readers and b.) lead the plot to the core conflict of the novel.
The inciting event
If this event did not happen, there would be no novel. It either drives your opening, or is the bridge between your opening scene and the beginning of the middle (act two).
Week 2 (October 8 to 14): Focus on how problems get solved in the middle
This middle is where the bulk of the novel unfolds as your characters work to resolve their problems and fail a lot. The number of attempts and failures will vary by the type of story, as thrillers have different expectations than romances.
Things to consider:
How the setup transitions to the middle
Everything in your beginning will lead to the middle, where the protagonist will make that all-important choice to accept responsibility for resolving the plot, and move into act two. The opening scene leads to the inciting event, which leads to this decision.
The major problem or event revealed in the middle
Adding a big shake up, problem, or reveal at the novel’s center can prevent the all-too-common boggy middle. The mid-point event creates the goal and problem the second half of the middle will have to resolve, and set up what will happen in the ending.
How the middle transitions to the ending
The protagonist has failed, feels utterly lost and hopeless, and things are at their worst. What the protagonist does here will launch the ending and lead to the climax of the novel.
Week 3 (October 15 to 21): Focus on how the novel ends
The ending is how the novel’s core conflict problem is resolved. It starts with the protagonist at her lowest point and drives her to the ultimate showdown with the antagonist.
Things to determine:
How the protagonist plans to defeat the antagonist
Although the plan may (and often does) fail, this is the goal that launches the ending and propels the protagonist to the climax. What are some of the steps that will take the protagonist from hopeless to victorious (or hopeless to defeated, if that’s how it ends)?
How the novel ends
You might not know the details at this stage, but it helps to have at least a general idea of how the core conflict of the novel is resolved.
How the protagonist is changed by the experience
In most novels, the protagonist grows and becomes a better person by the end of the novel. What changes for your protagonist? How is she better off? How is she worse off? What did she learn?
Week 4 (October 22 to 28): Focus on major turning points of the story
Flesh out whatever you need to write your novel.
If your story is character-driven, you might plan the character arc and focus more on the internal journey of your protagonist and discover the plot as you write.
If you’re a plot-driven writer, you might prefer to map out the major plot points and figure out who your characters are by how they solve those plot problems.
Whatever your process, look at the key turning points and elements you need to keep your story moving forward. I suggest aiming for three major points per act (beginning, middle and ending), but develop as many as you like to keep your plot on target.
Final Days (October 29 to 31): Write a query pitch
It might sound crazy, but I recommend writing a rough query pitch to make sure you have enough figured out to write your novel.
The query letter format is a fantastic way to verify the necessary elements of your plot and characters, and find holes before you fall into them.
NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun, and a good way to whip out a fast first draft. Plan accordingly, and you’ll be able to hit or exceed your daily word-count goals and reach your 50K.
He called me on my cell phone.
Not many have the number,
but he has had it for years.
He asked to meet me for breakfast
at the usual time in the usual place,
but there is no fruit there,
and the coffee tastes awful.
What might he want to talk about?
He just retired. Is he bored already?
Is he selling tickets to a charity ball?
I gave his number to a friend who asked for it.
Is he upset about that?
How will I answer him? What will I say?
Can I help in any way?
Who knows? Well, here goes,
into the abyss with eggs and bacon.
Very instructive meeting for nascent writers. One person read from his book for children and another from his revisionist history book. There were useful discussions of first vs. third person narrative and of books a creative writer really should read.
Ever go to where a writers group is meeting and have trouble finding it. THIS group is new easy to find. We have a beautiful new banner.
Next meeting Tuesday, September 6, 2016, 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Home of Mario Salazar, 19115 Roman Way, Montgomery Village
Directions: From Montgomery Village Ave., east on Centerway Drive, then right on Roman Way. Go to end and turn left. Last house on right. Park in center of court.
Please sign up on the Meetup site:
1. Quick introductions: our names and something we are writing.
2. Our host might tell us about and read excerpts from one of his books, followed by comments from our assembled experts.
3. Others can read from their writing and receive comments. Please take copies so we can read as we listen.
Break into writing for magazines, starting with short articles in the front. There’s an excellent article about how to do this at: http://thewritelife.com/write-for-magazines-pitch-this-section/?utm_source=The+Write+Life&utm_campaign=6977096a1d-main_list_11_6_13_11_5_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ae07a22b59-6977096a1d-120946629&mc_cid=6977096a1d&mc_eid=e4f587a119 Ken