Friday, September 25, 2015

More on Moms

I’ve spent a good deal of my life trying not to be my mother. It was a shame, because I could have learned a great deal from her in my adult years. But she was, as I am now, not one to open up and reveal her innermost thoughts. My insights, such as they are, have come after she left.

When I wrote about moms before, I had a saying and a visual image stuck in my mind. Both came from a collage I’d picked up at an arts & crafts show.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Senior Expo

I went to a senior expo last month to help out at the information table for the Midwest Writing Center. My first time at such an event.

When I got there, the table was set with the MWC’s banner, informational handouts, and sample books. We were ready to go.

The red banner had the motto, Fostering appreciation of the written word and supporting its creators, in big letters. However, having the banner draped over a table and partially obscured by piles of leaflets seemed to present some confusion for people passing by.

Some seniors saw only “the written word” and got sidetracked into the issue of teaching cursive handwriting in public schools. They lamented the loss of skills and a younger generation becoming ill equipped to handle anything but keyboarding.

Some seniors said they only read books—never wrote them.

Some even commented on the fact that they couldn’t read very well. One lady described how she had to read a sentence over and over before she got it.

Well…guess what…I do that all the time. Have done it forever. I have a longtime friend who also admits to having to read sentences more than once. She’s one of the most creative artists I’ve ever known. I guess distraction comes with creativity. It doesn’t mean you give up trying to read…or write.

For the great majority of passersby, we were a mild curiosity. The real pleasure came when we established a connection to someone interested in writing down family history or handing veterans info on a workshop tailored for their needs.

The MWC’s workshops and programs have fostered my appreciation of the written word by exposing me to the work of a wide range of writers and poets. It has supplied me with writing tools and direction. It provided the all important opportunity for feedback.

I did my best to spread the good word.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Financing College

You might think this is an odd post for a blog that’s about writing in general and writing my novel in particular. I hope to file this topic in the “Things I Got Right” department.

I have my 22-year-old protagonist as a recent college graduate who wants to go on for an advanced degree in museum studies. Money is an issue for her. My novel is set in early 2008, a time when money would become an issue for lots of folks, not just students.

I wanted my protagonist to think about and handle college financing in a realistic way. To that end I was fortunate to have some expert advice “in house.”

My husband, Mark Davidsaver, has produced a website of financial calculators for many years. His most favorite is one specifically designed for people, parents and students, to calculate future college debt.

He used his own experience with navigating federal, state, and college forms. He got feedback from actual college students and tried to make his calculator as streamlined and as easy to use as possible.

He’s quite disappointed that it never caught on. His paycheck withholding calculator remains his most popular.

So, why mention this now?

Because of a recent back-to-school column by Katy Williams, a St. Ambrose freshman, for The Dispatch. The title of her column: What I wish I knew before I went to college….

For point #3, she mentioned, “Money does not go as far as you think it will.”

Her suggestions:
·        Learn to budget
·        Find a part-time job
·        Avoid having a car

All solid ideas that have stood the test of time.

To that list I would suggest a visit to:

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Fall Novel Workshop

I recently had a meeting with Aiden Landman of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. He met with me in his capacity as director of Young Professionals of the Quad Cities. I was representing the Midwest Writing Center. Our purpose: to see how our two organizations, each rich with resources, could work together and help each other.

As I ran through the list of MWC’s offerings of workshops and writing opportunities, Aiden indicated he knew quite a bit about YEW, Young Emerging Writers. This year’s group of teens recently put together the latest volume of The Atlas magazine.

I mentioned that I considered myself a product of the MWC’s workshops and conferences and therefore, while not a young emerging writer, I could be considered an old emerging writer. Not the best joke to make because OEW doesn’t make a good acronym, neither does MEW, mature emerging writer. Failing at humor, I moved on.

The MWC has so many irons in the fire (metaphor alert) it can be difficult to highlight just one.

For instance, the upcoming Fall Novel Workshop with Larry Baker, an Iowa City writer, novelist, and educator.

I took part in the 2012 fall workshop and I found the six intensive sessions to be the best investment I could have made for my novel. It gave me a big dose of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop experience for a fraction of the price—and it was practically delivered to my doorstep.

I was prepared to work and to accept the constructive critiquing of my beginning 30 pages of manuscript.

Pretty much in line with how Larry Baker describes his workshop:

“Writing is not inspiration. Writing is a craft. Writing requires thought, preparation, perseverance, and a commitment to self-criticism; revision requires a writer to go through those same steps again.”

I came away with better work. I built on that work by going through those same steps many, many times. Each editing pass-through shaping and refining the whole.

Now, I am ready to get my novel out into the world, and it will reflect my best efforts.

After all, producing one’s best effort is an ageless goal.