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Dear Hillary:

I want to begin by saying a simple thank you.

Given how difficult the last few days have been for me (and all of your 50 million plus supporters), I can’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of your own disappointment. You worked your entire life to get to this moment, and you deserved to be the one who finally cracked that massive glass ceiling. I hope it gives you some comfort to know that the majority of Americans agree: you currently lead in the popular vote by nearly half a million, and that total is expected to grow by at least another million before all the votes have been counted. The sadly outdated Electoral College has stolen your victory and, perhaps appropriately enough, has set our country on a path to return to the stone age, as my oldest daughter, Carrie, aptly put it last night. After all the progress our beloved country has made over the past 50 years, the men of our nation, and yes, sadly, plenty of women as well, have decided that ugly path is the one we should take. To what end, I have no idea, but I fear they shall all soon discover that a return to the Andy Griffith and Leave It To Beaver 1950s they recall so fondly is in fact not all that wonderful for the majority of Americans. Like Trump himself, those were television shows not based on any actual reality. The world has moved on, and so too must the country which the rest of the free world looks toward as its ultimate shining example.

I am writing this letter to you today because I want you to know how very much you have meant to me over the years. I was raised by my grandmother and her mother, so I know about strong, independent women. My grandmother lived to be 95, and as the last few months of this campaign wound down, I found myself wishing so badly that she were here to sit beside me, to hug and shake our heads and cry as we bask in your magnificent accomplishments. I will never forget that scene on the final night of the Democratic convention when you accepted the nomination. It still brings tears to my eyes as I write this. You are such an inspiration! Your accomplishments as a public servant are second to none, as is your ability to persevere amid the torrid of hatred spewed at you from every angle. No matter how hard they smash you down, you refuse to “stay throwed,” as one speaker from the convention so clearly noted.

Whereas most in your position would have given up long ago, you didn’t quit and I know that you will continue to keep fighting still—for our children, our mothers and grandmothers, minorities, the disabled. Everyone who dares to be “different” because it means being themselves. You are our hero, and please don’t ever forget that. As we prepare to watch the republicans grab total control of our beloved nation, we need you more than ever. Be our voice. Guide us through the next four years with your wisdom and courage. And always remember, we love you from the bottom of our hearts.

Per Julia’s request, her signature has been added to this letter.

With warm and heartfelt sincerity from us both,
Connie Kirchberg
Julia Simpson Uttutia

 

 

 

 

the-record-player-bryan-jepsonBryan Jepson’s The Record Player is a new spin (pun intended) on the story of parents who have an autistic child. Music is the leitmotif to the story; indeed, it is the reason the parents of the novel fall in love. Author Bryan Jepson, a father of two autistic children, has spent years doing medical research on autism and supporting others in their needs in dealing with/helping their autistic children. I was not at all surprised to find Jepson a medical expert (on his Amazon author page). His love of classical music is very evident in this book, and in fact, he relies on translating European languages to convey the beauty of music. For me, the translating went a little overboard, but I employed Somerset Maugham’s “fine art of skipping” to get to the next part of the story. I was fascinated to read about how much the group sessions cost the family and what was involved. Gabe is the autistic boy and after a great deal of expense, the family discovers that he calms down when beautiful music is played, learning how to use that interest. But that does not make life with Gabe easy. It seems that life raising a severely autistic child is never easy.

My interest in The Record Player is twofold: in the first case, I studied classical music as a teen: composition as well as singing and playing piano. In the second, I have a sister in law and friend who both have autistic children. The sister in law retired from her job in Saudi Arabia and moved to the USA with the rest of her family in order to help the one child with severe autism.

I loved the scene in the grocery store where Gabe begins singing to Faure’s Requiem. The ending of this book is beautiful and tear jerking. The ending makes the whole book so worth the reading and it gives huge value to the parents’ sense of purpose. (I loved the ending so much I read it twice.) The Record Player is inspiring and I do recommend it to anyone who finds these topics interesting.

the-swedeDuring the last season of Hell On Wheels (spoiler alert!!), in which the Swede (played by Canadian actor Christopher Heyerdahl who, when called a Swede, always replied, “I am from Norway”) was hanged, I was happily immersed in Karen Swensson’s Conversations Loosely Translated, a book in which a brilliant author is able to evoke (literally) the ghosts of her Norwegian forebears. Swensson has done a fabulous job and the ghosts are among the most amenable and interesting of any I have met in book pages or on Halloween.conversations-loosely-translated

What floored me is that her method works. Any writer worth their salt knows the tingle of joy when discovering another writer trying to carry off something difficult that SUCCEEDS. It is like a permission slip to all of us: “See? If you learn to write as well as Swensson, you too will be doing flips in the air and walking on foam.”

I can just imagine what inspired her. After all, Swensson’s American roots are in Wisconsin, in the farmhouse that burned down taking  the lives of many including her own mother. The farmhouse was built in 1845. You can read on Amazon about the chain of events that made Swensson look backwards to the past.

Watching Hell on Wheels while reading Swensson’s book brought the vivid American past into a swirling reality. But I do not think it is just Hell on Wheels fans who will appreciate what Swensson has done in Conversations Loosely Translated–Ancestry.com users and other family tree researchers will love the way she makes the ghosts interact with the writer.

Thus the “conversations” are with these Norwegian phantoms. Even though Swensson tells the reader exactly what she is doing, it all feels real.  I really felt the ghosts were there. No doubt that is because Swensson remembers to add descriptive details and weaves story patterns into the book.

I liked reading about great, great grandfather Ole relate how the Norwegian settlers arrived penniless and had to be taken in by Norwegians living in sod houses dug out in the Koshkonong area. Since the the Hell on Wheel‘s Swede’s accent was always heavy, he must have come over as a teen and had quite a few dinners with gophers digging through the wall to join him and the other Norwegians.

Swensson is a good researcher. History buffs will enjoy reading about the Norwegian ship that avoided Spanish pirates by doubling back to Europe for a day and a half, only to make a U turn to get back on track for the New World!

9781634130158 The term for people who travel via the written page: armchair travelers.

The word for people reading because they have no choice: students.

A correct synonym for reading: escape.

Reading is many things to many people. One of my favorite reading experiences this summer was a book I never expected to find: The Stephen Hawking Death Row Fan Club by R.C. Goodwin. This collection of stories, written by a relatively new author who has worked in private practice, jails and prisons, a facility for the criminally insane, and the counseling center at a large university,”convinced me of an authenticity that only someone who has been in close proximity to such people can provide.

Each story  reveals a different side of the human soul, one that characters have been unaware of until circumstances change. The title piece of the collection has a powerful hook, starting out by detailing the intelligence quotient (I.Q.)  rank of several inmates on death row. The psychiatrist who has to talk to each inmate hits a wall of depression before meeting these men, for what on earth is a shrink supposed to do for a condemned man? Make him fit for human society?

The psychiatrist is surprised when one of the condemned prisoners asks for Stephen Hawking’s  A Brief History of Time.  The prisoner in question reads it and discusses the very difficult subject matter with clarity and precision, making the reader wonder what that inmate might have become if he had experienced a different childhood. (That question is the premise of another story titled “Blank Slate,” in which a head injury changes the character of a violent criminal.) The Stephen Hawking Death Row Fan Club alludes to the fact that more than one prisoner reads this difficult book and is affected by it.

All the stories are excellent. I was personally struck by “One on One” in which a rapist and his victim meet, more than once. I was not even aware that such a program existed or that a convict or his victim would wish to partake. The story unfolds in unexpected fashion. Like all the stories, it held me in its grip. I highly recommend this compelling collection to all lovers of unexpectedly intelligent and interesting story telling.

 

 

Certain red flags signal to writing teachers and book judges that a book or story is written by someone who does not use a writers’ group or contests to help hone skills. Seasoned judges and teachers expect further mistakes once they bump against the first. Sadly, mistakes distract from good story telling and hurt writers’ chances for publication and attaining readers.

  1. Any story or book that starts with pronouns “he” or “she,” rather than naming a protagonist until many paragraphs or pages in, is written by a beginner. Chances are high that the story will percolate with other wannabe writer annoyances.
  2.  Misuse of punctuation.
  3. Misspelled past participles. The most commonly misspelled past participle is “lain.” People wrongly use “laid.”
  4. Misused verb tenses. Many writers do not go to the trouble of correctly using present perfect tense, relying on “just” in front of simple past: “I just ate.”
  5. Overuse of adverbs. “Even,” “just” and “basically” are ubiquitous.
  6. Starting a story with a character the reader has no sympathy for. Telling a tale through the eyes of a despicable person is hard to carry off. Readers need to bond, just like babies do.
  7. Trying to be too mysterious. (This hooks with number #1.) Writers who think they are being mysterious and refuse to give information that is descriptive and logical fall on their noses in the land of vagueness. No reader wants to be lost. This mistake always shows up early in the text.

Anne Frank – Imagine being any one of the 15 idiots who thought that her diary wasn’t publishable.

Source: Don’t Burn Your Manuscript Just Yet!

You are a writer with a great idea for a children’s book. Better yet, you are an artist, or you have a friend who is an artist. You already have fantastic illustrations for your story. You have been to the bookstore and you are amazed at how good your idea is compared to what you see already available.

childrens authorMaybe a friend of yours who is a writer–or a writer friend of a teacher you know–will be able to point you in the right direction. Whom should you write to with your fabulous idea? You don’t want to just put your story with the great illustrations on Amazon Kindle so as to compete with five million other books self-published there (oops it might be eight or nine million by now) because then your children’s book might not rise to the top. People might not see it when they go onto Amazon.

If only you knew the right person! Maybe the people who write this blog are the right people. Connie and I have published books. We know other writers who have published books. Ask us. Go ahead, don’t be shy.

Here is my answer: You need to get your feet wet. You will have to subscribe to the various emails that are worth their weight in gold in telling you where to look. Emails from Authors Publish Magazine, which kindly sends emails right to my inbox, features YA authors like Chantelle Atkins and other generous spirits who will encourage you, talk to you and perhaps share the names of their agents or publishers.

You’ll want to check in at resources like Absolute Write, which has been around for years and is more helpful than ever. Here, authors counsel each other, telling each other about publishers, agents and their experiences with them. I love Literary Rambles for its great agent interviews, offering writers a sense of agents’ personalities and reading tastes.

While the multiple award-winning novelist C. Hope Clark is a wonder in the research and writers’ links she offers in funds for writers, bless her mystery-writing heart, Writer’s Digest has been my lifeblood in the formative articles I received in the pre-internet days via magazines that came all the way to Saudi Arabia. Writer’s Digest offers an annual self-published book contest in biographies, children’s, young adult novels, adult novels and inspirational. Much of the great information I paid for is now free. There is no excuse not to dive in. If you want and love to write and publish, the first step is to become familiar with all these sources. They will guide your steps.