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Monday, October 4, 2010
This past year has been one of continual loss for me. First it was my grandmother who passed away in early-mid November, 2009. In May I lost a friend of many decades - one who would have liked to have taken the place of my mother had my mother not still been living. On Memorial Day my favorite uncle passed away and my step-father died the day my uncle was buried. Three weeks later, after a phone call from a hospital in California, I flew to Sacramento, drove to Stockton and spent the next five weeks at my mother's bedside. She finally passed on August 1.
It's been rough. I find the framework that has supported my life is suddenly gone and, like an infant, I am wavering and unable to stand or even sit.
I'll get over it. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. In the meantime, as I struggle to overcome the deep loss, I want to take a few minutes to eulogize those who passed out of my life.
My grandmother - Ruth White Brown - was actually my blood-grandmother's first cousin. Some time after the death of my grandmother, my grandfather married Grandma Ruth. They were together for over 40 years. Grandmother was a very capable, intelligent business woman who loved to play fiddle and who was a grief counselor to the elderly. She outlived my grandfather by nearly 16 years.
My friend, Doris R. Griggs, was more a friend to the aunt who raised me, although we got along rather well. In recent years Doris became more and more incapacitated by arthritis and other ailments but she never lost hope that one day she would feel better and be able to walk without assistance once again. We chatted frequently by phone during these past several years. She always wanted me to come visit but I could only afford one trip a year and that trip was to visit my mother. I was saddened by Doris' death in May but when Mother died in August, my loss of Doris really hit hard. I would have happily visited her had she still been alive.
Uncle Ralph was a cheerful man who loved to tell stories and was quick to laugh. He was my 4-H instructor in numerous projects when I was a teenager. He taught me how to work with machinery in the field. He taught me how to care for cattle and horses. He taught me to love cowboy music and country living.
My step-father, Herman Paul Hermenau, was a brilliant, gentle, loving man. Fluent as he was in three languages (German, Portuguese and English), still one would never know he wasn't a native American. Completely loyal to his adopted country, Dad not only served in the U.S. Army in the 1930s but then enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and served 4 1/2 years in the South Pacific where he earned a Purple Heart. (He also wore shrapnel in his chest till the day he died.) He told me, once, "I promised your mother I would never leave her." He passed away four days before their 37th wedding anniversary. Mother died 7 weeks later. Dad, you almost made it.
Mother, Harriet Margaret Brown Hermenau, was a teacher of all ages. She taught elementary school, Sunday School, Relief Society, and gave music lessons. A lover of diverse cultures and peoples, Mother took in the children of refugees, helping them to become acclimated to our culture, meanwhile instilling in them a love of their own as well. She also worked on a volunteer basis with their parents, assisting them in settling in to their new country. Of particular interest to her were her Hmong friends. She wrote down some of their native folk stories, hired a talented artist, then self-published the resulting books so that her beloved friends' culture would not be lost. During her last years Mother, an inveterate reader, frequently read three books a day. These she happily discussed with workers in the nursing home where she spent the final 4 years of her life.
For each of you, my loved ones, I offer my gratitude for the place you have had in my life. Thank you, Mother, for giving me life. Thank you, Dad, for the support you gave Mother and the love you gave our family. Thank you, Grandmother, for your place of stability in our family circle. Thank you, Uncle Ralph, for all the skills you taught me. Thank you, Doris, for the gift of your time and the gift of money that enabled me to begin visiting my mother in the first place. I appreciate you all.
Posted by Rick & Karen Mittan at 4:18 PM
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Now that Steena and Stina's contest is over, here's a new one for my writer friends. It's a challenge. And it's fun. Try the poetry and by all means get into the flash fiction mode. It's a whole new learning experience. Find Simon Larter's contest at:http://constantrevisions.blogspot.com/2010/04/most-epic-contest-in-history-of.html
And, Simon, if I knew how to put a button advertising your contest at the side of my blog, I'd do it. But I don't so I'm afraid I'm out two points. Dang! Oh well. I tried. :)
Posted by Rick & Karen Mittan at 2:05 AM
Monday, May 3, 2010
Here it is, the absolute 11th hour, but I just ran across a contest all my writer friends will want to enter. The prizes are like the bunch of grapes hanging out of reach of Aesop's fox ...Something to salivate over and wish, ardently, to possess.
Contest rules are to be found on: http://steenaholmes.blogspot.com/2010/04/steena-stinas-omg-contest.html
If you love chocolate.... And free edits.... and fun....this is the place for you.
Posted by Rick & Karen Mittan at 6:16 PM
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Don't you love the way I post every day? How about every week? Every month? Well, all right, so it's been more like once a year. My bad.
Actually I have an excuse. I've been having issues with Blogger. It has spent many moons trying to convince me I don't have a blog, have never had a blog, and need to set up a new account. Excuse me? I already have two blog accounts and can't even keep up with one. Why would I want to set up another one? Sorry folks, Masochism is not my middle name...or my first one, either.
That said, I want to say how pleased I was at the LDSStorymakers writing conference this past weekend to earn first place in the first chapter/historical novel contest with my biographical I, NEPHI... based on the life of early Jackson Hole homesteader, Nephi Moulton.
Yeah, I know. Y'all saw me running around with a goofy grin on my face, so you probably have an inkling what it meant. I really think, though, that if an old lady like me can learn to write well enough to win first place with a novel written in first person from a young male pov, any one of you can do the same.
It wasn't just that I won...but last year, after I finished the book, I sent a query and five pages to Nathan Bransford, literary agent with Curtis Brown, Ltd. Nathan promptly asked for the first 30. (Hey, when that guy says he tries to keep on top of things, he isn't kidding. He read my five and replied within two hours!) He didn't feel he was a good fit and so, ultimately, turned my book down but I felt it was an honor that he even requested additional pages.
Was I surprised that he turned it down? No. My book is too secular for the LDS market and too LDS-oriented for the national market. Nephi was, after all, the youngest son of a polygamist's first wife. He left Utah and left the LDS church (returning to the religion of his youth only as an old man) but he still carried his polygamous background with him. The book centers on his efforts to resolve the issues that shaped his life. So, while Nathan didn't feel he, personally, was a good fit for my book, I felt that the fact he even wanted to read more than the first five pages was almost as exciting as winning the first chapter contest at Storymakers.
Anyhow, they both show me the efficacy of Winston Churchill's famous words, Never give up. Never, never give up.
Posted by Rick & Karen Mittan at 9:49 AM
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Someone commented on my last post but it didn't come through correctly. If the person who posted it wishes, please feel free to try again.
That said, I want to say I'm really stoked about something and want to share with you.
In his "Daily Kick in the Pants" email yesterday, New York Times best selling fantasy author, Dave Farland, included some rules for writers that another gentleman had written. Mr. Farland invited his world-wide audience to add to the list.
I didn't have any rules to add but I did have several with which I disagreed. I chose one, wrote an essay explaining my differences in opinion and sent it off. Today Mr. Farland included my entire essay in his daily email. I cannot begin to express how pleased I am. Knowing that he has, for years, been a judge of writing contests, I feel like I was just awarded the Pulitzer prize.
I'm posting my essay below with Mr. Farland's introduction at the beginning.
Posted by Rick & Karen Mittan at 4:59 PM
Saturday, December 26, 2009
It's been a long, loooong time since I blogged. Last year I was too busy. This past summer I was too busy. This fall I've been too busy. Besides, if you don't have anything to say, why try to say anything?
Steve and Jenn started their own business in January. They're doing pothole repair using infrared technology. It works very well and they've exceeded their projected income by nearly 300% for this year.
Larry was married to Cassie Stone on March 6. They moved to Spokane, Washington, later in the spring. Larry's working for a car rental agency and Cass takes care of Spence and Amanda's little girl. Spence works for AT&T and Amanda teaches message therapy at DeVry University.
Richie graduated magna cum laude in psychology from the University of Utah in May. After a trip to Europe with his wife and six weeks of intensive training in Phoenix, he moved to New Orleans where he is now teaching special ed and Lori is studying art at the university there.
Sue and Kevin moved to an apartment of their own in June. Kevin is our son, Steve's , foreman.
Mike and Tracy moved to New Orleans this fall. Mike is in construction and Tracy is auditor for a parking lot facility.
Chris' wife and daughter were terribly injured by a drunk driver a year ago. Pam is back to work and Keri is in school although she had to undergo corrective surgery this fall. Chris, who quit his job to take care of his wife and daughter, has found work again...a blessing all around.
We found a doctor who would remove Lili's tonsils this fall and she's healthier, now, than she's been in years. She will be going into Job Corps in January where she plans to get duo certifications in welding and as a CNA.
We took in a foster daughter this past October - Genie - a girl who has been Lili's best friend for years. She, also, is going to Job Corps - which is why she came to us. Her family had moved to Arizona but she wanted to go to Job Corps with Lili and needed a Utah residence. We've enjoyed having her here and Lili's ecstatic to have a 'little sister' finally.
Jenn, Amanda and Sue are all expecting babies in the spring. Our quiver is being filled with arrows.
Rick is still employed at a printing facility and I finished the book I was writing about the homesteading of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Don't plan to market it at this time. I'm hard at work on another book which I will market once I'm finished.
I think non-writers often have a naive view of what it takes to be a good writer. Telling a cohesive story is only a small part of the writing process. Steve made the comment to me that I just needed to relax and let myself go because my writing flowed so beautifully. Yeah, right. He hasn't a clue how difficult it is to make it flow. It's definitely not something that just happens.
For a writer, there is so much more than syntax and spelling to writing a cohesive story. There's extensive research that goes into the current Work In Progress. Even if it's sci-fi or fantasy, it still must be believable and believability takes meticulous research.
One must also be able to determine what will enhance the story and what needs to be trimmed like fat off a pork roast. Leave a lot of sludge on and you have a story that clogs the brain just as pork fat clogs the arteries. Sooner or later the reader becomes so overloaded with superfluous stuff he/she gives up in despair. That's as bad for a writer's future income as pork fat is to his health.
Knowing what and how much to trim is an art that must be developed, however. And rigorously applied. I'm afraid, after the holidays, I'll need to trim about 20,000 words off my current WIP. I think I'd rather be hung, drawn and quartered but it must be done. This book is too vacuous in its present form.
Then, too, there's always that horrendous bane of writers, called writer's block, which must be dealt with on a regular basis. One can see ones story unfold in ones mind but putting it down on paper is a whole 'nother ball game. I find the transitions to be incredibly difficult. Creating the scenes is easy. It's travelling smoothly from one scene to the next that taxes my mental processes to the hilt.
So when writer's block hits, I pace the floor, wearing my carpet to the threadbare stage. Upon occasion I even give about ten minutes of serious thought to finding a job in an office somewhere. But, since Corporate America and I aren't a very compatible duo, it isn't long before I'm forced to take a sanity pill (chocolate covered, of course) and get back to work.
Writing, regardless of the struggle entailed, is definitely the better choice for me.
Posted by Rick & Karen Mittan at 10:17 PM