Monday, October 4, 2010

And we're moving on - hopefully

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.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

agents and agencies and editors, oh my!

Just spent several hours researching agents and agencies and contests listed on Hope Clark's

TOTAL FundsforWriters - May 2, 2010. I think my head is spinning but it was a good opportunity to read about different agencies and their staff. It was also interesting that Hope included a couple contests for flash fiction.

I'd never heard about Flash Fiction before I read Simon Larter's blog this week and, since I wanted to enter his contest, I decided this was an opportunity to learn. Carolina Valdez Miller wrote a blog ( in which she quoted a couple of Simon's flash fiction stories. I read them and thought, Heck, I can do that. And so I did. Don't know if I could do it again but...I did it once.
Flash fiction, for those of you who, like me, haven't heard of it, is a complete story written in 1,000 words or less. It has to have a beginning, a middle and an end, just like any other piece of fiction. I read one tonight that was complete in three sentences, each two words long. I don't know who wrote it and I'm not certain of the wording but the gist was, "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn." What a poignant story!
I'd love to be able to do something like that. My story that I wrote for Simon's contest was under 500 words so it didn't have a lot of extra wordage but I'll bet if I looked at it a month from now I could pare it down much further. I wonder....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

a new contest by Simon

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:

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. :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

A contest! A contest! My kingdom for a contest!

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.
If you love chocolate.... And free edits.... and fun....this is the place for you.

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.

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.

This next one is from Karen Mittan. It’s long, but it’s worth reading every word, because it’s an excellent analogy. She says,

“I really like Mr. Miller’s analogy in his number eight rule for writing: Don’t be a draught horse. Work with pleasure only. It’s evocative. But I totally disagree with his syllogism.

To begin with, he seems to assume that draught – or draft – horses are all work and no play or pleasure. Having grown up with draft horses, I’d beg to differ. True, their work is generally tedious and repetitious. Our horses pulled farm machinery and sleighs in weather that no animal could enjoy…hot in summer and minus forty-five F. in winter. They did it daily and faithfully. But to assume there was no fun involved indicates, to me, that Mr. Miller maaaybe didn’t know his draft horses very well.

I’ve known horses that were clowns. (We had one who repeatedly performed a routine he discovered we’d laugh at.) I’ve known horses that weren’t above getting their own back at each other or at their owners. (We had one horse who was smart enough to figure out that chewing on my long hair would freak me. If it happened today, I’d have a word with the horse. But I was ten at the time and he got the reaction he was looking for. Knowing animals as I do now, I think that old boy had a lot of fun at my expense that day. He probably chuckled about it for hours.) I’ve also known horses that were the epitome of faithfulness, trustworthiness and loyalty while in the harness but full of play with each other once they were turned out to pasture.

And then, too, if one wants to compare what writers do to what an animal does, isn’t the ‘draught’ horse the perfect comparison? Draft one, draft two—draft twenty? Much of the work of writing is as tedious as the day-to-day work of a draft horse. Constructing scenes can be joyful. I frequently have a lot of fun with them. But ohmygoodness! those sequels are the pits. Making prose flow, bridging the gap between scenes, is very difficult and excessively tiring. At least it is for me.

In my experience, constructing a story that has thought, continuity and flow is not particularly pleasurable. It’s tedium ad nauseum. Like the draft horse’s routine work, in order to finish a story, an author must do the same thing over and over and over: apply the seat to the chair, the fingers to the keyboard and the brain to the project at hand.

It’s repetitious, too. While the draft horse may pull the plow in a new field tomorrow, he’s still pulling the plow in the same general pattern his owner determined for him today. So, too, the writer may be working on a new story but it has to have the same basic elements, the same general plot structure, the same carefully constructed language. And he’s not working for himself, either. His reader is his owner. Like the draft horse, if he doesn’t work hard to please the ‘owner’, he may not have too much food on his table next winter.

I think there’s a reason why draft horses were/are frequently called ‘plugs’. According to Webster’s finest, the word has a double meaning when applied to draft animals: ‘a worn out animal’ and ‘to work hard and steadily’. I think both definitions frequently fit writers just as well. We do become worn out with the seemingly endless drafting and rewriting of our prose/poetry projects. However, we also must work hard and steadily if we're to accomplish the task at hand.

So I identify with the ‘draught’ horses. I think we have a lot in common. Do I work hard and steadily? I try to. Do I always enjoy what I’m doing? Frequently not. It is, after all, work. Do I gain pleasure as I write? Sometimes. When the prose is flowing easily, when the humor bubbles up, when an acute phrase pops into into my head, then my work is a pleasure. Most of the time, however, I just plug away, knowing that, if I’m careful and consistent, the pleasure will come at the end of the day when I’m turned out to grass and I can read what I’ve written and call it good.”