September 11, 2018

Memories of 9/11

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My daughter came to me on the night of September 10, 2001 around 11:30.  She trembled with fear and crying.  I struggled up from slumber that fought back in blissful ignorance, but a mother can't ignore her child, even if she is twenty-two years old.

I turned on the light.  "What's wrong?"

Her unlikely reply made me sigh.  "I'm afraid of terrorists."

"Whatever for?" I fell back against my pillow.  "The odds of you coming in contact with one is so little."

"But I might," she said, her voice on the edge of hysteria. "What if they ask me if I'm a Christian? If I say yes, they might kill me. I've heard that some kill you even if you say no."

I fought exasperation that night.  Every evening, I struggled to get a good night's sleep. Once I'd reached the point where my body finally succumbed to sleep, I needed to be left alone in order to get anything close to a good night's sleep. Interruptions usually ruined the whole night for me.

"I don't think it's worth worrying about," I said, wondering what set her on this train of thought. I had experienced other nights like this with her, nights when a thought ripped into her soul, creating insecurities that multiplied.  She sought me at these times, begging for solace.  Sometimes, I got frustrated.

It took time, but she finally calmed down and went to bed to sleep in security and confidence.

The next morning, the planes hit the towers.

I waited in trepidation for her to wake up and discover her late night fears had transformed into a new reality.

Yes, the account above really did happen on the eve of 9/11, and it rocks me to the core how my daughter's mind went there only hours before the tragedy occurred.

It's amazing to me, still, how much that one morning changed our outlook on life.  But I think we've forgotten.  Travel became harder, but we grumble about it.  For a short while, we turned to God, and churches experienced huge attendance.  People extended kindness and looked out for each other.  That's what tragedy does to us.

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But today, I wonder, have we forgotten? Do we remember, seventeen years later? A whole generation has been born without awareness of that day. My grandson's teacher informed us of ways she's attempting to help her class, second graders, understand this tragedy. I don't think they ever will. They've grown up in a different world, altered by those events. They don't know what we lost that day.

But even we forget.

It's hard to maintain that heightened awareness at all times.  Time numbs the pain.  We need to go on, to survive, but I only have to think about that morning to recall those horrific images and recall how our world stopped. One has to wonder...

Do we really remember the way we should?

September 5, 2018

Capturing The Readers' Imagination

Most writers dream of capturing the imagination of their readers. We write our stories, the characters as real to us as the people we see each day, and hope others will welcome those characters into their hearts and minds.

When J K Rowling wrote the first of the Harry Potter books, did she dream of the overwhelming success and fascination people, young and old, would have with this story? Probably some, but I bet not at the level of popularity it's achieved. Yet, twenty years later, the story of "the boy who lived" continues to resonate with people worldwide.

When you wake up someone's imagination, it can lead to anything. For example, the Harry Potter Science day camp my granddaughter attended this summer. When I signed Victoria up, I wished I could attend. Instead, I did what most adults do when their children get to experience something they never did--I lived vicariously through her. She bubbled over with excitement and news each day, so it wasn't hard to do.

Here's a brief breakdown:

Day One

They started the day in the auditorium, waiting to be sorted into houses. With a sorting hat replica and a hidden voice, they sorted each child into a house, placing their own spin on some of the classic dialogues from the movies. Here's one Victoria told me about:

Sorting Hat:  I wonder...which house for you?
Child: Gryffindor.
Sorting Hat: Gryffindor you say? Hmm, Hufflepuff!

My granddaughter became a member of Ravenclaw House, the one that values intelligence, creativity, and wit. A perfect match for her interests!
Victoria during the Sorting Hat ceremony

The Ravenclaws attended The Care Of Magical Creatures class on the first day. Nope, Hagrid didn't teach it, but they did dissect owl pellets looking for rat bones. She brought them home in a large petri dish.

Day Two

She explored stars and planets in Astronomy class. They spent time in the planetarium and worked on star maps and a star scroll. She, also, made her wand that day.

Day Three

Her house attended the Hogwarts version of botany--Herbology. They experimented with various herbs and essential oils, and she came home with a homemade teabag of peppermint and chamomile (I joked that it would wake her up while putting her to sleep), and homemade vanilla and lavendar soap. Of course, what class isn't complete without notes? They provided hand bound notebooks and gave the students an actual quill and inkwell to write their notes. How cool is that?

Day Four

Off to potions she went minus the presence of the dreaded Professor Snape. She brought home green slime and a bottle filled with "lake water" from the giant squid's habitat. I'm not sure what's in the "lake water," but it's green with thick black sludgy looking stuff in the bottom.

Day Five

Each day, one of the houses made a broom. Ravenclaw, due to some problem (a troll in the bathrooms maybe?) finally made theirs on the last day.  You can't finish your Hogwarts experience without taking the O.W.L.s (Ordinary Wizard Levels) examination. The tournament between the four houses tested their knowledge of Harry Potter and of the science topics they'd studied during the week. At least, they invited parents to see this part. I was amazed at the knowledge the kids gained, not only of the books but the sciences as well. Each child came home with the results of their O.W.L.s on this last day. Victoria received all O's which represents Outstanding work.

Perfection on her O.W.L.s

Extracurricular Activities

You can't have a Harry Potter Science Camp without a Quidditch match or two. No, they didn't fly, but they did have a golden snitch, quafflers, and bludgers. Victoria was a beater. Her team won some games, but didn't take home the overall Quidditch championship.

Some Class Materials and Goodies

Where were these camps when I was a kid?

Stories That Grab the Readers

The mark of true success as an author, I believe can not be figured with sales volume, although it's a nice marker. I think a truer measure is the imagination the story ignites in the reader. When you have seven books (in the Harry Potter series), eight movies, theme parks, spin-off books, spin-off movies, and experiences like this camp, I'd say you've succeeded beyond what most of us imagine.

Still, I'd settle for an agent and publisher for now...but I can dream, can't I?

August 28, 2018

Summer's End: Time to Get Back to Work

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Although the calendar says otherwise (as well as the temperature outside), summer ended last week in our house. For me, summer means the time when school's out and kids play and forget homework. Since my grandchildren came to live with me three years ago (today!), the delineation between summer and the rest of the year required a lull in my writing. Even though I enrolled the grands in summer programs, they're expensive, so I didn't enroll them full-time throughout the summer.

This presented some challenges for writing, so I offered short writing prompt posts throughout that period. I did this partially because I didn't have time to focus on a longer post, but, also, I figured some of my readers might experience the same shortage of writing time as me and need a boost to get them going when they did find time to write. I hope they worked for you. Check them out here.

One of the drawbacks to my limited writing time over the summer ended up being the time available to submit my work. I missed a lot of submission deadlines for contests and journals. Thankfully, I did manage to submit a few things and learned this week that my short story, "Cedar Revenge," will appear in The Petigru Review. I'm honored that they chose this story. And a bit surprised if I'm being honest. Why? I used an odd combination of events in the plot line. It's not an obvious combination, so I wasn't sure if it would resonate with the judges. Now, I can look forward to seeing it published in October. I'll be sure to mention the publication dates once I have them.

Meanwhile, I'm playing catch up on writing and my other work as the second week of school gets underway. There's a lot to do.

How about you? Do you write more or less in a certain season? How do you manage that time?