Wonderful Words: Work-Life Balance

Reading Writer’s in the Storm this morning, I came upon this quote:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – workfamilyhealthfriends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

~ Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises

As the daughter of a work-a-holic, who is as driven as the beloved father who bore the trait before her, I have always struggled with work-life-writing balance, the most recent bout culminating in my physical collapse this spring.

In theory, this summer is (according to me) supposed to be about resting, recuperating, and enjoying my relationships with children, grandchildren, parents, and friends. I remind myself over and over again that there are no goals, writing or otherwise, that need to be accomplished this summer.

And yet, my mind lives in both the actual, physical world and the literary worlds of my reading/writing lifestyle. There are writing projects I want to finish even though I keep telling myself I don’t have to be done before September 1. These include building databases–of markets, agents, and editors, and revising a novel that has been a life’s work. And I yearn to finish before school starts (but honestly will not be able to) in spite of the constant reminder, “Debby, you don’t need to finish anything before September.”

And so, this quote is a good reminder. What I came out of my weeks of illness feeling was a determination to make more time for my loved ones, and a yearning for more time for my writing. I confess, God forgive me, I am too often motivated by the second, rather than the first.

And so I’ll sign off. My granddaughter has a music camp concert tonight, and then I have a writer’s group meeting. I want to be ready to enjoy both!

Your Turn

What new priorities have you been trying to introduce to your life? Do you, perhaps, have some good ideas to help me stick to mine? I would welcome your advice. Please chime in using the comment space below.

 

Family Literacy and Fun: Paint Chip Poetry

Family Literacy and Fun: Paint Chip Poetry

Need to make a run to the hardware or paint store this summer? Be sure to take your children along, or at least go with them in mind. Why? Because then you can have fun writing together creating paint chip poetry.

What’s paint chip poetry? Basically, its poetry written using words from a paint chip. There are several variations on the process.

 

Step 1: Gather Paint Chips

As I said, take the kids along and let them select their own paint chip cards, or, if that’s not possible, select a few paint chip cards for each child, keeping in mind their favorite colors and interests–the colors of their favorite stuffed animal, school, or team. Don’t forget to grab a few cards for yourself. Modeling your interest in writing and literacy is one of the best ways to encourage your kids to engage in literacy activities.

Step 2: Choose a Process

Since I lost the link for the article I read on this, I researched a few paint chip writing activities, and there were several variations on the process available. Here’s three to choose from:

  • You and your kids can make up similes (statements using the words “like” or “as”) for each color name on their selected card. You can even write the similes directly over the swatch of color.
  • You and your kids can write a patterned poem using a paint chip color.
  • You and your kids can select from grade/age appropriate options and write your poems accordingly.

Be sure to have plenty of paper and writing utensils on hand.

Step 3: Explain and Write

  • Give you children their paint chip cards.
  • Explain what you are going to do. Maybe even do a sample together from one of your cards.
  • Turn your kids loose to write for a set period of time. (For children not yet old enough to write, let them dictate their thoughts, and you write them down. Then read the “poem” back to your child, pointing to each word as you read it to reinforce the one-to-one correspondence between the written and spoken word.)

Step 4: Gather and Read

Call your kids back to a central area and have fun reading your poems to each other.

Step 5: Celebrate!

Maybe afterwards you can have a colorful snack, like rainbow sherbert, cupcakes with multi-colored sprinkles, or 9 layer bean dip and multi-colored tortilla chips.

Try using your color words in conversation over the next few days. Have fun with these words.

For Teachers

The links above were written with the classroom in mind. Also, if you search “Paint Chip Poetry” you will find still more options to take with you back to school in September.

Your Turn

How did your paint chip poetry session go? Please use the comments section to share some of the poems you or your children created. Now’s your chance to brag on those little ones!

Did you find some interesting color words on your paint chips? Share the color names that caught your fancy. It would be so cool to end up with a list of delightful names.

 

Setting: C.S. Lewis on Reality–“We Couldn’t Make it Up”

In the book Mere Christianity, Lewis reflects on the nature of reality:

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you have grasped that the earth and the other planets go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match–all at equal distances from each other…or distances that regularly increased…. In face, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four,…and one has a ring.

Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. This is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up.

I Should Feel We Were Making It Up

This principle applies not just to Christian apologetics, but to fiction writing as well. (Isn’t it interesting to note that Lewis was also a fiction writer, a literature professor, and medieval literature specialist.)

If the setting in our stories is too simple, too predictable, readers will feel like we’re just making it all up (which, of course, we are) rather than experience being swept up in the fictional dream.

Feel Real

For our fiction’s settings to feel real, they need to be complex, to contain variations–twists, surprises, imperfections, and to make even contemporary settings highly individual, particular, even a bit peculiar in their specificity

Your Turn

In the comment space below, please share the title and author of a work you read recently in which the author made the setting feel real. What was it that made it seem like it “could not be made up.” Or, are you a writer? Feel free to share an excerpt from your work illustrating a “reality” rendered in a way that seems it “could not be made up.”

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Chicken Soup for the Soul’s “The Queen of Parking Spaces” Now Available on Podcast

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Queen of Parking Spaces by Debby Zigenis-LoweryChicken Soup for the Soul is a great market for writer’s wanting to break in. Want to know how I know? Well, when my only publication credits so far were with Cricket magazine (for which I will be eternally grateful; I don’t mean to put them down at all–it’s just I felt I needed to branch out a bit) Chicken Soup for the Soul bought my very first submission to them–“The Queen of Parking Spaces,” inspired by my relationship with my Aunt Judy. (Sorry, I know that’s a capitalization error, but I just can’t make myself type a lower case “A.” For me, “Aunt” is part of her name.)

What Chicken Soup for the Soul Wants

Here, in their own words, is what Chicken Soup for the Soul looks for:

…an inspirational, true story about ordinary people having extraordinary experiences. It is a story that opens the heart and rekindles the spirit. It is a simple piece that touches our readers and helps them discover basic principles they can use in their own lives….

Chicken Soup for the Soul stories are written in the first person and have a beginning, middle and an end. The stories often close with a punch, creating emotion, rather than simply talking about it. Chicken Soup for the Soul stories have heart, but also something extra—an element that makes us all feel more hopeful, more connected, more thankful, more passionate and better about life in general….

Keep your story to 1200 words or less. Tighten, tighten, tighten!

You can learn more about their criteria for submissions at their “Guidelines for Submissions,” and you can sign up for their free newsletter, here.

“The Queen of Parking Spaces” Podcast Goes Live Monday

To my delight, I have learned my “Queen of Parking Spaces” will have a new life. On Monday, it will become part of Chicken Soup for the Soul‘s podcasting program.

New podcasts will appear each weekday, featuring stories from their many books. Each day is themed:

  • Motivational Monday
  • Tip Tuesday
  • Wow Wednesday
  • Thoughtful Thursday
  • Friend Friday (Which will feature an interview with one of their writers.)

So if you need a little pick-me-up, you can tune in and listen to your heart’s content

What About You?

Have you had your short story, personal essay, or creative nonfiction accepted in Chicken Soup for the Soul or any other anthology? If so, please use the comment space to let us all know. Give us your name, the title of the anthology, and the title of your piece so we can support each other.

Do you enjoy reading Chicken Soup for the Soul or any other anthology? Use the comment space to share the title. Everyone can always use another recommendation of a good book.

Best Books of June 2017

Whew! I got a lot of reading done in June. (And it’s about time!) I did so much reading, that I can’t narrow this post down to just one book. But, because I’m mentioning two does not let you off the hook for helping make the word “Books”, referred to in the title, plural. So, with no further ado, here’s my best books read in June:

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal and The Golden Cross by Angela Elwell Hunt. Both are historical fiction, as were almost all the other books I read, besides the Harry Potter. Hmm, do you sense a theme here? The difference is, among many things, Valour and Vanity is historical fantasy set in Georgian era Europe (think Regency England and the Napoleonic wars of early 19th century), while The Golden Cross is straightforward historical fiction set in the 17th Century, on the Dutch colony on Java, Indonesia

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette KowalValour and Vanity: I love this series, The Glamourist Histories. In this novel, Jane and Vincent, official glamourists of the Prince Regent, head to Venice. On the way, their ship is waylaid by pirates. Although they reach Venice safely, they arrive penniless and are taken under the wing of wealthy gentleman who had been on board ship with them. But not all is as it seems… I could hardly put this book down as the plots twists and turns swiftly carried the tale in one direction and then abruptly in another. The cast of characters is fun and intriguing, as Jane and Vincent are befriended by the nuns of a local convent, a street entertainer, and Lord Byron! I can’t hardly wait to read the next book in the series. Expect to find it on my reading log soon.

The Golden Cross by Angela Elwell HuntThis second book in “The Heirs of Cahira O’Connor” series is, I think, my favorite of the series so far (although the first book, The Silver Sword was pretty awesome as well). The main character, Aidan, is a young woman gifted with great artistic ability who, through misfortune, finds herself a barmaid in a notorious harbor tavern. Feeling terrible shame at what she and her mother have become, she longs for a more respectable life. Finally she is given the chance to remake herself when a great artist takes her on as his student. However, many people want nothing more than to see her restored to the gutters from which she has escaped. This is a story of discovering ones gifts and value as a child of God. The threats to Aidan’s dreams and life get very intense, and I was glad to have had the time to gobble this book up in two days!

What about you? What book or books did you enjoy in June? Please, please, please use the comments section below to share. I’m always on the lookout for an great read.

America, the Beautiful: Happy Independence Day!

America, the Beautiful literatelives.wordpress.com

When I was in kindergarten (I will not even hint at how long ago that was) my classmates and I learned many patriotic songs and rotated through the list of them to sing one each day with the Pledge of Allegiance. Since tomorrow is the Fourth of July, I thought I’d share the lyrics to one of my favorites:

America, the Beautiful
by
Katharine Lee Bates

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I love the imagery Bates used, not just in the well-known first stanza (which is lovely) but in the lesser known stanzas as well:

  • “O beautiful for pilgrim feet…A thoroughfare for freedom beat…”
  • or “Thine alabaster cities gleam…”

I love the values it promotes for us as citizens:

  • “God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control…”
  • “May God thy gold refine…”
  • “…crown thy good with brotherhood…”

Finally, I love its humility; all the good Bates anticipates flowing from our United States, she credits not to human ability, but to the grace and influence of an almighty God.

I’ll sign off with the title of another patriotic song–“God Bless America,” and wish you a wonderful Independence Day celebration.

What are your favorite patriotic songs? What are the lyrics you like best? Please share in the comment box below.

America, the Beautiful literatelives.wordpress.com

Favorite E-Reads of the Month: June 2017

With the advent of blogs, I have slowly shifted my magazine reading to what I call E-reading. A perfect morning starts with a poor-man’s-mocha, a chapter of the Bible, and E-reading–reading posts from the blogs I follow. Many I read and then pin on my Pinterest boards, and some I read and delete. But this month it occurred to me: shouldn’t I share some of my favorites with you?

Hence…

Favorite E-Reads for the Month of June 2017

Here are links to the posts that really stuck with me this month:

  1. Is Self-Compassion More Important than Self-Esteem? by Stephen C. Hayes, Ph.D., on Psychology Today
  2. How to Cultivate More Self Compassion: Learning to be Kind to Yourself by Allison Abrams, LCSW-R, also on Psychology Today
  3. 10 Ways to Switch Up Your Sentences by Chris Winkle, on Mythcreants: Fantasy and Science Fiction for Storytellers
  4. Four Functions of Amazing Opening Lines, also by Chris Winkle, on Mythcreants: Fantasy and Science Fiction for Storytellers
  5. How Writing can Assist Sufferers of Mental Illness  by Cassandra Hawkings, on C.S. Lakin’s Live Write Thrive
  6. Worldbuilding Demystified by Becca Puglisi, on Writers Helping Writers
  7. 5 Ways to Use Meyers-Briggs for Characters by K.M. Weiland, on Helping Writers Become Authors
  8. What Exactly Does Facebook “Friend” Mean? The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly by Kristen Lamb, on Kristen Lamb: Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi
  9. Heartened by Wonder Woman–The Case for Sincere Storytelling by Vaughn Roycroft, on Writer Unboxed
  10. Plot vs. Heart by Donald Maass,  on  Writer Unboxed

As you can see, they cover a range of topics.

The Self-Compassion articles really grabbed me because I am coming out of a “Debby can’t do anything right” period of thinking. It is a comforting topic, but moreover, it is also complements the Growth Mindset training which has been sweeping our school district for the past two years.

Mythcreants is my favorite blog for building fantasy writing skills. I love almost everything I read there.

Writer Unboxed has been a favorite general writing site for many years, and this month I was privileged to be able to hear Donald Maass teach on the same topic–getting more emotion into our fiction. He is an amazing teacher!

All these writers are amazing and enrich my life.

Happy Reading!

P.S. What is your favorite blog, or a favorite post you’ve read recently? Please use the comments space below to respond.