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I love Cookie. Who doesn’t? She always has a kind word and smile for everyone she meets, and that kind word is always just the right one. Last night as we stood in the lobby of Regal Cinema 16 in Sandhills after viewing Union Bound, she said, “I thought of you while watching it and was reminded of how important it is that we keep a journal.”

Cookie’s right. As I watched Union Bound, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other stories took place during that historic period of United States history and how unfortunate it is that we will likely never hear them. How many stories are playing out today that future generations will never know because no one is writing them down…or even taking the time to tell?

But first, here’s my take on last night.

We scarfed down our burgers at Five Guys and sauntered over to the theatre. Although it was thirty minutes until showtime, there were already a dozen or so people standing around in clusters, talking animatedly. We joined one of the groups and chatted a little about the event we had come to see, Union Bound. Excitement was in the air.

This wasn’t just any war movie. No, this one was based on an ancestor of a local person known to many. Although I don’t personally know the woman whose ancestor the movie was based on, I know two of her brothers-in-law. I also know that her husband is a Camden High grad of 1968. Go Bulldogs! That might not seem close enough of a connection to get the hubs and me out on a Wednesday night, but, well, it’s not every day that you get to see a local’s family represented on the silver screen.

According to the community newspaper, the Chronicle Independent, Bill Jay has always been a history buff, and knowing this, his father-in-law entrusted Bill with the diary of Joseph Hoover, his wife’s great-great grandfather. Intrigued by what he read, Bill transcribed the diary, and he and his wife Pam felt it would be a great film. They were right. Produced by Michael Davis, owner of Uptone Pictures, the story of Hoover’s escape from a prison camp in Florence, SC and his subsequent journey  North was riveting.

  • Something amusing—Before the movie began, we watched twenty minutes or so of snippets from other movies, and one included a youthful Matthew McConaughey. My friend Jeannette leaned over and said something like, “I really like him. “Me too,” I said. I then turned to my husband and reported our conversation. His only reply was, “Why?” Why???? Was he serious?
  • Something heartwarming—The turnout for the movie’s screening was wonderful. Not only was there a lot of support for the Jay family, but there was also a good bit of socializing and catching up among the movie goers.
  • Something I learned (or was reminded of) from the movie—We’re all in this together, and it’s our duty to be fair, loyal, and helpful.
  • Something reinforced by Joseph Hoover’s diary—We all have a story that needs to be told.

What’s your story? And when are you going to start recording it?

 

 

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Quick post to say that this blog appears to be my primary one, and I can’t change that (have dutifully followed instructions several times). I have three blogs, and this one is more about personal experiences and ponderings in the day-to-day life of a mother, grandmother, wife, teacher, sister, friend……..you get the picture. It’s a potpourri of many different topics, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then this is it. Since Mom’s Musings is the first blog I started, that’s probably why it’s still listed as my primary one regardless of my attempts to change its status.

My other two blogs might interest you too. Or rather, they might interest you MORE than the above mentioned one because they’re focused on specific topics. Gossip and Solitude (http://jaynebowers.wordpress.com/) is a weblog about my writing experiences and is an attempt to meld a website and blog together. Not only do I post about the fun, woes, rewards, hassles, disappointments, and triumphs of writing, but I also post book reviews.

The third blog, Beating a Path, is about teaching experiences. I’ve been teaching in the SC Technical Education system since 1975 (ouch…long time!), and this blogs includes ideas, suggestions, and stories. I’m still teaching part-time, mainly because I just can’t leave the magic of the classroom. Educational practices and trends continue to change, and for a number of years I’ve also taught online classes. The link to Beating a path is http://www.jpbowers.wordpress.com.

I hope you’ll check out the other two blogs, especially since I think a lot of people are directed to Mom’s Musings by accident…or rather because of a wordpress issue that I can’t figure out.

Happy Blogging!

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Sarah Beth wasn’t happy with her time in the Outer Banks 8K, but she did it. She finished the course. Did you? Have you ever participated in such an event? I’m asking because as we were standing around congratulating her and absorbing the almost giddy excitement of the scene, she was looking a bit downcast. We, members of the older set, reminded her of how respectable her time was and that indeed, most of the people she knew were probably sitting around on their couches watching TV, scrolling through Facebook, or playing video games.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” she said. “If anyone says anything to me about my time, I’m just gonna remark on their laps on the couch.”

“Amen, Sistah!” I said.

I’ve thought of the laps on the couch many times since that October morning at OBX. As a teacher/writer who’s recently self-published another book, there are folks out there who aren’t as enthusiastic as I am about finally finishing the project. Some may say it’s not substantive enough while others might say the tone is too conversational or that the pictures detract. “She should have hired a professional photographer,” someone said.

That someone does his laps on the couch.

A couple of recent comments about Adele and Anne Hathaway have brought this little couch phrase to mind again. How can anyone say anything negative about Adele’s size and not also mention her absolutely marvelous voice? I mean, seriously Folks. While you’re doing laps on the couch, she’s singing up a storm and making millions. Same with Anne Hathaway.  Someone made a snide remark about her looking like a chicken while singing “I Dreamed a Dream.” Huh?

Perhaps I’m overreacting. But I just have to say that it’s disrespectful and uncalled for (one of my mother’s expressions) to comment negatively on someone who’s out there trying to do something, especially when the person who’s making the disparaging comments is doing NOTHING.  Or is doing laps on the couch.

Isn’t that a great picture? It’s included in Eve’s Sisters, a collection of essays applying psychological and spiritual principles to the lives of women in the Bible while comparing them to the women of today. Since the photograph will be black and white in the book, you’ll miss seeing the pretty red umbrella. Still, I love the picture as it seems to beckon the onlooker towards the sand and surf and a great day at the beach.

With only a few weeks until I actually get to see and hold Eve’s Sisters, I’m getting a little anxious, antsy too.  After all, I’m self-publishing this book and have no marketing department behind me. I’ve had no editor giving me direction or advice. Nope, just little ole me and some kind members of my writing group who helped me out in a few areas, especially Mindy. And my sister Ann read the first draft and declared it to be the best thing I’ve ever written. But then, she’s my sister; she might have been trying to make me feel good. Or then again, maybe she was hinting that all my other work had been inferior.

What if no one buys a copy? What if the people who buy one do it solely out of loyalty and support and then they go home and shelve the book, never to be glanced at again? Just as scary, what if they read it and find it lacking in some way? Perhaps it’s too shallow or perhaps not biblically correct? Then again, maybe there’ll be some nitpickers who will delight in any tiny spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors I might have missed, thus missing the essence of the book and the women it describes.

As an aside, yesterday I sensed that my intro psych class was extraordinarily nervous about their first test so to help allay their tension somewhat, I wrote a short sentence or two in an introductory statement that preceded the online test. I don’t recall the precise wording today, but it went something like, “I know you’ll do well. Just make sure to read ech question and its options carefully before making your selection.” Did it help? I’m not sure. One of the young men was so amused by the misspelled word that my effort at encouragement took a back seat.

Back to the book, even if people smirk and make snarky remarks, it doesn’t matter. If some say that it’s poorly written, elementary, or poorly researched, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter if people disagree with me. In fact, I’d like to get a good discussion going and check out other points of view. The point is that people’s approval or disapproval doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter. It was something I felt impressed to do, and I couldn’t let fear of censure, criticism, or condemnation stop me. (You shouldn’t either.)

Guess I got a little carried away up there. Before posting this, I need to add that I’m publishing this book with Inspiring Voices, a house associated with Guideposts. After having an article published in the April 2011 issue of Guideposts magazine, I did a little research and perceived Inspiring Voices to be reputable publisher. So far, all of my experiences with them have been positive, and the galleys look GOOD because of their internal design team.

Has it been a lot of work? YES. Would I self-publish again? Probably not, but maybe. There are lots of advantages to traveling the self-publishing route. There are quite a few potholes and hurdles and curvy roads too. In the next couple of posts, I’ll examine some of the pros and cons, and in doing so, maybe I’ll give someone  out there the nudge she (or he) needs to “just do it.”

 

After a crazy, busy, two-week whirlwind, I’m back at my laptop pecking out some thoughts.  It’s not that I’ve taken a complete hiatus from writing. It’s just that it’s been scribbled in a notebook, several notebooks actually. Sure hope I can find the ones I need today.

Since my last two posts were about the SCWW conference in Myrtle Beach, I’m going to wrap that up first and then move on to Christmas thoughts and memories. Just like everyone else in the Christian world, I too have my reflections to share, the saddest of which occurred yesterday when I went through a McDonald’s drive-thru. I asked the young woman at the window if she’d had a nice Christmas, and she gave me a sad, bored expression and flatly stated that it had been just another day. I’ll get back to this. For now, let’s wrap up the conference.

One afternoon, I went to a session about travel writing that was led by Bill Starr. Since I’m always taking notes when I see new sights, I think this is something I’d like to do. Interesting and informative, Starr said that the keys to successful travel writing are good writing and keen powers of observation. He also suggested talking to the “natives” and asking them questions.                                                   

Andrew Gross, author of Eyes Wide Open and several other best sellers, was the keynote speaker. In addition to his own books, Gross co-wrote six books with author James Patterson. Personable and inspiring, Gross talked about the importance of believing in your ability to write and then sticking to your work. “Sometimes some magical happens when you sit down in front of a screen,” he said. From his website, I picked up one of Gross’ favorite quotes from Henry Ford that seems to summarize his philosophy: “Some people think they can and some think they can’t and they’re probably both right.”

Gross’s statement about digital sales is so important that I’m putting it in a paragraph by itself. For would-be writers who are still a little gun shy of the digital format, Gross shared that 50 percent of his sales are digital. This information left me wondering about the future of “real” books, the kind of book you can hold in your hands, turn its pages, write in its margins, turn down its corners, and “sense” its essence.

Before the award winners were announced, Brenda Remmes, author of The Quaker Cafe and member of our Camden chapter, told an inspiring story about a parachute packer. Without going into a lot of detail (hoping Brenda will do that on our chapter blog), the gist of the story was that we all need to be there for each other. We need to be the encouragers and parachute packers for our fellow writers. No one, repeat NO ONE, makes it alone.

After my three days in Myrtle Beach, I came home with lots of useful information and a more “can-do” attitude. If I had to choose just one idea that has stayed with me after all these weeks, it’s this one: writing is work. Just like any other endeavor, if you want to be successful at it, you’re going to have to do the time. Hmmm. I think I just got the idea for my next post!

The first afternoon of the SCWW Annual Conference in Myrtle Beach was just as informative as the first morning. After a delicious lunch enjoyed while overlooking the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, I attended a session by David Coe, award winner and author of twelve books. In case you haven’t heard of him, he wrote the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe. Quick, energetic, and informative, Coe offered some suggestions for editing one’s own work and then gave several recommendations for writing in general.

When writing, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether your work is any good or not because you’re so close to it. Stepping away from your writing for a while is a good recommendation, but when you’re actually in the rereading and reviewing stage, there are other things you can try. Here are three of Coe’s recommendations:

  • Role play. Coe puts himself into someone else’s shoes, someone like an editor or a friend, and sees things like they do. I thought that was a great idea and one that I already practice. I often find myself thinking, “Ann would catch that,” or, “Doug would say something about those gerunds.”
  • Go back and read an older piece that you’ve written and look for all your warts or bad habits as a writer. Then go back and read some of your new stuff. This practice will not only help you see how you’ve developed, but it will also show whether you’re still doing some of the same things. I have a tendency to be a bit wordy (would you have guessed that?), and I’m working on that. It’s hard. Last week, two members of my writing group suggested that I scratch out the entire first sentence of a piece they were critiquing. And you know what? They were right.
  • Step into role of professional editor and act like you’re him or her. Just like an editor would do, tell yourself the good things about your work and then be honest in spotting all the things you need to do to get the manuscript where it needs to be.

In addition to the above editing recommendations, Coe presented the following beneficial tips, also known as do’s and don’t’s:

  • Don’t overwork the manuscript. A book is never perfect. Sometimes you have to let it go.
  • “Adverbs are a part of speech and people can use them intelligently. I just did,” Coe said.
  • It’s not a good idea to start a book with a dream.
  • Change chapters if you’re changing point of view. No head hopping.
  • Use said unless you’re talking about volume, and in that case you can use whispered or mumbled or something.
  • Exposition slows things down and dialogue moves it along. We like eavesdropping and dialogue allows us to do that.
  • Short fiction sales are really the way to go. You’re working on stuff and getting it ready for novel.
  • Get “street cred.” It shows that somebody paid you and that you can finish what you start.
  • Nobody can really teach you how to write. The MFA isn’t going to make you a writer but will show you some stuff.

I left the session thinking of some material I needed to edit using David Coe’s suggestions and wondering what I could do to get street creds. I’m still pondering his recommendations and have put most into practice.


This morning I found some notes I took at the annual South Carolina Writers Workshop held in Myrtle Beach in October, and reading over my scribbled notes brought to mind the great time I had and the information I learned. From the time I arrived on Thursday evening until I parted company with my new friends on Sunday, it was a wonderful experience. Or rather, it was a series of one memorable experience after another. The three days were instructive, inspiring, motivational, and downright fun.

My primary job as a volunteer was to work at the registration desk, but I basically filled in where needed. For instance, I helped Kia stuff attendee bags on Friday, and I helped Kim and Kathryn with the silent auction winners on Sunday. While the best part of the conference was probably getting to know and rub shoulders with some amazing people, it was also great to learn so many tidbits about writing.

Time and space prohibit a rundown of everything so I’ll just hit some of the highlights of Friday. That morning, I attended a couple of informative sessions, and these are some things I learned. Most had to do with societal change and believability.

Often grandparents writing children’s books sound like grandparents. I knew exactly what the speaker meant by this. Lately I read some negative comments on Face Book about the Junie B. Jones books, and guess who they were written by? A grandparent. A grandparent who’s out of touch with the way children perceive the world and the way they talk today. This grandparent also criticized the language in the Junie books and went on to say that it’s no wonder children speak  the way they do when they read “crap” like this. I’m wondering if exposure to grandparents’ language is more likely the culprit in this case.

Technology is tricky because it dates a book. While I know this, I don’t know exactly how to change it…or whether it’s even a bad thing. Is a person using a land line phone, a cell phone, or a smart phone? Language dates a book too, and examples such as “wassup” were given. Too, words like netbook, apps, and Skype weren’t even in our lingo ten years ago.

Although societal changes and advances in technology alter the way people communicate with each other, character motivation stays the same. Basic psychology isn’t going to change, but the methods used to reveal character are different. One presenter told about a spooky guy who lived in her neighborhood when she was a child. One Halloween, he built a casket, placed it in his front yard, and lay naked in it. When a brave and curious child tentatively opened the lid for a peek inside, he grabbed her and pulled her into the coffin with him.Today this predator would be online. This grabbed my attention because according to psychologists, online solicitation of children is becoming more common.

Before breaking for lunch, the presenter shared some other tidbits. When you edit your own work, try to find out what your quirk is like colons, commas, no paragraphs, or using a word or expression too much. When I heard that, I couldn’t help but think of Pat Conroy, one of my favorite Southern writers. In My Reading Life, Conroy admits that he has a problem with wordiness. He can’t help his verbosity, however, and says he was stung by a wordsmith, his mother, at a very early age. Is there a Conroy fan anywhere who could deny that his voice is unique and that his long winded style works for him?

The last tip was my favorite. Why? Because it works! If you’re stuck, go do some laundry, and when you come back, your writing will be crisper. It doesn’t have to be laundry. It could be a walk around the neighborhood, lunch with friends, or an episode of NCIS. The point is to get away from the work for a bit.

Wow. The more I write, the more I realize that I learned that weekend. Stay tuned. I need to take a break and will share the rest of Friday’s information  in a day or two.

I’ve heard it said many times that if you want something to happen in your life, something new or exciting, you have to make a place for it. I think that “place” (I hope my friend Joey will overlook those quotation marks if they’re used incorrectly) could refer to both physical and psychological space. It could even mean time and energy.

That said, today is a most exciting day. It’s the last day of full-time employment with the state of South Carolina. It’s been a grand ride. I’ve met literally thousands of people who have enriched my life in the most amazing ways. I’ve had the opportunity time after time after time to feel the magic in a classroom, that moment when a student “gets it,” when he connects the dots and sees how the concepts actually apply to his life. Then there were the moments of laughter and pure unadulterated fun. Yes, that’s allowed in a classroom, at least in mine.

I’m not going to walk down Memory Lane this afternoon. I’ll save that stroll for another day. Today I just want to emphasize that it’s time for a new chapter to begin, and the only way for me to get there is to make some room. Hence, I’m freeing up some time to pursue other interests and explore different opportunities.

Yes, I’ll miss my work buds. I’ll miss my little office too. What I won’t miss is leaving home every single workday at 7:00 a.m. to drive to Sumter or Bishopville for an early morning class. Nor will I miss those night classes. Like Oprah said in her farewell show, “Been there, done that.” My husband and I have plans for Monday morning. We’re going to have breakfast at the local Huddle House, and I plan to sit by the front window so that I can have a good view of all the working stiffs racing by on their way to schools, banks, hospitals, and offices. 

Then I’m coming home to read, write, walk, and put some of my dreams into action. I might even take a real estate course. Yes, I know it’s not a good time to do that. I don’t care about getting rich; I just like looking at houses, and I think I might be pretty good at matching people with just the right home. I might help my sister-in-law Karen in her new business, and she won’t even have to pay me! I’m going to spend more time with my children and grandchildren. Atlanta, Conway, and Rincon (alphabetical order), here I come!

 We’re also going to do some traveling, and Otis has begun a travel fund for us. Alaska is first on our list. Maybe this fall we’ll go on a road trip to New England just to see the leaves. Why not? I’m making a space for it. Some of my friends and I love NYC, and I’ve started a little fund for that too. On my next trip, I’m going to see/hear the Brooklyn Gospel Choir. I’d also like to see where Abraham Maslow grew up. And I never tire of visiting Ellis Island, the MoMA, or the Museum of Natural History.

Between all the goings-on, I’m making a space for writing. I’m having a couple of pieces published in the next few months, and I have a half a dozen books on the back burner. I can’t get to any of those projects, however, unless I make a space for them. That’s why today is my last day.

Okay, let’s back up. It’s my last day of full-time employment, not the last day of employment period. When classes start again in a couple of weeks, I’ll be teaching a couple for CCTC and one for HGTC (online).  I’m excited about that and have already been collecting material. For instance, I just learned that obesity is the second cause of premature preventable death in America. Smoking is number one.  Can’t wait to share that with my Human Growth and Development classes.

In the meantime, my husband just stomped upstairs where I’m working and told me that I needed to make some space to walk around up here. All the office “stuff” is scattered about and is driving him crazy.

Last year I went to a SC Writer’s Workshop in Myrtle Beach, and one of the things I learned is the value of self-promotion. I’m not a forward person so this was/is hard for me, yet I realized that if I ever wanted to get my work “out there,” I needed to do a little something to give it a nudge. So I came home and developed a website and have been playing around with it ever since. In On Writing, Stephen King says you need a First Reader, and in my case, I had several of them. Jeanita, however, offered the best food for thought when she asked, “What are you trying to do with it? I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do when I read it.”

Ah, eye opener. Thanks Jeanita. What I want to do is to make my transition into retirement a little easier, a little less scary. I’m using the next couple of years to ease into it so that on DAY ONE, I don’t wake up feeling purposeless. 

That said, the major purpose of the website is to sell some books, and as a means of doing so, I’m willing to meet with various groups to discuss principles in the book. For those not interested in reading about the spiritual musings of a missionary mom, I’d be happy to meet with community, church, or other interest groups to discuss topics like health, goal setting, improving mental health, overcoming depression, leading a more effective life, finding happiness and just about any other psychological topic. I’m about maxed out on the neural impulse though. Just so you’ll know.

Another reason for the website is to give my other writing projects a preliminary workout. Right now, for instance, I have a couple of book ideas and am interested in stories, anecdotes, illustrations, and other types of contributions from you. At the present, I have a contest going on about LOVE that ends on February 28. There’s a prize for the winner whose entry will be featured on the website and in the forthcoming book, The Spell Was Cast.

So please check it out at www.jaynebowers.com and give me some feedback at bowersj55@hotmail.com or bowers.jayne@yahoo.com.  What do I need to do to make it more user friendly? What should I do to make the purpose more clear? If you have any suggestions to help improve  improve the look of the site, please send them along to one of the email addresses. And be kind; use some tact. Like everyone else, I’m tender on the inside.

And please, please, please enter the contest.

Hands down, Kathleen Parker is my favorite columnist…and no, not because she’s a woman but because she has the uncanny ability to say just what I’m thinking in a much better, more eloquent manner. You’ll see why in a moment.

 

At the end of election week, I find myself still thinking of John McCain and what a courageous, tough man of integrity he is. Don’t experience and sacrifice count for something?? Then I think of our president-elect, and as I said in an earlier post, I can clearly see that he has many sterling attributes and that perhaps he is the better person for unifying such a diverse group of people. My heart is sore for McCain, but my spirit is hopeful for Obama and his mission.

 

What does this have to do with Kathleen Parker? In her words: “We arrived at this historic moment through the sacrifices (and blood) of those who preceded us. Barack Obama’s ascendancy is testament to the audacity of the American dream—as well as to the enormous suffering of men such as John McCain.” And then she continues, “Two men of extraordinary talent clashed not in the battlefield of strap-on bombs , but in the civilized arena of ideas.”

 

See. I told you I couldn’t have said it better (or as well).

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