Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Y is for: Young at Heart

I suppose I often don't act my age. I choose to dress the way I feel comfortable, like what I like, and still value and enjoy a view of the world through childlike eyes.

The body ages, eventually to cross life's finish line, but not the soul.

I will continue to write the words that insist on being written and tell the stories that come to me in urgency.

And I'll look for the youth and goodness in everyone.

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for: Xrays and Pat-downs

Airports are exhilarating and intrusive at once. We know that 9-11 changed the way we all travel forever. While I`m glad to know that national security is more of a priority and that many of the right people are paying attention now, I still feel violated sometimes.

Any of you who know me most likely wouldn't consider me to be terrorist material. You`re right about that. So, it  surprises me how often I`m pulled aside for special screening. My sister says it`s because I look far from suspicious, and I`m just a token pat-down who turns out to be a another clean traveler who causes minimal paperwork if any.

I don't know why this makes me nervous. Maybe it's because concentrating on me keeps them from tuning in on the real threats, the ones who rip our world apart.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for: While We Wait

While we wait for
                             the phone to ring
                                   the rain to stop
                                         the mail to come
                                                 the test results...
remember that we are
                       right here, in this moment,
                              the only one of its kind.
                                         A gift like none other.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for: Vulpine

Merriam-Webster defines VULPINE as: of, relating to, or resembling a fox.

The Flip Dictionary says similar words for VULPINE: clever, crafty, cunning, foxy, ingenious, shrewdness, skillful, sly, tricky, wily.

There. I just thought you should know.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for: Under Writer

Hi. My name is Maggie, and I`m an under writer. Not to say I work in insurance, but that I use my words too sparingly. When most writers get done with a draft, they need to cut much of their words to lower the count. I have to come up with chunks of content, mainly in my descriptions. I must have taken `write tight` to literally.

When I write an article, this is a good thing. I liked short story writing, too, because I could say quite a bit in a few words. Novel length fiction, as much as I love it, is a challenge. One writer`s lovely description of a scene may be my babbling like a brooke to beef up the count.

Books I find helpful are Description by Monica Wood and the Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer. Sometimes I just need to slow down and really look at each word I`ve written. There is often a clearer way to say something without becoming verbose.

Are there any other under writers out there? If so, please send me a few words of advice.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for: Thick skin, tender heart

Writers must realize that rejections galore from agents and editors are only business, not a personal kind of thing. We grow thick skin, impervious to the sting of the form rejection. Mighty, tough.

Also, we write words sweet enough to bring a tear to Satan's eye. Tender, empathetic.

Mighty, tough, tender, and empathetic. I should also add that we writers are quirky, delusional and frequently not all together sane individuals.

And when we gather together as a pack, well, it`s not for the weak.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for: Sister Time

I'm very fortunate to have sisters that are also my friends. We're six different women, in a variety of sizes, shapes, and view points, aged 53 to 66. I don't get to see them all at once very often, but treasure my time with any of them.

Here we are at my niece's wedding in 2011.
I'll match us up for you, numbering us by age, with 1 as oldest (me)

This picture: 5   4   3   1   2   6

This picture is us in 1962.
4   3   2
     6   5

Interesting what time changes in a person, but we're still young on the inside and laugh and play together every chance we get.

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for: Retirement

I retired from decades of nursing three years ago next month. No regrets, only an occasional twinge of missing my friends or a memory of babies in the NICU. I could live without the work dreams, though, often frantic and confusing, that make me glad to wake up in my own bed.

Retirement has been different in some ways than I expected. I do have more time to do the things I love, but, somehow there is always the stuff I don't get to, even with good intentions. Writing is work, a lot of work. Not to mention the disappointments and frustrations. But, I do love it and consider writing a very good use of my time.

When the Northern Colorado Writers Conference comes around March 2015, I will have my current novel ready to pitch. Maybe this will be the one, who knows?

Will I retire from being a writer? Not until I don't know what any of the words mean anymore.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q if for: Quandary

To go with independent publishing, pray tell, to release my precious words from their drawer prison and into the world lest they perish, unread, unloved? A quandary of biblical proportions, I say.

Does my traditional-publication-only mindset put me in a confusing yet unquestionably crappy room within my personal mansion of manuscripts and uncertainty?

Answers, solutions, come to me from whence you be.

Not knowing what to do here really sucks.

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for: People of Interest

I love a good page-turner of a novel, don't you? As an avid reader, I admire an author's ability to weave us a plot we are unable to resist, one that puts us in the story, longing for a great resolution of the problems. But, for me, it's the characters, the people in trouble, in confusion, in dire need, that draw me way in. Love them or hate them, we have to see, feel, and know who they are and what they have or haven't done to get them where they are now.

A writer can't help but wonder where these fictional characters come from and why their story must be told. Are they based on people known by the writer? Delivered to them by a muse? Well, it's often an unsolved mystery of its own.

What are the essentials of a good character? These come to mind:

  • appealing
  • flawed
  • relentless
  • realistic
  • determined
  • lovable or hate-able
  • dynamic
  • imaginative
What can you add to the list?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for: Offensive

Funny how something said or seen can be hilarious to one person and deeply offensive to the next. Television, with its eclectec programming, is a very good example of where this happens. I've always considered myself to be open-minded with a good, though often irreverent, sense of humor. Certainly not a prude. Oh, no. But, lately I've been thinking maybe I'm wrong.

Different people in the same house may as well be from two different planets when it comes to how they view the world. Shows that feature insulting and degrading people, collectively or individually, is not something worth watching to me. I don't see programs that do little more than discredit the beliefs of others as necessarily telling the world the TRUTH we all need to know. Negative, misogynistic, racial slurring, stand up comedy. Jokes that feature ageism, fatism, any ism you can think of, is not hysterical to everyone. It. Just. Isn`t. Maybe it is true that I "don't get social commentary".

No, I'm not in favor of censorship, just the right of each person to view the world through his or her own lens without feeling that they're wrong.

Sorry if I've offended anyone out there. Feel free to click delete.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for: New England

I was born in Massachusetts. Four of my five sisters live in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, as do countless relatives. I go back as often as I can, because I'm not completely me unless I'm in that environment. My family has instructions to divide my ashes when the time comes: half here in Colorado, half there in New England, off the coast into the sea. I'll be going for a visit this month, traveling on Easter Day. I'm badly in need of sister time.

An ideal trip to NE for me includes spending time in New Hampshire where two of my sisters and my niece live within minutes of each other. I have my own room in one of their homes. There will be horses, chickens, goats, dogs, and cats and beautiful country, lush with trees, to enjoy. Then it's to a world connected by buses and subways to Boston to savor museums and the spicy flavor of city life. If I'm able, I transport myself down to stay with my cousin on Cape Cod to the tranquility of sea and sand.

My roots are deep here in Colorado, but part of my soul waits for me there.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for: Musical Connections

Al D'Amato, my father, played the saxaphone in the Big Band days. Mama told me how good he was then, and she never had too many nice things to say about him. I have a wonderful picture of Dad as a teen and some shipmates in WWII, playing their music to entertain the officers. Now that he's gone, the song Leader of the Band never fails to pull on my heartstrings.

My two sons have natural musical abilities, too. Gotta love good DNA. As for me, I love and need music. I sing in my church choir and frequently dust off the piano in my living room, just knowing that I will play beautiful songs. Someday.

Nothing puts me back together faster than music. When I'd come home from nursing school frazzled to the core, I turned to Frank Sinatra. Times I have sadness to work my way through, it must be the Irish women. To feel the deepness of love there's nothing like Italian opera.

My writing requires that music surround me, all kinds of music. From the Beatles to Franti to Lady Antebellum to Coal Fire Band. It's a need for me, like food or drink.

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for: Leaving the Past Behind

I don't know anyone- friend, family, or foe- who doesn't carry the burden of regret. If only I had thought before I spoke. Why didn't I tell her I love her before it was too late? If I hadn't told him to leave, had let someone else drive me home, not moved away, if I had only believed in myself...

The way I see it, most of the mistakes we all make are essential to our spiritual growth as humans. Our regrets can paralyze us, cause physical pain, shut us down, especially the times gone by that we just can't fix.

Let's make this Leaving the Past Behind Day. We'll put all past pain and mistakes in a closet way back in our memory. And close the door.

Friday, April 11, 2014

K is for: Keeping Up with the Challenge

In order to keep up with my A to Zing, I've needed to make it a priority. Even then, I don't spend as much time on the blogs I've discovered and now love as I want to.

Thank you to all who have commented on my posts. I so enjoy reading what you have to say and am often inspired by your words. Starting today, I'll try very hard to reply back more often.

Things I will try to get more organized with the Challenge:

  • writing more posts ahead of time
  • taking full advantage of any quiet time
  • re-making it a habit to write early in the morning or late at night
  • stick to a list of topics
I know these things work for many of you who are A to Zing now or they have become part of your daily writing routine. Any suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

J is for: Judging

Judging others: others who are different, who make you nervous, who don't make sense to you sometimes. People with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, know only too well how it feels to be on the other end of this. Especially the Aspie kids.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Take a few minutes to learn on You'll most likely understand at least one adult or child you know a lot better.

Taken from the Autism Speaks website:

The following behaviors are often associated with Asperger syndrome. However, they are seldom all present in any one individual and vary widely in degree:
• limited or inappropriate social interactions
• "robotic" or repetitive speech
• challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
• tendency to discuss self rather than others
• inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases
• lack of eye contact or reciprocal conversation
• obsession with specific, often unusual, topics
• one-sided conversations
• awkward movements and/or mannerisms

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I is for: I think I need a minute here...

I'm glad I'm A to Zing. It's my first time, and I find it stimulating. This challenge has gotten me to work on my blog, read and comment on the fabulous blogs of others, and it commits me to writing. All good things. I understand more about the pros and cons of Blogger and Wordpress, too. But, you know how sometimes you think you understand how something works only to find you actually don't have a clue? Today I'm facing the truth: I haven't been paying attention to Google+, and I don't get it.

Of course, anyone reading this is shaking his or her head, wondering how I can be so confused about this. I know. A mystery to me, too.

This means I have to take the time read all about it, whip my Google+ into shape. Create my profile. Take a look at the circles I may be in. Circle up my friends and family. Come on, Maggie. You can do this!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

H is for: High Hopes

My writing buddy and I spend a lot of time together at my desk. We still have hopes my writing will be successfully published and enjoyed- high hopes. What I`m considering right now is whether to retrieve my finished novels from their captivity, sharpen them up, and go with an independent publisher. Or maybe I should just chase agents and traditional publishers until the end of my days.

I will seek advice from those experienced with independent publication. I self-published years ago through an established print on demand because I wanted my novel based on Internet safety issues to get out there. I don`t regret doing this. I sold and donated books and got them to many who needed to read this story to illustrate how easily a child can get into a bad situation. Mission accomplished.

Things have changed in publishing since then, and so have I. In spite of my more realistic attitude, I still hope, but now I know that hope sometimes needs a little help.

G is for: Grandchildren in the Family Tree

Here are three out of four of my grandchildren celebrating my birthday the end of March. I love the way the sun highlights my grandson, either to show how special he is or so that we can easily keep and eye on him.

When my husband, little boys and I were finally looking for a house of our own in 1983, this tree in the backyard called out to us. Yes! This is our home. We'll do what we have to do to have it. Scrimping, saving, and me working six nights a week accomplished our goal.

Over the years, there have been countless growing children, teens, dogs, cats, and parents hanging out there. When the grandchildren were old enough, my husband built a shelf to sit on, nets to surround the gaps between branches, steps and handles for safety.

I feel truly blessed to have my children and their children within easy visiting distance. Their smiling faces looking down from the branches will forever be a cherished memory.

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for: Finish Line

One year ago April 15, a joyous event became a tragedy. The Boston Marathon Bombing changed many lives forever.

I have family in Boston, several who were on their way to cheer the runners across the finish line when they heard the blasts. I thank God my loved ones weren't injured. My heart goes out to all who suffered loss of life and limb.

I pray that this year's marathon will be safe, happy, and triumphant for all runners, victims, and those who crossed life's finish line and will watch from the other side.

Boston Strong. Forever.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for: Enjoy the Prompts

Life is a huge collection of writing prompts. That's why every creative writing teacher I've ever had strongly suggests carrying a notebook everywhere I go. If someone handed you this picture and told you to write a two hundred word story about it, would you, could you tell a tale?

Images are all around us. We just need to pay attention and let our imaginations take over. Who do you think is under this umbrella? What are they talking about? Where are they? Why are they together?

Try picking out a random prompt: something you see out the window, a picture in a magazine, people walking down the street, sitting on a park bench. Go ahead. I'll wait...

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for: Dances with Wools

Though not destined to be a blockbuster movie, Dances with Wools is a good name for me. I love to weave, and I love to knit. These are relaxing, zen-like activities that put me back into my happy-and-sane Maggie space. My family especially likes me to be in that space on a regular basis.

My knitting projects aren't normally made from terribly intricate patterns, but I have been known to accomplish stuffed animals, their clothes, and a child-sized sweater. I've started a sweater in my size. We'll see how that works out for me.

Weaving, oh, loved it right right away. The rigid heddle loom I have is just perfect for me. After some time of obsessively creating woven scarves and material which I made into purses and bags to sell, I decided to take a break for a while. Lately, when I walk past my loom, I hear, "Psst, Maggie, got a minute for an old friend?" Have the feeling I will soon.

I am a writer and love to write. But, when I need to slide into my optimal Maggie space, I go to the wools.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for: Compassion

Ah, the moments when humanity takes your breath away.

In 2010, four days before my niece, Phoebe, turned five, her daddy died suddenly and unexpectedly. Family, friends, and loved ones wrapped arms around Phoebe and my sister and held tight.

Phoebe and her dad loved Michael Franti's music. "Say Hey (I Love You)" was their favorite and they often sang it together. Later that year, Michael Franti and Spearhead came to New Hampshire. My sister, Phoebe, and friends went to their concert. Being who he is, they were able to meet and talk to Michael. Not only that, Phoebe got to sing "Say Hey" with him during soundcheck and he interviewed her on FrantiV!

Michael Franti is one truly compassionate man. His actions did much to help Phoebe and my sister start to heal, and I'll always be grateful to him.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for: Being Me About it All

Are you ever consumed with paralyzing angst while trying to fit someone else's expectations of you and what you do?

A good friend reminded me yesterday of the many components of being Maggie: writer, friend, wife, mother, grandmother, psychic, singer, sister, cousin... you get the picture. One might see these each as a job description of sorts. Am I measuring up? Let's look at my writer self.

I so want to write books readers will love. A dream I'm willing to work hard to make come true, although I admit to falling into the pit of dark discouraged despair from time to time. All I can do is keep learning my craft and writing the best I'm able and, without hesitation, continue throwing my work out into the world.

Will my novels meet the expectations of those who decide what good writing should be? I don't know the answer to that. I only know that I'm a writer and I will continue to write. But, as in everything else I do and am, I'll be Maggie about it all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for: Author! Author!

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the weekend at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference with writers of every kind who talked to me and taught me. I`m wild with ideas. I feel as if I can`t go fast enough to keep up with my mind. Love feeling this way again. Bye-bye, long winter of my discontent.

My biggest takeaway from the conference this year is my boundless admiration for authors everywhere. These writers followed their hearts and dreams the distance. They jumped through every publication hoop, independent or traditional, learned their craft, dotted that I, crossed that T! Killed off their darlings!

I bow down before you all for what you`ve accomplished and given to rabid readers everywhere.

I want to be you when I grow up.