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Friday, May 22, 2015

Protecting Freedom & Creativity - Happy Memorial Day!

by Marcy Collier
(I'm reposting this blog from July, 2011 in honor of the men and women who serve our country)

When I think of the freedom we share, I immediately think of all of the soldiers who have fought to protect our freedom. If it weren’t for these brave men and women, the article I’m posting right now might be prohibited by law. But thankfully, my speech is protected. I think we take for granted what those who came before us sacrificed.

My grandfather, Robert Mulligan gave his life to protect ours. I never knew my Grandfather. My mother only met him once. He died in World War II when my mother was only three months old. My mother saw him a second time at his funeral four years later. That’s how long it took for the government to ship his body back home.

My grandmother was left to raise her daughter as a single mother, which was rare in the 1940s and 1950s. Even rarer, my grandmother started college at the age of 16 and finished at 20. Her schooling helped her secure a stable government position with the Bureau of Mines.

I look back at my grandmother’s books from college, her contributions to The Westminster newspaper and signed books from friends and know I am a writer because of her. It’s in my blood.

I have never known much about my grandfather’s side of the family. Last year one of my favorite cousins met up with a classmate (a cousin I’ve never met) who gave her a pendant of the Virgin Mary that my grandfather purchased oversees for his mother and mailed home a few months before he died. She passed this beautiful pendant on to me. After 67 years, I have a piece of my grandfather from so very long ago.  

As I look at these objects from the past, I’m fascinated to hear stories and ponder new ones. Items from the past tell a rich, unique story. Whether it’s about fighting and dying for our country or the struggle to bring up your little girl as a single mother, each item is filled with a rich history.

I’m putting out a challenge to our readers to express their creativity and freedom of speech. Find an object from your past. Take a picture of it and write a story. Send the photo and story (200 words or less) to Route19Writers(at)Gmail.com. The deadline for entries is September 1st. We will judge each entry. A winner will be announced and published on our blog by October 1st. I’ll mail the winner a $10.00 gift card to Panera Bread. You must sign up as a follower of the blog to submit. Best of luck!

Have a safe and fun Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Weeding the Garden, Weeding the Story

Rich Soil, Rich Plot

Kitty Griffin

Bee Balm and Coneflowers

Okay, so yesterday was my day to blog and I was worn out from gardening. I have gardens everywhere. There’s a huge vegetable garden out by the driveway, a smaller vegetable garden next to the house, one large flowerbed, and beds encircling the house.

As I worked yesterday I began to think about how gardening is like writing.

What does a good garden need?

Rich soil on a plot of earth.

What does a good story need?

A rich plot on firm earth.

You won't get a harvest if you don't pull the weeds, pick off the pests, enrich the soil, and make sure it's watered. You won't get a story if you don't clean the clogs, get rid of extra verbiage, don't nourish your characters and make certain it's edited.

No, a harvest of any kind requires due diligence. 

Waiting to be put up

As you tend the garden, sometimes there are weeds that need to be pulled. As you nurture your story, sometimes there are characters that need to be yanked out.

When your soil gets depleted you can enrich it with good compost, good rotted material.

Sometimes a story drags and you can renew it using ideas from stories that you’ve set aside.

Sometimes there are surprises in the garden, at first you may think it’s bad, but when you realize this is beneficial, you leave it alone.

in the zucchini

Sometimes in your writing a plot twist will shock you. “I didn’t think that would happen.” But as you back away you find that it’s just what the story needed.

All sorts of pests will be attracted to your garden. Some of them are bad for the flowers and some of them can be dangerous to you.

Sometimes a pest appears in your story. A character who is so interesting it causes you to lose sight of your main character. It will take courage to dispose of the bad actor.

Wheel bug on a zinnia, they BITE!

If you’ve done your work, you’ve chosen a good variety of plant, you’ve made certain to keep it nourished and watered, you will enjoy a harvest bounty. If you've done well, you'll attract beneficial bugs and your flowers will glow with color.

If you’ve done your writing, you have a strong character with an interesting problem and a good supporting cast, you will have a sound story.  If you've done well you'll have a story people want to read!

Big fat bee on a marigold

Here is a playhouse for children that I’ve always wanted to try. You need Mammoth Sunflower seeds and Morning Glory seeds (or any other good climber).
Make a shape for the outline of your house with the giant sunflower seeds, setting the seeds so that the plants will be close, but leave a child-sized strip that will be the doorway. Between the sunflower seeds, drop in the Morning Glory seeds, so that as they grow, the Morning Glory will surround the sunflower stalks. By summer’s end you’ll have a secret hideaway for your little ones.

Mammoth Sunflower

An abundance of Zucchini? Here's a recipe.

If you find yourself with an overlarge zucchini don’t worry. Now, if it’s baseball bat size, no, give that one to the compost heap.

In a frying pan heat some olive oil and a chopped onion and some garlic if you like. Grate the zucchini and swish it into the sautéed onions. Cook until just a bit tender. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, or Italian mix cheese.

If you want to have beautiful cut flowers, grow Zinnias. They are fast. They are east. Nothing bothers them and they are lovely in arrangements.

Zinnia, oh Zinnia!

Now…let me think about that wheel bug. If I were a naughty little boy who somehow got turned into one of these….what do you think might happen?

Monday, May 18, 2015

None of the Above

by I.W. Gregorio

This month we're pleased to highlight debut novelists, I.W. Gregorio and her novel, None of the Above. Kristin is a senior in high school, homecoming Queen and track star, when she learns something about herself that makes her rethink everything about her she’s ever known. She’s intersex.

On Friday, May 1, 2015, Marcy and I shared our Five Favorite Things from I.W. Gregorio's debut novel None of the Above. Now you get to hear the author’s favorites!

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

My main character is a runner and a hurdler, so perhaps my favorite line to show her growth (spoiler alert!) is in the penultimate chapter:  

"I’d been running for so long, trying to escape from who I was. Here in the steady circle of Darren’s arms, I was finally ready to stand still." 

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Probably the end of Chapter 42 when Kristin downed the bully who was trying to beat her up:

"It turned out that David Letterman's gender verification test had something to it, after all."

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Definitely Darren. He is the prototypical under the radar guy that doesn't date much during high school but who is GREAT husband material!

Little known fact: None of the Above was originally written in dual narrative, with Darren as the second POV!

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
"One day I would find my own place. I couldn’t run there, though, because it didn’t exist yet; I had to build it myself, out of forgiveness, truth, and terrifying gestures of friendship."

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

“Wait, you called the urologist asking for surgery?” she asked. “And she let you go through with it without making you see a psychiatrist first?”

“I wanted it.”

“But you were still wigging out over your diagnosis. That is so not the best time to go ahead with something like that.”

“I know, that’s what she said too, but I needed them out.” I stopped for a second. “Wait a second. Does that mean you still have them?”

“Have what?” Gretchen asked, smirking.

I blushed, and gestured toward my groin. “You know.”

“Oh,” she said loudly. “You mean my testicles?”

I couldn’t help myself. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed, but the nearest dog-walker was several hundred feet away.

“Yes,” Gretchen said firmly. “I still have my testicles.”

“How can you stand it?”

“What is there to stand? Whatever higher being you believe in made me what I am. I heart my gonads.” 

We’d like to congratulate Ilene on the success of the novel and can’t wait to read her next novel. 

I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins). She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News and Journal of General Internal Medicine. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

To read more about I.W. Gregorio’s None of the Above debut novel please go to:


Friday, May 15, 2015

Summer Boredom?

by Marcy Collier

As the weather gets warmer and school winds down, parents, children and teachers begin the countdown for the last day of school.

But I know after about a week off from school, I hear the familiar, “I’m bored,” from my children.
We make weekly trips to the library and participate in summer reading programs.

The American library association states, “Summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library and develop the habit of reading. Libraries also now offer summer reading programs for adults, as well as children. Research conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics found that in 1994, 95% of public libraries offered summer reading programs for children; there are not statistics for adult summer programs.”

That’s a fact I didn’t know, how about you?

All of our local libraries have reading programs as well as bookstores. Here’s the link to Barnes and Noble’s summer reading program:

We read and listen to a lot of books in the summer. Between the library and my audible subscription, we always have at least three audio books in the car for both short and long car rides and a half dozen books at home.

Besides reading, playing and swimming, I also have a few lists of ideas I’ll pull up when I hear the familiar, “I’m bored.” Here are a few links:

As the school year comes to an end, I hope that you all have a safe, enjoyable and not boring summer!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Finding something NEW in something OLD

A Listening Discovery

by Kitty Griffin

I've fallen in love with listening to stories. My new subscription to Audible is one of the nicest gifts I've given myself.

I listen while I drive.
I listen while I garden.
I listen while I work.

And sometimes I find something new in something old.

For instance, let me ask you about a story you've most likely read a long time ago or perhaps had read to you-- The Wind in the Willows. Of course you remember Mole. How he was doing spring cleaning and suddenly got a notion to flee from the work, to burst upon the outside. Feel the joy--

"The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all is four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow till he reached the hedge on the further side."

Yes, you know adventure is coming. And friendship, deep, enduring friendship, as the bond Mole forms with Ratty. 

It is the sort of friendship one dreams of. 

But now I'm going to ask you if you remember the environmental aspect of this book. Do you?

If I ask you, do you remember the quiet lesson that Badger taught Mole?

After being rescued from the Wild Wood by Ratty (who strapped on two six-shooters and carried a cudgel when he realized Mole had gone off) they find safety in Badger's hole. And what a place it is. Mole, so excited by the number of rooms and the beauty asks how Badger had time to do it all. Badger explains, he didn't. That once upon a time people had lived in the woods and had built a city, but the city fell to ruin.

Where did the people go? Badger didn't know.
Then what happened?

"When they went," continued the Badger, "the strong winds and persistent rains took the matter in hand, patiently, ceaselessly, year after year. Perhaps we badgers too, in our small way, helped a little--who knows? It was all down, down, down, gradually--ruin and leveling and disappearance. Then it was all up, up, up, gradually, as seeds grew to saplings, and saplings to forest trees, and brambles and fern came creeping in to help. Leaf-mould rose and obliterated, streams in their winter resets brought sand and soil to clog and cover, and in course of time our home was ready for us again, and we moved in.  Up above us, on the surface, the same thing happened. Animals arrived, like the look of the place, took up their quarters, settled down, spread and flourished. They didn't bother themselves about the past--they never do; they're too busy."

What do you think happened to the people?

I was so astonished when I heard this section.

But that's what listening can sometimes do, sometimes it will help you find a new nook, a new cranny. 

I will keep listening, but I don't think I'm going to find out what happened to the people. 
But I'm going to wonder, I'm going to wander through these Willows and feel the Wind and wonder what on earth happened to the people.

And when I finish listening?

I'm going to go buy this book for some young friends of mine so we can read it together.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why I Love Fantasy

by Cynthia Light Brown

From the Master, J. R. R. Tolkien:

"When we have examined many of the elements commonly found embedded in fairy-stories … as relics of ancient customs once practiced in daily life…there remains still a point too often forgotten: that is the effect produced now by these old things in the stories as they are…They open a door on Other Time, and if we pass through, though only for a moment, we stand outside our own time, outside Time itself, maybe." (“On Fairy Stories”)

Even the words, "a door on Other Time" causes my breathing to alter. The encounter with the Other.

Perhaps this could be said of all fiction?

J. R. R. Tolkien's original illustrations for the first edition of The Hobbit, 1936. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

More Poetry Recipes in the Classroom: Add a Dash of Shape Poetry by Andrea Perry

Adding a dash of Shape Poetry is bound to spice up many a classroom project.  Get the point?

Shape poetry is a type of poetry which describes or defines an object (or concept, function or characteristic) and is shaped as the object (concept, etc) being described.  

For example, in math class students can demonstrate their knowledge of geometric shapes (even three dimensional ones!) by constructing a work of art.  They can show what they know.  They can type or write or stencil their words, rhyming or not, and arrange them to explain terminology.  Quadrangles, cylinders, squares, oh my!
 In Social Studies, similar projects can take shape. While studying Egypt, students can display their understanding of the mummification process or afterlife beliefs or even Egyptian gods by constructing a poem in the shape of a sarcophagus, linen strips, a pyramid or other related subject content. In an American History unit, Fort Necessity could necessarily be constructed with beams of words, the evolution of the American flag could be striped with information, or the Boston Tea Party,  steeped with facts.
Out in the solar system, scientists have described planets, galaxies, constellations, meteors, stars, and comets to us.  Students can make a big bang by applying their knowledge of any of these with a shape poem full of facts or descriptions.  The applications in science are seemingly endless - atoms and molecules, seeds and plants, magnets and metals can all take shape as shape poems.

Life does indeed imitate Art.  Get out the construction paper, scissors and glue and have your students start getting plenty of poetic projects "in shape."