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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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Books

Reading is Fun

Why do you read? At my age I read to be entertained, to learn a new quilting technique, and also on how to write better. There is nothing more relaxing to me than sitting in my chair, with the cat on my lap, enjoying a good book, especially if it is raining. We could get really argumentative about what makes a good book, but let’s suffice it to say, everyone likes something different and there are lots to choose from. Continue reading “Reading is Fun”

Be a Book Worm

So many things come to mind when I see the title for this National Day, I don’t know where to start. I have always liked books and reading, but if I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it. Back in my youth The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries were top picks. Also books about animals, but I don’t remember a title. There weren’t books about zombies on every shelf like there are now, or different bookshelves for young adult and tweens. My grandson’s required summer reading for sixth grade is a “chapter book” titled, Hatchet. I need to ask him what the story is about. Continue reading “Be a Book Worm”

Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore too!

Winnie the Pooh has figured prominently in my life. I remember reading the stories when I was young, and watching the movies when they first came out in the ’60’s.

When my children were young, I read Winnie the Pooh stories to them, characterizing all the voices. It was one time they actually sat still and listened. Once during a church social, I sat in a side room reading aloud to little ones so they had something to do while the adults did their thing. When I finished, I had more adults listening than little ones. I heard one man say, “No one ever read to me like that.”

I mention my grandson on a regular basis. At the baby shower in anticipation of his arrival, his Daddy, who has quite the personality, dressed up in a Tigger costume to greet the guests and deliver the cake. It is a touching memory. The personalized baby quilt I made has a life-size lounging Pooh and Tigger done in applique. A project I remember like it was yesterday. I saw the quilt this week. It is well-loved. That pleases me.

Recently, my granddaughter handed me a Winnie the Pooh book. I hadn’t done the voices in years, but my adult children asked me to do so. Jaycey sat and stared at me while I read, especially when the deep slow voice of Eeyore spoke. I wish I could read to her every day.

Whatever memories of Winnie the Pooh you have, share them with your family. Any day is a good day to think about bees, balloons and honey.

Thank an Author

This day was originally designated to thank the many authors that you lean on for entertainment, a bit of learning and for filling many hours with new friends and characters you can’t forget.

I have a new reason to thank an Author. In my quest to become a published author myself, I have joined a local writing group whose members are already published. Each month they have a speaker that teaches a fundamental of the writing process. One such talk was about “building the world” or location of the story and the characters will come automatically. I tried it, it works! Another talk was about build your hero and heroine so you know how they will act in a situation. How do you do that? Say you name your hero Jim Bob because the story is set years ago in the Tennessee hills. If you plan ahead on paper his looks, personality, religion, birth position, education, whether he likes animals, etc., as you write about the situations Jim Bob finds himself in, you will know how he would act. It really is that easy. I learn something useful at every meeting.

On a personal level, one of the authors has helped me learn some key ways to shorten my sentences while at the same time making them more active. It was a “trick” I knew nothing about, yet is so simple once someone shows you how to do it. I am indebted to B.L. She has quickly become a friend and mentor.

The fact authors want to help other authors be successful by helping them learn how to write better has made me thankful in a whole new way. I am now reading their books with a new appreciation. It is a big rush to be able to tell my family and friends, “The lady that wrote this book is a friend of mine.”

The next time you read a book by your favorite author take a minute to think about who helped him/her become a better writer and maybe even send them a thank you note for a story that touches your soul.

 

What are you reading?

It’s National Read a Book Day.  Give yourself permission to take time for yourself and read something you like; an old-time western, a poignant love story, the biography of someone you admire, a kids book about animals (because you still like the pictures), a spy novel,  a young adult story so you can remember how innocent we once were.

I’ve mentioned before, this long family saga novel I have written.  I’m working on the fifth draft, tightening and removing the fat.  (It’s harder than writing it the first time!)  I have had about ten people read it so I can utilize their feedback to improve my work.  It’s interesting to discover each person wants me to slant the story to fit how they think.  My most recent reader was the only one under the age of 30.  When she got to the ending, at 4 AM, she woke her husband to tell him the outcome.  I had surprised her.  That’s a good thing.  Personally, I’m glad it wasn’t me she woke up at that time and told her so.  Her husband defended her and said he does the same thing to her.

So what is my book about?  It’s about how far a mother will go to secretly stay in touch with her only child after his father has disowned him for not following family tradition of becoming a doctor; about the wife that can continue to love her  husband and protect  his reputation because she has that secret contact.  It’s a portrayal of friendship and support between different sets of people and how many secrets they keep from some to help others; the story of four generations of a dysfunctional family that knows how to present themselves as happy and whole.  It’s fiction, not about my family, but each character has surprisingly similar characteristics to someone I am close to, and/or parts of myself.  That frightened me when I first started the project.

In one of the writing groups I belong to, most of the members are published authors.  One of the ladies has offered to help where she can; her advice was to make sure I don’t have too many was’s on a page.  If I do, I am telling the story, not showing the action.  WOW!  I just read page 16 of my manuscript and I found seven was’s in one paragraph.  I have a lot to learn! At least now I know one thing to look for.  After thinking about it for a time, I am actually looking forward to rewriting that segment.  It will definitely be better when I get done, maybe not the best it could be, but certainly better.

As you read your book, enjoy the story, then think about the fact it was probably not the author’s first draft.  In fact, it could have been the 50th or 100th draft.

 

National Book Lovers Day

Books have always been a big part of my life.  Growing up whenever I asked my mother a question, she would say, “Go look it up.”  I guess she thought I would learn more if I took the time to get out the World Book Encyclopedia and do the work myself.  I remember sitting on the floor by the book case and after I found the answer to my question, looking at pictures and reading about other subjects.

I am six, and more years younger than my three sisters, so a lot of times, I needed to entertain myself.  Reading was a way to fill hours and I enjoyed it.  I can remember people’s names from forty years ago; unfortunately that doesn’t translate to authors and book titles so now when I am sitting in a writing group and they are rattling off names, I can’t join in.  It’s a bit of a detriment.

Once in high school I decided I wanted to write a short story for extra credit in English class.  It didn’t go well because I discovered how much work it was.  I now know that it was the lack of personal maturity and experience that were the bigger problems.  I am currently working on draft number five of the novel I wrote.  It needs to be condensed and I am learning a lot about editing.  Writing the original is much easier than rewriting.  It’s hard to let go of your own creativity.

I once read that a house with full bookshelves in a publicly used room meant the home owners were open minded.  We have lots of books on display in our family room.  About a third of them are reference books.  There is a series by Jennifer Chiaverini and another by Emilie Richards that are about quilters.  There are novels by David Baldacci, Tom Clancy, Jean M. Auel, Stieg Larson, Ann Rule, and J.K. Rowling.  There are also some that are by authors I have met recently.  The ones that are most important to me are by men that I went to school with: Bill T. Jones and Phillip Sheppard; and a family friend, Mick Foley.  I thoroughly enjoy being able to say I know the author personally.  It’s even more fun to see them in a public forum and be able to talk family with them.

Hopefully one day soon, my novel will be on the shelf too, in hardcover book form instead of a big pile of paper.

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