For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Friday, November 30, 2007

Nia and Tribal Fusion Dancing: keeping the belly at bay

I'm all set to perform at my first belly-dancing recital back in 2005.

This time of year, I always try to master those pounds that have crept up since the last holiday season under the theory—a correct one, I’m sure—that it is better to start lower on the scale than usual before adding those holiday pounds on. This is the seventh year in a row that I have failed to do so. Now, however, I have new ammunition in my battle of the bulge: Nia and Tribal Fusion Dancing on two consecutive weeknights.

Tribal Fusion, or Belly Dancing, is a wonderful way to firm and tone while being a part of a group of women dedicated to enjoying themselves and being comfortable with their bodies. We are so lucky here in the upper Midwest to have access to a wide range of classes and dance troupes. I’ve been shimmy-ing for years at Rebecca Whitman’s classes in Menomonie. Visit her web site at

I’ve recently added another movement form: Nia. This provides a full hour of aerobic movement that each person can adjust to his or her own level. I do “no-impact” at the moment, but I’m confident that I’ll progress to “low-impact” as the winter goes by. For a description and history of this movement program, read my article in the Dunn County News at

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Big Read grants, the NEA, and opportunities for local book-lovers

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) plans on awarding nearly $1,600,000 in grant monies to libraries, municipalities, and various art and education organizations to host Big Read events. Wow. According to an NEA press release, "In just two years, the Big Read has grown from 10 communities to include nearly 200 towns and cities nationwide. Although each of these communities celebrates its Big Read program in its own way, one theme we consistently hear back is that the Big Read is not just bringing citizens back to the joy of reading, but also reinvigorating the very idea of community," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "I am delighted to announce the newest round of Big Read communities in this program, which is about so much more than reading."

Grants will be from $2,500 to $20,000 for community-based programs, printed and audio materials, and hosting local events. This is a perfect way to stir up book-excitement in your community, focus attention on local libraries, and—in my opinion—improve the quality of life now and in the future by encouraging literacy rather than computer-game-induced obesity. Talk to your librarians, members of Friends of the Library, community leaders, and, of course, other writers, about applying for grant monies. Visit the NEA’s Big Read web site at ; or contact Paulette Beete at the NEA directly by phone at 202-682-5601 or via email at

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vaidhyanathan and the Googlization of everything

Once research took painstaking effort and observation. Now a few clicks and a wealth of information pops up. What if in the future, nothing exists unless it can be Googled?

I discovered this blog through one of my web link adventures. It’s timely, considering how much Google permeates my life lately. (See my 9/20 and 10/26 posts about Google Book Search, and Google and the University of Illinois.) This site, is identified as “a book in progress” by Siva Vaidhyanathan, a historian, author and media scholar at the University of Virginia. Between this web site, and his main one at , there is a lot of good reading and thought-provoking commentary.

Vaidhyanathan’s blog and future book on Googlization looks at the impact of Google on our lives now and in the future. Ultimately, the book will answer the following questions:

  • What does the world look like through the lens of Google?

  • How is Google's ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge?

  • How has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions, and states? (Vaidhyanathan, 2007).

The project is in conjunction with the Institute for the Future of the Book which is another web site that will happily occupy me for hours, and will probably get its own posting later.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Recently read: Janice Taylor’s Our Lady of Weight Loss

This is the most delightful book! It combines many of my favorite themes: collages, self-help, and, of course, advice for losing that extra 20 pounds I’ve had hanging around for years. Yes, I know it would be cheaper and more effective to just eat less and exercise more, but then I might have missed this book. Taylor describes her own pilgrimage to weight loss as she substituted making collages and art for overeating. Each chapter is devoted to one Lady—here are just a few of the 42: Our Lady of the Evelyn Wood School of Label Reading; Our Lady Suffers from Constant Cravings; Our Lady of the Sacred Snooze; Our Lady of Chocolate Dreams, Our Lady of the High-Calorie Burn, and the timely Our Lady of Holiday Madness. Interspersed are charming works of art not only of the various Our Ladies, but inspirational subjects (such as Ms Red Pepper and the Gratitude Girdle), Righteous Recipes, Pious Projects (when purifying your pantry, save the Macaroni and Cheese box—trust me on this), and Prickly Prayers. Visit her web site at and while you’re there, be sure to sign up for the Kick in the Tush Club.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Michael Schein: Poets, poetry readers, and other entrepreneurs

I met the poet Michael Schein at the San Francisco Writers Conference in February. Visit his site at for a good dose of poems. As Executive Director of Tieton Arts & Humanities, Schein is also involved in a broader range of creative endeavors. Visit for inspiration on how a small town can become a center for creativity, and a catalyst for entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Day

As many Americans travel today, I sit snuggly (and smuggly) at home. Tomorrow, Carl will be sitting in his tree stand, celebrating Thanksgiving with the Wisconsin tradition of deer hunting. My father and I will be dining sumptuously at our friends Leslie and Jim's house, giving thanks for our safety, our blessings, our families, our friends, and our community. Let the Holiday Season begin!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Writing the Midwest: Symposium of Scholars, Poets, Writers, & Filmmakers

A 1904 illustration by Arthur Becher, depicting the poem, "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe, the American fiction writer, poet, and literary critic.

Wordsmiths, thinkers, and image-makers will gather in East Lansing, Michigan, on May 10-12, 2008, for the 37th annual Symposium of Scholars, Poets, Writers, & Filmmakers. Hosted by Michigan State University, they are still accepting proposals for poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and films on Midwestern subjects, as well as criticisms. If your proposal is accepted, your work would be presented in a reading, paper, panel, roundtable or screening. I overlooked the due-date for proposals, which are due by December 1, 2007 (sorry for the short turn-around). This would be interesting to attend, and even more exciting to be a presenter. Contact Mary Obuchowski, Program Chair, at for information about submitting a proposal.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A. A. Milne and Brian Jones--linked by a house

Although inspired by Milne's classic character, this book is illustrated by Ernest Shepard and written by Anna Ludlow. For vintage children's books, visit

I love this quote from the creator of Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne: “One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” That has become my battle cry now that I am about to give up on ever “feng-shui-ing” my office. Of course, maybe I should read the book, Pooh's Little Book of Feng Shui before I totally stop my struggles against encroaching paper, books, and clutter. In light of Milne's wittisism on disorderliness, one wonders what Milne would have thought of the book?

An interesting fact about Milne that you may or may not know is that he wrote an excellent mystery for adult readers in 1921 titled The Red House Mystery. This was one of the early works of the genre, which was still in its infancy and was being shaped and formed by, among others, Agatha Christy and Dorothy L. Sayres. Milne used the house he lived in as the model for the house in the book, as well as for the setting of the Pooh books. The Red House was in reality called Cotchford Farm, located in Sussex, England. Later in the 20th century, it was also the house owned by early Rolling Stone member Brian Jones, who died there under mysterious circumstances during a riotous party at the house in 1969.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Author Smart: Effective book proposals--a six-week course

It used to be much easier to find a publisher for your work back in the "olden days." Now, a writer needs to be a savvy publicist and marketing whiz as well as an author.

YouUniversity, offered through Author Smart ( ), has a six-week course beginning in January on writing your book proposal. Course information begins by saying, “Book publishing is a tough business. It is estimated that from 90% to 98% of book proposals are rejected by publishers.” This dire warning is in line with everything I’ve ever read or heard, and I’ve read and heard a lot. For years, I worked as a consultant writing proposals for health care business. A good proposal—whether for health care, a how-to book, or a memoir—produces results, i.e. a sale.
If you’ve got a well-developed idea, or even a nearly completed book, check out the course at . If you are tired of rejections, this will help. And even if you have never been rejected (I’m talking about book rejections—I don’t know if this course will help with your social life), this will give you that extra edge.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Recently read: Henning Mankell’s The Fifth Woman

I love these police procedurals written by this award-winning Swedish author. His detective, Inspector Kurt Wallander of Skane, is dedicated, likable, intelligent, and fraught with angst. He and his fellow officers must sort through the baffling and gruesome murders of a series of men who appear at first to have no enemies. Clues are sparse at first. We the readers are allowed glimpses into the murderer’s life, but many sleepless nights must pass for Wallander and his team before they can identify and finally capture the murderer. I enjoy all Mankell’s books, which are also translated beautifully. Each novel is worth reading on its own, but if you can start with the first one (Faceless Killers) and proceed chronologically, you can follow Wallander’s personal tribulations more easily. I like having these insights into life in modern Sweden, and the countries that surround it. The only complaint I have about this book—and it isn’t a factor in any of the other five Mankell books I’ve read—is that one series of clues that seems to be a subplot just peters out by the end.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Four easy ways to improve your day

A fifth way would be to spend some time in nature, like strolling along the banks of a creek, listening to the water bubbling over the river stones.

  1. Thank five people. This doesn’t need to be someone significant for doing something significant. Thank the person bagging at the grocery store for not making your bag too heavy. Thank the bank teller for brightening your day with his smile. Thank a veteran for what she's done. Thank your husband for making such a good pot of coffee . . . you get the picture.

  2. Step outside at home or at the office and breathe deeply a couple times. Notice how the air smells, and how it feels—is it crisp or muggy?

  3. Only eat sitting down today. And use a plate and utensils, not your fingers.

  4. Declare today a non-news day. Don’t listen to the radio, TV or Internet news, and don’t read a newspaper today. If that’s too hard for you news junkies, then just catch the news from one source for a limited amount of time.

Friday, November 9, 2007

New books by authors in my writer networks

One can never have enough books! There's still plenty of room left on my bedside bookshelves to stack more.

Some books newly released, or soon to be released, by authors I know through my various writing networks include:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A cold winter due to expensive fuel is possible despite global warming

Carl has been stockpiling wood for this winter since early last spring. We’re lucky because we have an energy efficient house, plus an outside wood boiler and lots of wood on our land. The brand is Central Boiler and that’s the roof of it showing behind the wood stack. (see )

Today’s news headlines on the Minnesota Public Radio station I listen to in the mornings ( see )noted that the cost of oil climbed to more than $98 a barrel today. This is almost twice as much as the cost last January. Between global warming (I’m a Gore-supporter in this issue) and the politics of oil here in America and around the world, we really do need to focus on energy conservation and renewable energy sources. Check out the Focus on Energy web site for useful information on such relevant topics as energy-efficient appliances, fuel assistance, weatherization, and energy education.( )
Want something easy to do right now that will lower your heating costs? Turn your thermostat down two degrees.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Recently acquired (new category—I can’t read all the time): Judy Reeves’ A Creative Writer’s Kit

This delightful little packet isn’t really a book, nor is it a planner. Its subtitle is “A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life.” A tiny book titled “Prompts and practices” and a collection of large cards with suggestions comes in a small box. Beautifully written and produced, it’s a nice addition to any writer’s repertoire of reference materials. Visit Reeves’ web site at
This will help you as you work on your novel for National Novel Writing month (see my post on October 28).

Friday, November 2, 2007

Participate as a reviewer in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition

So many books, so little time.

Amazon, with Penguin publications and Publishers Weekly, is sponsoring a new contest called their Breakthrough Novel Award. Online readers will participate in the screening and in the judging. Because only 5,000 entries are accepted, the registration limit is closed. You may, however, register by November 5 and be put on a stand-by list.

The editors will review the 5,000 accepted entries, and publish a 1,000 word excerpt online. This excerpt will then be reviewed by Amazon readers. The winner will receive a $25,000 advance (gulp!) and publication by Penguin. This is a great marketing idea on the part of the sponsors, plus it allows them, as one reviewer noted, to “take the pulse” of the reading and online buying public.

Even though I’m not going to submit my novel this year, I’m going to participate in the reader reviews, and you bet I’m going to keep my eye open for it next year (I’ll let you know). When I am signed on to Amazon, I can put Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in the search field and it brings up the competition’s web page. I cannot bring it up unless I’m signed on. So, for more information, go to and sign on.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November 1

Today is All Soul's Day in English-speaking countries, and Dia de los Muertos in Spanish-speaking ones. This day--like many of our holidays and commemorative days--goes back to pagan times and encompasses most religions. Take a moment to reflect on those who have died, and then, like the Spanish in their Dia de los Muertos two-day festival, celebrate life.