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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More about teachers and writers

A great site for both teachers AND writers is at I think her real name is Suzanne Pitner. She writes articles under that name, plus she writes fiction and paranormal romance as Suzanne Lilly, and she writes for children and young adults as SariAnne Miller. She has a web site for her classes at On the site, she has tips for writing, teaching, and even contests for both are listed. Also included is a link to Query Tracker—a great site that helps in the Quest for the Perfect Agent. This is one busy teacher and writer!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recently read: Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s A Window in Copacabana

This book, the fourth of his Inspector Espinosa novels and the second one I’ve read, is set in Garcia-Roza’s home town, Rio de Janeiro. I like this one as much as the first one I read, and am keeping an eagle eye open for the other books. I love the evocative descriptions of the city, the criminals, the elite, and the good guys and bad guys. In this one, an assassin seems to be targeting policemen and their mistresses. A government official’s wife witnessed one of the murders. Espinosa quietly and carefully considers all the possibilities of a very complicated series of crimes. Well written, well plotted, and a decent translation (although a few slang words struck me as a bit off), this is worth reading.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Insults from Shakespeare

I tend to (usually) keep my insults confined to my head, but if one does want to actually say (or write) a terse summary of some example of baffling stupidity, no one says it better than the Bard. How’s this for that neighbor whose car backfires at 6 a.m.—“thou appearth nothing to be but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours,” (Hamlet). Or when the guy at the next table in the restaurant is a jerk, how’s this—“away, you bottle-ale rascal, you filthy bung, away!” (Henry IV). You can find these gems and many others at this nifty blog for literate blather:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Recently read: Jo Packham’s Where Women Create

The subtitle is Inspiring Work Spaces of Extraordinary Women, and this book is full of lush color photographs of rooms and studios in old farmhouses, modern homes, apartments and even a boat. Each artist is featured in her work area, and provides her own tips on making the space not only inspiring, but practical. A potter uses the hayloft of an old dairy barn, a designer has supplies and finished work from floor to ceiling while another designer uses the dishwasher to store her paints and brushes, a painter has a garden studio filled with flowers, and a quilter hangs works in progress on siding panels. The colors of the various materials and the ingenious storage methods are fun to look at. The only downside to this wonderful book is that now MY office looks so boring and banal—how can anything magical come out of it?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Call for submissions: travel writing

Write about your favorite place to visit in the U.S. and submit it by October 31 to 52 Perfect Days. Essays should be 750-1,000 words, and the more obscure the better. Visit the web site at There is no entry fee, and the winner will get $150. This isn’t quite enough money to rate inclusion in The Money Corner, but it is still worth checking out!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Today is . . .

One of the many habits I acquired through Julie Cameron’s teaching in The Artist’s Way is writing three “morning pages” by hand every day. In part a journal and daily record, the pages are also intended to keep one’s creativity and artist’s way alive. And they do. Over the four months that I’ve been doing them, I’ve been including what I call “Today is.” I unleash a stream of consciousness of words that loosely describe what the day seems to be. I write the words that come to mind, especially in terms of colors and all five senses. Sometimes I add descriptions of time as it seems that day. The words may relate to what the day actually looks like, but maybe not. For example, a sunny day may still feel like it’s lavender-gray. A rushed day may feel elastic. A weekend day may seem gentle. This has become not only a wonderful exercise in self-exploration, but a potent tool for writing. I plan on periodically posting “Today is . . .” as an inspiration for you to try it yourself in whatever form works for you. A weaver may weave “today,” a painter may sketch “today,” and a teacher may write down insights of “today.”

Today is . . . fresh peaches and pink light, the scent of clean air and dampness, muted, misty, a transition, a point of light diffusing into softness. Time today is flowing, releasing, moving gently, light blue and crystal, edged with softness like moss and water ivy, tasting of fresh berries, scented with cut grass.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Teaching and writing—perfect companions

Sometimes writing is a solitary occupation. Many writers spend their time hunched over their keyboards, writing, researching on the Internet, and staring at their screensaver searching for inspiration. I am so lucky in that I’m able to mitigate the loneliness of writing with teaching a few classes each year.

For four years, I’ve taught 1-3 Communications classes (business writing, oral/interpersonal communications, and speech) at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Menomonie and River Falls campuses. This fall, I’m teaching an evening speech class in River Falls.

In a week, I’ll also begin teaching at the new Globe University location in Eau Claire. I’ll teach Interpersonal Relations twice a week. I’m looking forward to participating in the growth of Globe University/Minnesota School of Business. Globe University is expanding into Wisconsin with its Eau Claire site. It’s always fun to be part of something new.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Recently read: Jane Haddam’s Glass Houses

Haddam is always enjoyable. I LOVE retired FBI honcho Gregor Demarkian and the usual cast of Armenian-American neighbors. This book has a complex plot with even more characters and suspects than usual. The action weaves through the wide variety of Philadelphia neighborhoods, from the rich to the destitute. A serial killer seems to be on the loose, attacking middle-aged women in alleyways. The detective team heading the investigation is about as dysfunctional as they can be, to the point where even the police are happy to have a consultant called in. The only complaint I have is that in this book the relationship between Demarkian and Bennis didn’t ring true. Fortunately, it was only a very minor subplot here. I usually like Bennis and their interactions, but I found myself impatient with her this time. Still worth reading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Have fun, do good blog

The Have fun, Do Good blog at is an interesting spot to pop in to. Britt Bravo is a consultant and coach who helps people and organizations realize their vision. Her blog provides a practical and delightful way to think and live from a different perspective. It’s dedicated to people who want to have fun while making the world a better place. I’ve always thought that there was no particular virtue in charitable or beneficial actions performed with a sour face and grudging spirit. Why not enjoy doing good in the world? See her 8/6/08 post on secondhand bookstores and how to increase the store’s ability to improve the community (beyond the fact, as Britt points out, that bookstores, especially independent ones, do good just by existing!).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I feel another art hobby coming upon me!

My huge hamper of materials from 2 Sisters' Things

For years, my creativity was expressed solely through the written word. That’s fine, only that was also how I earned my living. As a result, I always believed my vision was limited by only using one medium. Creating collages allowed me a non-word outlet that revitalized my writing on all levels—from fiction to fact. At the end of August I indulged myself by ordering a basket of ephemera and mixed media materials from 2 Sisters’ Things: Supplies for the Mixed Media Artist ( ). I received a large wicker hamper FILLED with cool things: old playing cards, sheets of antique music, pages from books, art reproductions, doll heads, buttons galore, and the list could go on and on. I hadn’t really thought about doing mixed media art, but who can resist now? After all, we DO have some free wall space in our house that is begging for a concoction of netting, a full-size parasol, a black satin glove, and a montage of doll parts!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Recently read: Clare Francis’ A Dark Devotion

This is a good British crime book. An old friend of a criminal lawyer turns up begging for her help in finding his missing wife. So Alex returns to her childhood home in northern England, where her brother is now Lord of the Manor, her old friend seems to be keeping some secrets from her, and the impression Alex gets of the missing wife gets grimmer and grimmer. Excellent plot with plenty of twists and the clues are all fair. Well written and gripping, I plan on reading more of Francis’ novels.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Anna Quindlen, Connie Heermann and Perry Meridan High

I wrote this posting shortly after the article was published, but I had to cool off sufficiently before I could post it. It’s not often I describe myself as “outraged,” but the situation Quindlen writes about in her column, “Write and Wrong,” outraged me. Perry Meridian High School near Indianapolis fired a teacher who assigned her class a book, Erin Gruwell’s The Freedom Writers Diary, an acclaimed book expressly honored for its success in high school teaching. The administration promptly fired the teacher—apparently the concept of actually teaching students how to think was a bit too radical for this school. I always like Quindlen, and I thank her for letting the national readership of Newsweek learn of this injustice. To see the article, go to I was fortunate to grow up in a school district (Urbana, Illinois) that believed in learning, and where the parents, the teachers and administrators were united in providing education of value. I assume that they still do.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Networking is important before writing a book as well as afterwards

Photo courtesy of The Mabel

Last Thursday I was one of more than 150 people invited to the reception honoring the most recent praise to come the way of the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater in Menomonie, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Historical Society’s 2008 Historic Preservation Award recognizes the best restoration of a Wisconsin historic property.

This building has for many years been a part of my life: as a volunteer, as a theater patron, and as an audience member. It is an example of a perfectly preserved Victorian theater—now with hidden sprinkler systems and handicapped access. The reception was an opportunity for me not only to participate in the celebration and talk to many friends, but also to introduce myself as the writer of the upcoming book on the Tainter to many of the players in the restoration. These included the principal of the main architecture firm overseeing the renovation, Charles Liddy, Jr. of Miller Dunwiddie in Minneapolis, the Vice President of the financing bank, JeriLynn Young of US Bancorp, and others. I’ll be contacting them over the next 12 months as I finish my book proposal and begin writing in earnest. To read a fuller account of the evening, see the article by my friend and editor at the Dunn County News, Deb Anderson, at

Oh, and I loved learning from the Board President Carolyn Barnhart that they all refer to the theater as—not the Tainter as I in my ignorance have been—but as The Mabel. So from now on, I’ll do so as well!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Recently read: Carl Hiaasen’s Nature Girl

I love Hiassen—his sense of humor is wicked. In this tale of the Florida Everglades, his cast of odd characters ranges from a mother with NO tolerance for rudeness, her 12-year old son who is much wiser than his years, a telemarketer and his girlfriend, and a Seminole trying to escape from the dangers of white society, not to mention college kids, religious cultists, an ex-drug runner, and a wacko seafood baron. They all end up on Dismal Key. As usual, plenty of laugh-out-loud writing and weirdness. Hiaasen’s books are not for the faint at heart. And he can’t write ‘em fast enough for me.

Friday, September 5, 2008

All writers need Wordles

The newly restored auditorium at the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater, which just won the 2008 Wisconsin Historic Restoration Award.

A Wordle is a “word cloud.” And how do you create a word cloud? you ask. Go to this web site , paste in your regular old text, and voila! The site transforms your words. To see my Wordle created from two paragraphs of text I wrote on the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater, click here:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Recently read: Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way

I hadn’t ever come across Julia Cameron until early this summer, a fact that surprises me since so many people I know have read her books. My oversight of her must have been because her books are what I needed RIGHT NOW rather than earlier in my life. I just completed the 12-week program detailed in her book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. This has been a life-changing book for me. I diligently followed her steps each week: writing every morning, having weekly Artist’s Dates, reading the assigned chapter each week, and doing the tasks. I have had innumerable insights, dealt with some issues (like that nasty little voice that silently criticizes everyone else at the slightest irritant), and have increased my creative output significantly. My former anal relationship with time, planning and “doing it right” has blossomed into a way of daily living that allows for room to grow and create. I have new ideas, made progress on my nonfiction book (more on that soon), and am not afraid to create. Oh, and I am getting deliciously over-run with collages! I am pausing to absorb what I learned from this book before continuing on my journey with Julia in her subsequent book, Walking in the World. For more information on this inspiring and highly prolific writer, see her web site at

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Call for submissions of Woodstock memories

Adams Media Anthologies and Literary Cottage are looking for 50 true stories from people who were at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 (and who can write well!). Writers whose stories are selected will be paid $100 and will receive a copy of the anthology. If you were there and want to write about it, be quick! The deadline is September 7, 2008. See for more information.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Honoring Wisconsin Writers

The state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin

The following is the text from the Governor’s Proclamation recently signed by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle declaring September 26 through 28, 2008 to be Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association Inc. Weekend. I joined this organization this year, and encourage everyone to look into writers organizations and associations in their region. I believe in supporting others the way I wish them to support me. For more information on WRWA, see their web site at

From the proclamation signed by Governor Doyle on August 25, 2008:
“WHEREAS, responding to an invitation from State 4-H leader Professor Wakelin McNeal, in 1948 eight 4-H leaders came to Madison, met with Professor Robert E. Gard and created a statewide writers’ group that emerged into the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association, Inc. (WRWA):

WHEREAS, 2008 marks the 60th Anniversary of WRWA, a non-profit organization that strives to draw together the many writers in the state and provide an opportunity and an outlet for creative writing.

WHEREAS, WRWA exists to support the growth and development of writers’ of all forms and genres, from poetry to journalism, and from history and remembrances of the past to creative fiction of all kinds written by both amateur and professional writers; and

WHEREAS, WRWA desires to remember and honor the past as well as shape and influence future generations; and

WHEREAS, many prominent Wisconsin writers are and have been members of WRWA; and

WHEREAS, WRWA reaches out to individuals; education institutions; and other groups, including the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Wisconsin Humanities Council; and

WHEREAS, WRWA encourages literary expression and appreciation for the arts, cultural aspects of Wisconsin life, preservation of local history and folklore of passing eras; enrichment of our lives through education and worthy discussions about writing; and dedication to all forms and genres of writing;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jim Doyle, Governor of Wisconsin do hereby proclaim September 26 – 28 , 2008 as WISCONSIN REGIONAL WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION, INC. WEEKEND and extend sincere congratulations and best wishes to the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association on this their Sixtieth Anniversary.”

Pretty cool, eh?