I Was Meant to Do That

Most people have “imposter syndrome” at some point. For writers, it’s generally along the lines of, I’m no good at this; when will someone realize it and call me out on it?

I’ve never had that particular type of imposter syndrome—not because I think I’m so good, but because I truly believe good writing can be learned by anyone, and that even the best writers started out not so good. Being not great is simply part of the path, and how long one spends on that part of the journey depends on how hard they work to improve (and that goes for any activity, not just writing).

Two things have always made me feel like an imposter. The first is that I’m not, and never have been, compelled to write. Most writers will tell you they’ve been writing since childhood and could not imagine a life not writing. It’s as much a need as breath. Not me. There are some things I’d like to say to the world, and hope to get them written down, but I’ve never had that urgency or obsession with writing.

To go along with that, I never thought I was destined to write. Think about, say, Thomas Edison buying equipment for chemical and electrical experiments when he was still a child, or Jane Goodall being obsessed with animals as far back as her earliest memories. There wasn’t anything in my life (such as that compulsion mentioned above) to point toward being a writer.

Or so I thought. Recently, I’ve realized there were things. Two things, to be precise.

Neil Gaiman said last night that the thing he’s been most afraid of his whole life is his own imagination. Paraphrasing, because I didn’t record/immediately write it down: I’d be at school and think, what if my parents don’t come home today? Or, what if they come but they only look like my parents, and aren’t? So the thing that’s always scared me the most, is me.

I always had that same imagination, though my dreams could be happy or sad or exciting as well as scary. The phrase most often spoken about me, by far, when I was a kid was, “Teresa’s in a daze again.” (I know this because it was always said when I had to be shaken or poked or something to shift my attention from my imaginary world back to the real one. Which was generally several times a day.) When my imagination took off, the house could burn down around me and I’d never know it. There wasn’t anything wrong with my real world—I actually had a great family and life. But my mind never stayed settled there.

Barbara Taylor Bradford once said, “You can’t be a novelist if you can’t imagine things happening that have never happened; you need to be a really good liar. A novel is a monumental lie that has the ring of truth.”

The most common phrase spoken to me as a kid: “You’re such a liar.”

I didn’t consider myself a liar, even though I knew a clown didn’t ride the bull across the street every night, and there weren’t lions living in the trees behind my house, and I couldn’t fly three nights a month. And I knew the people I told such things to didn’t believe it, either.

But I couldn’t understand why all the books I read were fine, but when I told a story, I was a liar. Maybe if my family had ever used the phrase “telling a story” for a lie, I might have caught on sooner. But we never did. There were stories, and there lies, and it took me a long time to figure out the difference. For years, I was just looking for someone to play along with my stories. No one ever did. I was just a liar.

I’ve learned to give my stories that “ring of truth,” so now instead of being a liar, I can be a writer—as I was, evidently, always meant to be.

Need More Time to Read? Try These 6 Tips Inspired by Lemony Snicket

“It is likely I will die next to a pile of things I was meaning to read.” ~Lemony Snicket

Most of us have a (fantastically long) list of books to read, and oh-so-little time in which to read them—especially if we’re trying to diversity our reading or meet a challenge. Here are a half-dozen ways to sneak more words into our day, inspired by Lemony Snicket. One of his quotes appears at the end of each tip.

1. Keep a book with you at all times. Not only will you be able to read a page or two while waiting in line or on your break, you’ll prove yourself trustworthy. “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

2. Plan on it. It’s as true with reading as anything else: you have to schedule important things or they get crowded out. Whether it’s during morning coffee or before bed, find a time and stick to it. “Wicked people never have time for reading. It’s one of the reasons for their wickedness.”

3. Don’t stick with it. Yes, you read that correctly. If you have to force yourself to read a particular book, ditch it. There are too many good things to read to waste time on the other stuff. “…what you don’t read is often as important as what you do read.”

4. Take a book to the gym and read while you’re treading or climbing. If the thought of that induces motion sickness, make it an audio book. “Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.” (Isn’t exercise a form of running for your life?)

5. Get a book of poetry (or essays or short stories). These generally contain pieces short enough to read in minutes, but with enough meat in the words to chew on for hours. Not a fan of poetry? All the more reason! “Reading poetry, even if you are only reading to find a secret message within its words, can often give one a feeling of power…”

6. Make yourself accountable by partnering with a friend. Keep it mellow with a discussion over coffee when you’ve both finished, or up the energy by seeing who can finish the book first, with the loser treating the winner to lunch. “‘I’m not a stranger,’ I said, and pointed to his book. ‘I read the same authors you do.’”

What I Want for Christmas

Every year at this time, people begin asking what I want for Christmas. Probably most of you respond to this question the way I do: Don’t get me anything, I have everything I need, all I want is your friendship, make a donation somewhere instead… Right?

But throughout this year, I’ve realized that there is something I want. I’m not talking about world peace and those things that all of us want all the time. I’m talking about an actual gift. Something personal. Something I truly desire. Yearn for. Downright covet.

It doesn’t cost a thing but time, and only a few seconds of that. It doesn’t even require talking to anyone.

So what is it?

Book reviews.

Reviews of my books.

Reviews of my press’s books.

Reviews of my friends’ books, my colleagues’ books, and even books by authors I don’t know.

Book reviews are so vital to authors. It’s practically impossible to overstate how important they are.

And it doesn’t have to be a whole page like when you were in school. Just a few words (I think Amazon requires 6. Not sure if GoodReads has a limit.) is all it takes.

So please, if a book touches you, leave a review on GoodReads or Amazon. Change an author’s life for Christmas. 😊

Something to Read

It’s that time of year. Lists to make shopping for holiday presents easier will appear with increasing frequency over the next few weeks.

For holiday (and birthday) gift-giving, I love the old saying Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

This post is to help you find that “something to read” for everyone on your list—including yourself. Some of these are new books; some are older. Most are not well known, so you’ll be helping your friends discover great new authors.

Picture book for the very young: Rockefeller by Donna Looper, illustrated by Rachel Hancock – In this uplifting tale children will meet the owl who lived in the 2020 Rockefeller Square Christmas Tree.

Chapter book for elementary-school children: What’s Up, Cody? by Brenda O’Bannion, illustrated by Katie Quinlivan – It’s a sad fact that most children will face a bully at some point. In this charming book, they can learn along with Cody, a young cowbird, what actions to take when that happens.

Middle grade: Stolen Whinnies by Wendi Threlkeld – A girl with a stutter meets a miniature horse that lost its voice in a mountain lion attack. Inspired by a true story.

Time Game series by D.A. Featherling – Twelve-year-old twins discover a game that lets them travel through time to solve mysteries.

Young adult: Hannah: The Lighthouse Girl of Newfoundland by Don Ladolcetta – In the tradition of Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables, a spirited girl grows into a confident young woman despite hardships.

The Exiled Trilogy by Katherine Barger – Nyssa, a young dream interpreter, races to save her family and others from an evil dictator.

Mystery: Smiley and McBlythe series by Bruce Hammack – How does a blind detective solve mysteries? It’s not a joke—it’s a fascinating twist on solving crime.

Agatha’s Amish B&B series by Vannetta Chapman – Cozy mysteries solved by an Amish B&B owner and her neighbor, a retired police detective.

Romance: Ranchers of Gabriel Bend series by Myra Johnson – Forbidden love between a cowboy of Hispanic heritage and a white ranch owner.

Historical: Women of Monterey series by Marilyn Read and Cheryl Spears Waugh – An aristocratic woman and a Native American face lives of turmoil in 1700s California. Also their book Beneath the Texas Sky is a great western.

Thriller: Disposable Souls by Kellie L Fuller – When Zoey uncovers a human trafficking ring, the perpetrators take her. Inspired by a true story.

Memoir/biography: Do Not Disclose by Leora Krygier – A second-generation Holocaust survivor discovers family secrets within secrets.

Memoir that reads like fiction: By and By, I Reckon by Brenda O’Bannion – A parallel memoir in which the connection between Leola and her granddaughter spills out in similar stories of poverty, love, faith, and resilience.

History: The 5th Little Girl by Tracy Snipe in conversation with Sarah Collins Rudolph – The experiences of a survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 inlaid to the story of domestic terrorism and the government’s response.

Poetry: Sweet Water edited by Yvonne Blomer – Poets across the US, Canada, and the UK write of water and life.

For your book club: Sousanna: The Lost Daughter by Sousanna Stratmann – Five-year-old Sousanna is taken from her loving Greek home to a foreign place where, unknown to her parents, she’s adopted by an American couple. Based on a true story.

For writers: Understanding Copyright, Authors Edition by Teresa Lynn (yep, me) – What authors need to know about copyright, fair use, and more.

For travelers: Travel Tales series by Winnie Bowen – a peek into the diary of a world traveler.

For people with no time to read: Try an anthology, such as Living on Covid-time. Or, an audio book. Sousanna is available on Audible.

There should be something here for anyone on your list. And no fighting crowds!

Plagiarizing My Own Work

Many years ago, I came across an idea for a beautiful allegory. I took that idea, and wrote that beautiful allegory.

At the same time, a dear friend had a baby, and asked for writings that could be shared with the child as she grew up. I gave her a few things, including the allegory.

Also at the same time, an organization we were both part of had a writing contest.

Unbeknownst to me, my friend submitted my allegory.

It won.

I declined the prize, because the original idea was not my own.

I didn’t think much more about it. It never occurred to me that the piece was now “out there,” having been published as the winning piece (before I knew anything about it).

Fast forward a couple decades, more or less.

Editing a work for a client, I looked up a reference to something in another book to fact-check it. The reference was correct.

But on the next page, there was my allegory.

Interesting.

I checked before and after the piece, and the copyright page. No credit to anyone, or mention that the allegory was not her own. (The book was written by the wife of a very-big-name pastor and published by his ministry, several years ago.)

Well, I know how these things go. Friend passes it to friend, it gets posted online somewhere…it’s feathers in the wind. That author and/or publisher may have tried to find the source, and couldn’t. They may have thought it was public domain.

Whatever. I’m not upset about it. If they’d found me and asked, I’d have given permission anyway.

(FYI, though: no legitimate publisher will print something without knowing where it came from. So don’t try it!)

Point is, the beautiful allegory is out, under someone else’s name. Even that doesn’t bother me.

What does bother me is that I can’t use it, or I could be accused of plagiarizing my own work!

Now isn’t that something?

Mama Hen’s Scratchings: T is for Time

Well, I obviously didn’t meet the April blogging challenge. Time and chance happen, and did in a big way this month.

Not gonna wallow in excuses or even apologize. It was beyond my control.

And now I’m so far behind in real-world stuff that I’m tossing in the towel on this challenge now. I’ll be back when I can. See you then.

Mama Hen’s Scratchings: M is for Movies

Let’s talk about movies since we’re all stuck inside! From the FB post going around now:

Copy, paste, and change your answers. You can’t say the same movie twice.

Favorite movie: Anne of Green Gables; Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken; The Road Home (Chinese, subtitled)

Movie that makes you remember your childhood: Old Yeller and Rikki Tikki Tavi

Favorite Tom Hanks movie: That he was the star of? Forest Gump. That he acted in? Catch Me if You Can and A League of Their Own. That he produced? Too many to list.

Movie that makes you cry: Martian Child; The Art of Racing  in the Rain; Return to Me

Favorite 80’s movie: Back to the Future

Favorite B&W movie: Sergeant York; Adam’s Rib; Arsenic and Old Lace

Favorite comedy: The Jerk; Mrs. Doubtfire

Favorite sports movie: The Natural; Seabiscuit; Jerry Maguire

Favorite courtroom movie: 12 Angry Men; The Winslow Boy

Favorite “teen” movie: The Outsiders

Favorite gangster movie: Public Enemies (I admit I haven’t seen many gangster movies)

Favorite horror movie: The Village; Sixth Sense (Do those count as horror?)

Most overrated movie: Fargo; The Big Lebowski

Movie you can watch over and over: Stepmom; Ever After

Movie with the best soundtrack: Footloose; Lion King; O Brother, Where Art Thou; Dirty Dancing

Movie you’re embarrassed that you love: ? Can’t think of any.

Favorite Halloween movie: The Crucible; any Good Witch movie (Hallmark)

Favorite Christmas movie: Meet Me in St Louis; The Holiday

Favorite sequel: The Bourne Supremacy

Favorite musical movie: Mama Mia!; The Sound of Music; Brigadoon

Favorite war movie: Hacksaw Ridge; Shining Through; 1917

Favorite western: The Hostiles; 3:10 to Yuma (2007 version)

Favorite romantic comedy: The American President; Pretty Woman

Favorite sci-fi: The Martian

Favorite comic book movie: Batman Begins

Best movie you’ve seen recently: Ford v Farrari and Little Women

 

Today’s post is number 15 in the A-Z challenge.

Mama Hen’s Scratchings: G is for Guest, Edgar

Have You Earned Your Tomorrow

By Edgar Guest

 

Is anybody happier because you passed his way?
Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?
This day is almost over, and its toiling time is through;
Is there anyone to utter now a kindly word of you?

Did you give a cheerful greeting to the friend who came along?
Or a churlish sort of “Howdy” and then vanish in the throng?
Were you selfish pure and simple as you rushed along the way,
Or is someone mighty grateful for a deed you did today?

Can you say tonight, in parting with the day that’s slipping fast,
That you helped a single brother of the many that you passed?
Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said;
Does a man whose hopes were fading now with courage look ahead?

Did you waste the day, or lose it, was it well or sorely spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent?
As you close your eyes in slumber do you think that God would say,
You have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today?

 

This post is part of the A-Z Challenge.

Mama Hen’s Scratchings: E & F = Editing Fiction

A line in the movie Serialized struck me like a snake on a mouse. Three set-up lines first, then the zinger:

Publisher: We don’t pay advances anymore.

Author: Then how is an author supposed to make a living?

Publisher: Most of our clients teach creative writing.

Author: So in order to make up for the fact that it’s virtually impossible to make a living as an author, you want me to take money from other people by teaching them how to not make any money, too.

Ignoring the bad grammar, that is, sadly, all too true.

I know a LOT of authors. Big-name authors, even. NYT-bestselling authors.

And virtually all of them—I can think of only two exceptions—make money from other jobs in addition to their writing.

Most of them teach creative writing. Some tutor or teach related subjects like English or work as editors (as I do). Others do other things. The point is, they work at something in addition to writing.

(Or they did until retirement and now receive a pension/ss/etc. in addition to their writing income. And a few have a spouse/partner who earns enough income that the author doesn’t need to earn any.)

Want to be a writer? That’s great. Society will benefit from your voice, as it does all voices. But be prepared to work at something else as well. You might be one of the lucky exceptions, but best to be ready for the likely alternative.

‘I wrote what I know. It’s about a frustrated author being rejected all the time.’

This post is part of the A-Z challenge.

Mama Hen’s Scratchings: D is for Dandelion

What is it people have against these little yellow flowers?

Once considered among the most desirable of herbs, today the dandelion is widely reviled as an obnoxious weed. But it’s a valuable plant.

Dandelions are actually good for your lawn and garden.

  • Their wide-spreading roots loosen hard-packed soil and help aerate the earth.
  • Their taproots bring up nutrients for shallow-rooting plants.
  • They help fruit to ripen by attracting pollinating insects and releasing ethylene

Dandelions are good for wildlife.

  • They’re an important nectar and/or pollen source for many early-emerging pollinators, including honeybees and several butterfly species.
  • The seeds are an important food source for certain birds.
  • Many other animals eat the plant.

More importantly, dandelions are good for YOU. The entire plant is edible and nutritious.

  • Dandelion greens are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K, and also contain moderate amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, lutein, inulin, and manganese.
  • The raw flowers contain diverse phytochemicals, including polyphenols and
  • The roots contain a substantial amount of the prebiotic fiber inulin.

Humans have taken advantage of these nutritious plants for millennia. Dandelions were used by ancient Egyptians, by the Greeks and the Romans, and in traditional Chinese and Native American medicines:

Hand-colored print in A Curious Herbal, 1737, by Elizabeth Blackwell

  • as a diuretic;
  • to improve liver and gallbladder health;
  • to boost the immune system;
  • to support healthy hormone levels;
  • to address warts, acne, and other skin inflammation;
  • to improve digestion and overall gut health;
  • to support the health of people who have cancer;
  • to relieve headaches, menstrual cramps, backaches, stomach aches and even depression.

No wonder that from ancient times through the nineteenth century, people pulled the grass from their yards and gardens so dandelions could grow!

So, how can we take advantage of the many benefits of dandelions?

  • Be sure any you pick have not been sprayed with pesticide, insecticide, or any other poison!
  • Wash them well.
  • Use the greens in salads or quiches, on sandwiches, or sautéed as a side dish—anywhere you’d use spinach or other greens, dandelion greens (both leaves and stalks) can be used. The younger and smaller they are, the more tender and less bitter they’ll be.
  • Put the blossoms (before seeding, for best results) in salads, or fry as fritters.
  • Wine can be made from the blossoms.
  • Dry and roast the roots to make root beer or coffee-type beverages.
  • An internet search will yield many tasty recipes.

Note: Dandelion’s strong diuretic activity makes it an inappropriate choice for someone with low blood pressure or excessive urination.

Non-food uses:

  • The yellow flowers can be dried and ground into a yellow-pigmented powder and used as a dye.
  • The latex, or sap, from the dandelion stems can be used topically on warts or other skin issues. Apply several times daily for best results.
  • The latex produced exhibits the same quality as the natural rubber from rubber trees. Scientists have developed a dandelion cultivar suitable for the commercial production of natural rubber.

And, of course, you can make a wish before blowing a seed-blossom. Who knows; maybe it’ll come true.

Best of all: you can probably find plenty growing in your own and neighbors’ yards, free!

This post is day 4 of the A-Z challenge.