Confession Time

It’s confession time. I have watched some of the TV news and TV reality shows about hoarders with disgust. How could anyone allow themselves to get into that kind of a muddle, I ask myself. Is it a physical problem? Maybe they don’t have the time, energy or ability to take care of this stuff. Perhaps, but I’m guessing that time, energy and ability are only small pieces of this puzzle. Well then, I think, maybe it’s something genetic? Hmm, maybe, but if it were you’d think their children would be exhibiting the same symptoms instead of turning the public spotlight of television on them. No, it must be something psychological, an addition perhaps?

My Realization

This weekend I went to my office to work and could not find a flat surface. I made excuses: working lots of overtime lately, lots of family stuff going on, etc. etc. All I needed was a little space, so I moved things around. I sat down to work, looked around my office, and that’s when it hit me: I am a hoarder.

No, I don’t hoard animals. (Though some would say three dogs are two too many). And I don’t have piles and piles of plastic bins full of stuff. (I don’t consider two or three a pile, do you?) No, nothing so exotic.

image of tall stacks of paper--my confession time.

My desk is piled high with paper, books, things I was going to put away and somehow found their way in here. But the worst pile of all is the paper. Full-sized notebook paper, typing paper, post-it notes, pieces of napkins, receipts, scraps of envelopes, and I don’t know what else. They’ve got notes on them-lists of things to do, ideas for stories, snippets of overheard conversations, goals, shopping lists, pieces of code that are useful. Sigh.

I hoard paper.  It piles up to the point of being near avalanche proportions as you can see (please, don’t judge): I hate to throw stuff out, especially if it has something written on it! I might need it someday. (Now, now.  I asked you not to judge!)

I have tried to conquer this addiction habit many times.  I’ve read ‘how to organize yourself books ad nauseum. The only piece of advice that has stuck in my head is “handle each paper only once.” Only once?! Come on now, I’m a writer. I write the first draft on the computer, but I edit on paper.  Not only that, my manuscript pages go through multiple revisions, meaning multiple printouts.  And, confession time, since the manuscript is my first priority, all those bills and receipts, and lists that are in that pile get shuffled multiple times.

Addressing the Problem

I spent a good portion of Sunday going through papers. The avalanche reduced to a foothill so I think I did a pretty good job of it. But I know fear that that in three or four weeks I’ll have more stacks of paper.

I won’t allow myself to get to the unhealthy proportions that we see on TV, but I need to nip this in the bud. I am confessing to you, part of my twelve-step self-assigned program to overcome my hoarding of paper. And I feel so much better now that I’ve gone public. I’m sure I’ll be able to overcome this.

Well, I was sure until I went to the basement to start laundry. No-really it’s not as cluttered and disorganized as it looks. I don’t have a hoarder’s addiction. It’s not my fault. Really. It’s-it’s genetic! And if you believe that you might want to read “It’s not the Dust Bunny’s Fault.

Tell me I’m not alone. It’s confession time. What hoarding gene do you have?

Fascination Friday: A Virtual Memorial Tour

It’s Friday Fascinations and Veteran’s Day. So the links I’ve posted are a virtual memorial tour. A small tribute to the Courage, Honor, Patriotism, and Sacrifice of our men and women of who have served our country.

The Great War

The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial is in Kansas City, MO. It is the only American museum dedicated solely to preserving objects from The Great War which lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918 (does that date sound familiar?). Visitors enter the museum by crossing a glass bridge suspended over a field of 9000 red poppies. Each poppy represents a combatant fatality. The museum’s displays, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits tell the comprehensive story of the war through the eyewitness testimony of people who experienced the war. There are letters, diaries, videos, and newspaper reports. Some of these will bring a tear to your eye. They did mine. It’s an impressive collection and far more material than you can possibly cover in a day. The museum also houses a 20,000 square foot research area that is open to the public.virtual memorial tour, Kansas City WWI museum, lynettemburrows.com

World War II

Depending upon which source you go to, somewhere between 70 – 100 million military personnel were mobilized during the second World War II. This conflict was fought from 1939 to 1945. (Isn’t conflict a nice, clean, distant word to use when talking about a war that had the distinction of the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare and the deadliest in human history with 50-70 million fatalities.) Go here for Digital history’s guided reading list about WWII. And you’ll find 10 things you may not know about World War II.

The Korean War

The Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953) belonged to my father’s generation. Korea had been ruled by Japan until the end of World War II when the country became part of the spoils of war. It was divided at the 38th Parallel. American Troops occupied the southern half of the peninsula and Soviet troops occupied the northern part. That set up was a formula for war. For more information about this war go to History.com. For one man who would do it again if he had to go here.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was my generations’ war. It was the first time war was shown on the television screen. The consequences were enormous. I hope that American’s will never be so naive about war nor so disrespectful of her soldiers ever again. Please go here for more information. And if you are ever in Washington DC visit the wall, one of the most visually stunning memorials I’ve ever seen.

POWs and MIAs

only woman awarded Congressional Medal of Honor, virtual memorial tour, lynettemburrows.com

This tribute must include our prisoners of war (POWs) and our missing in action (MIAs). For biographies and information about POWs go to American Ex-POWs. A site specifically about women prisoners of war is here. And please, in your virtual memorial tour, be sure to visit Never Forgotten.

A Tribute to Heroes

This has been an emotional tour for me. My husband calls me a sap, a marshmallow. I can’t help it. My heart breaks for all of the lost, the wounded (physical and emotional), and the friends and families of all those men and women.

But my heart also busts with pride because Americans choose to fight, to serve because they believe in the ideals of this country and they hold our flag proudly. I say thank you for your service every time I meet or see a person in military uniform. Today I get the great honor of saying to all those who have served or are currently in service, to the ones I haven’t met and to their families: THANK YOU for your service to our great country. And now I close with one of my all-time favorite music videos honoring and celebrating veterans: “Here’s to the Heroes: a Military Tribute.”

A Wrinkle in Time: the Movie that Wasn’t

I am grateful for all books. There are tons of books that I have loved. Then, there are those that I reread every year or two: Misty of Chincoteague, Little Women, and Dune. And then there is the book that made me believe: A Wrinkle in Time the Movie that Wasn’t.

For me, these books are like good friends who share a hug, a laugh, a feeling of hope or inspiration. There is a little of the wise mentor in each of the books. Each book showed me new ways to perceive the world around me. Each of these books spoke to me so strongly that I experienced more than a good read.

Grateful For These Books

Misty of Chincoteague

Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague spoke to me as a little girl longing for a horse of her own. My imagination enriched the story with layers of characterization and detail. Then, when I read it as an adult I found the story sweet, but disappointingly not as profound as I had remembered. But this book belongs on this list, because of the way the words on the page blossomed in my mind. I hope one day to write a story that has the power to compel a reader to make it more than it is.

Little Women

I read Little Women by Louise Alcott as a preteen. The characters, their lives, their dreams pervaded my own preteen life. I identified with Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth and adopted some of their mannerisms. I wished for hair as long as Jo’s so I could cut it off to make money for my family. I’ve reread and reread the same paperback book until it literally fell apart. I still love the March family and their story. A rich story with layers that reveal a different nuance every time I read it, it will always be near the top of my list.

Dune

I read Dune by Frank Herbert as a young adult and was immediately swept away into a world where water was precious. Paul’s growth from youth to messiah for the Fremen mesmerized me. The society captivated me. The growth of faith echoed a maturation of my own faith (not that I think I am or have any desire to be, a messiah!). The book resonated with me physically. While I read it I was acutely aware of wasting water. Rereading that book I admire how the author’s use of words continues to sweep me up in the saga. Yes, it’s very near the top of my list as well, but not the first on the list.

A Wrinkle in Time: the movie that wasn’t

A Wrinkle in Time, the movie that wasn't. Until now.

No, I would have to say that the very top of my list is occupied by A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I read it shortly after it had been published (1962). All I had to do was read the first page which begins with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Meg Murry is sitting on the edge of her bed, wrapped in an old quilt and shakes with the house in the storm. But it wasn’t the storm that had upset her, it was the storm on top of everything else. On top of everything that was wrong with her.

Oh, boy. Meg was just like me. She wasn’t measuring up. She felt dumb and out of place and out of sorts. I had moved five or six times by the time I read this book. Man, I could relate to Meg’s feelings. And I envied her, her parents seemed oh, so much more sympathetic and supportive than mine. (My parents just didn’t understand). But Meg had a problem, her father was missing. And if you know the story, you know Meg gets a visit from Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Meg and her brother, Charles, tesser and go to another dimension. There they battle a great evil. There are many memorable scenes in this story, not the least of which e is the subdivision where every house looks the same, homeowners and children act in unison, creating an eerie feeling of wrongness.

In the end, it is only with great love that Meg is able to triumph over evil and save her brother and her father.

The Movie that Wasn’t

This story played so vividly in my mind, that even as an adult I was convinced that I had seen a movie of it. When discussing this book with a writer friend, I insisted the movie had existed. I even said it featured the Pete Seeger song, “Little Boxes.” No, there was no movie — at least, not during my childhood. Seeger’s song coincidentally came out at the same time as L’Engle’s book, though it fits the subdivision scene as if it were made for it.

The message of A Wrinkle in Time, that great love can overcome great evil, found it’s way into my heart. It gave me hope through dark times. And when the dark corners of my life grow darker and I need a reminder, I return to the book. It gives me strength. It reminds me that if you find it within yourself to love — really love — you will triumph. What greater message could there be?

With the message, the characters, and the ‘movie,’ the top of my list belongs to A Wrinkle in Time. It’s the number one book for which I am grateful.

What book is at the top of your list of books for which you are grateful and why?

If you liked these short reviews of books I’ve read, you might like my other reviews:

Top Ten Science Fiction Novels I Love to Re-Read

Going to Mars: Word by Word

LATE BREAKING NEWS!

My post A Wrinkle in Time: the Movie that Wasn’t is still true, but a movie is being made!  I can’t wait to see it. Check out the trailer below.

 

(This post, originally written in 2011, has been edited to remove references to the giveaway contest hosted by author Beth Revis that ran at the time this post was written. She asked bloggers to write about books for which you are grateful. It was also edited to share my excitement about the upcoming movie.)

From Giant Lego Man to Tiny Ninjas

It’s Friday and time for a collection of the weird and wonderful from across the web from the Giant Lego Man to Tiny Ninjas.

Giant Lego Man washes ashore

Giant Lego Man to Tiny Ninjas, lynettemburrows.com

Do you really want a world that’s totally honest?

Which came first Fact or Fiction? Why Science Fiction, of course!

Youth ready for blast-off

Is Big Brother in your pocket?

Giant Lego Man to Tiny Ninjas, lynettemburrows.com
Thanks to copyright free images. Photo by Paolo Neo.

UFOs as your home away from home

Tiny Ninjas

Giant Legos to Tiny Ninjas, lynettemburrows.com
Armed and curious … children in their costumes. Photo: Reuters

Two Secret Rules for Writers

All sorts of people, from experienced professionals to the newest of neophytes, offer up rules on how to write, what to write, the order of scenes, types of characters, rules about rules for every flavor of writing from nonfiction to flash fiction. The rules offered by one author are often contradicted by the rules of another. The new writer searches and sorts through all of this looking for the secret rules for writers. She seems to think there is a secret out there that once unveiled will lead her down a petal-strewn path to a shiny finished manuscript and a publication contract. Here are two secret rules for writers that shouldn’t be a secret.

All sorts of people, from experienced professionals to the newest of neophytes, offer up rules on how to write, what to write, the order of scenes, types of characters, rules about rules for every flavor of writing from nonfiction to flash fiction. The rules offered by one author are often contradicted by the rules of another. The new writer searches and sorts through all of this looking for the secret rules for writers. She seems to think there is a secret out there that once unveiled will lead her down a petal-strewn path to a shiny finished manuscript and a publication contract. lynettemburrows.com
A nib of a Parker-Duofold-Pinstripe International fountain pen, © Parker Pens, creative commons

The secret rule is:   

There is no secret.  Nor is there one, right path to publication.  The only real rules for writing are those of grammar, syntax, and editor guidelines.  And even those rules can be broken if you have an understanding of what you are doing and why.

Is there harm in reading the advice of others?  Possibly.  If your attempt to “follow the rules” drowns your muse in the overload of information, freezes her in the quandary between opposing rules, or blocks her with rules that don’t apply.

I propose that as you immerse yourself in the “how-to” books and articles that you will undoubtedly seek out, make two hard and fast rules.

Rule one: The story trumps all rules.

There are all kinds of good books and articles out there on how to write a story, I won’t rehash any of that in this article.  But there is very little out there to help the budding novelist sort the wheat from the shaft.  That brings us to:

Rule two:

All how-to advice is one of two things: a guideline or a tool.

A tool is any method by which you can help yourself discover the novel within.  A writer needs many tools in order to achieve a strong, well-written final draft.  You, the writer, get to pick and choose which tools you need and when you need them.

A guideline is a principle that sets an indication of a course of action as opposed to a rule which is a principle governing conduct, action, procedures, etc.  The difference is huge.

Rules confine you to one course of action. Guidelines give you boundaries and limitations in order to achieve a goal, but do not force your muse on down a particular line.  And just as with tools, the writer decides which guidelines apply to his story.  How do you decide which guidelines to use?  That’s a post for another day.  In the meantime, find tools and guidelines that allow your muse to play and be creative.

Want to read about some tools and guidelines? Try a few of these:

The Best Writer’s Tool

Stories Need Structure

Re-Visioning Your Story

The two secret rules for writers are not a secret — develop a selection of tools and guidelines and free your muse to write the best story you can.