Monday, June 27, 2011

Site of Rohwer Internment Camp Gets Grant Money

The KUAR website has announced that Arkansas will receive $400,000 in Federal grant money for its projects devoted to the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

I visited Rohwer in November, 2009 as part of my research for my novel, BROKEN DOLLS. In my blog post, "Rohwer Whispers," I wrote about visiting the site--the impact it had, the secrets it shared.

KUAR's article quoted Dr. Johanna Miller Lewis, Project Director of Life Interrupted: The Rohwer Cemetery Preservation Project:

“We need to learn from our mistakes and I think it is especially important in Arkansas because civil rights is so much an important part of the state’s history and this is just another chapter of civil rights in the state of Arkansas.”

To learn from our mistakes, we must remember our mistakes. It is the reason I wrote BROKEN DOLLS.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Giant Step Forward

I am very happy to say that I have taken a giant step forward on my metaphorical path toward publication of BROKEN DOLLS.

I . . . have . . . an . . . agent! Kathleen Anderson of Anderson Literary Management has offered to represent me.

The querying process can be a daunting one. Often, it is a writer's first exposure of her manuscript to the "outside world" -- the world that extends beyond the bounds of family, friends and critique groups. So, when I received the email from Ms. Anderson, I was thrilled.

Thrilled? Okay, as I writer, I feel the need to "show" - not "tell."

It was a bright, sunny morning, and not a creature stirred. Not my husband. Not my two dogs. The only sound in the house was the hum of my computer and the slurp of my coffee. I opened my email, and there it was - an email from Kathleen Anderson.

A month before, I'd been fortunate to shepherd her at this year's OWFI Conference, and after being able to spend much more time with her than the typical 5-minute pitch, she asked me to send the full manuscript.

So there I was, holding my breath in front of my computer monitor. I'm not sure if I hesitated to open it because I was trying to work up the nerve, or because I wanted to revel in a moment that hovered between possibility and defeat.

Finally, I did it. I opened it. Then, I exhaled. From the beginning of her email, I savored each word, though I will admit, I kept waiting for the big "but." She did suggest some changes and said the manuscript would need some editing, but that dreaded word "but" -- the word that so often precedes "it's not quite right for me" never appeared.

When the formal agreement arrived by mail a few days later, well . . . you can see how excited I was.

So, I continue forward on my path, knowing there may yet be steps backward that will require two steps forward. But today, I'm skipping.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Text Vexed

Don't worry - I was parked!
I'll admit to a terrible secret about myself. I have - though on very few occasions - texted while driving. On more frequent occasions, I have read a text or email while driving, but decided that replying could wait until I parked my car.

Look at these statistics, taken from http://www.distraction.gov/:

•20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA).

•Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashed, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)


•In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (FARS and GES)


•The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. (NHTSA)


•Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)


•Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)

How much more do I need to know to "get smart" and quit feeling invincible?
 
In the last few days, I've learned my lesson. On TWO separate incidences, while driving on a two-lane road, an oncoming car crossed over into my lane. I had to honk my horn long and hard to get the driver's attention to move back in to his lane. On the first occasion, if he hadn't returned to his lane, I would have been forced down into a rather steep embankment.
 
I feel sure the first driver was distracted by his cell phone, though due to windshield glare, I can't be sure about the other driver. But, that's not really the point. All I could think about was that if I had been distracted in any way by my cell phone, whether talking, reading an email or most certainly, texting, I wouldn't have been able to react quickly enough, and I'm sure there would have been a head-on collision.
 
If you ever have the chance to stand on a street corner and watch cars go by, you'd be amazed at the percentage of drivers who are doing SOMETHING with their cell phones.
 
So, even if you think you can drive and manipulate a cell phone at the same time (you can't), and even if you think you are somehow protected from one day falling into the above statistics, maybe it will help you to know that with all the other "make-believe-invincibles" driving around with cell phones, you need every bit of your attention to LOOK OUT FOR THEM!!
 
This post is for everybody. But if I can't get everybody to listen, at least I hope I've gotten my message across to my loved ones and friends.
 
DRIVE ATTENTIVELY!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"REAL SIMPLE Quote of the Day" Post: Relating

“Just because we were related
didn’t mean we were any good
at understanding each other.”
                   ― Anne Tyler

Circa 1973

I receive a "Quote of the Day" each morning from Real Simple magazine. This morning's quote immediately brought to mind my relationship with my sister, Cyndie. Being the oldest sibling, I was the "no fun disciplinarian" of the bunch, and the quote has probably been appropriate for each of my siblings at one time or another in our lives. But Cyndie is who first came to mind.
Since I was the oldest and she was next oldest, we were destined to share bedrooms all of our childhood, and you could not have thrown two more different girls together in a small space. "The Odd Couple" does not sufficiently describe us.

Cyndie was the free spirit - the "Oscar Madison" - the popular party girl with lots of friends. Probably her attitude about high school was to enjoy, to have fun, to "find" herself.

I, on the very opposite other hand, was the "Felix Ungar" - always living by the code of "should", neat freak, studious and hidden behind a wall of what was expected.

Though our tastes in clothes and boys were so different we thought the other to be "gross," somehow we still managed to argue about not "borrowing" each other's clothes. Fortunately, we never "borrowed" each other's boyfriends - not that I know of anyway.

A perfect example of the antagonistic nature of our sisterhood:  Several times after a date, one or the other of us extended beyond the bounds of our curfew, at which time the front door would be locked. Of course, the very few times it happened to me, I assumed the resolution to my dilemma was to climb the back fence and knock on our bedroom window. Surely my dear sister would let me in. No way.

But I didn't let her in either.

I'm not sure what Cyndie's reaction to that "knock-knock" cry for help was, but mine was to lie in bed snickering and thinking, "Serves her right."

Though we are still as different as can be, our story has a happy ending. From previous blogs, (Sister Left, Sister Right) many of you know that Cyndie's political leanings are to the left, and mine are to the right. When we travel, she prefers to dive in to the culture - to meet residents, even live with them. I prefer to remain with a group and stay in a hotel. She is still a free spirit, and I still work to tear down the wall of expectations.

But today, we are as close as sisters can (and "should") be. We admire, respect and learn from each other. It has taught me that whether we're related or not, accepting and learning from our differences in fact, leads to better understanding.
Circa 2009

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Love

Jan with Mother-of-the-Groom, Susan
I attended the wedding of Drew and Anne-Elise this weekend. Drew is the son of my "life" friend, Susan. We have shared the lives of our children grorwing up from the time they were in high chairs; the trials and tribulations of toddlerdom through teenagerhood, through proud college years, and now weddings. One day, we'll share the joys of being grandparents.

Our little girls,
Meredith and Andi

Our grown-up girls,
Andi and Meredith
The wedding and reception were beautiful; the couple loving, loved and lovely. It was a weekend of tears, smiles, laughter, memories, dreams. I love weddings.

One thing I will always remember about this very special wedding was what the priest said prior to beginning the ceremony, before the groom walked in, before the bridesmaids' procession, and before the beautiful bride, Anne-Elise, walked down the aisle with her beaming father.

The priest walked to the front of the church and welcomed everybody. He said, "I would like to welcome all Catholics. Welcome to all Christians. Welcome Jews and Muslims. Welcome to those of you who believe in the Asian religions."

I must admit, I began to wonder how he would welcome those who might not believe in any religion.

Then, he said, "And for those of you who do not believe, we welcome you, too. For today, what unites us is that we all believe in love."

At that moment, surrounded by many people I'd never met before, I felt a connection to everyone. And I thought about how nice it was for a couple to begin their lives with such a message - a message that love could unite us all, if only we would believe that to be true.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Synonyms for Hate

I hate crabgrass. But then, I also hate the word hate.

So, that was my minor dilemma yesterday morning, as I clawed at the small, hard, rocky patch of crabgrass I intended to replace with flowers. I was not in the best of moods anyway, having spent the previous hour trying to re-edit Broken Dolls amidst one whiney puppy (Jubie) who was not happy that she could not get into our bedroom to greet Stephen with a "good morning pounce." But he had a cold and hadn't slept well the night before, so I wanted to let him sleep in. The other culprit to my concentration was Bear, who couldn't decide if he wanted to be inside or outside.

Why not just put them outside, you might rightly ask? Unfortunately, we have a door to the outside in our bedroom, and if unsuccessful with their front door scratches and whines, they will promptly head to the bedroom door to scratch and whine - more disturbances to Stephen's sleep.

Anyway, back to hating crabgrass. Finally, I threw my hands up and decided morning was a good time to work in the garden anyway. As my writer friends might surmise, I was not very happy and figured I could take it out on the crabgrass.

As I stooped over with my weeding tool in hand, vituperatively grasping and clawing at the long strands of stubborn, virulent grass, I decided I hated it. However, that thought was immediately followed by, "Hate is an ugly word. Come on, you're a writer. You can think of a better one than that."

So, I imagined myself in Word, right-clicking on the word "hate" to get the synonyms. I thought of disdain and detest. Now that I have access to Word, here are a few that are listed:

abhorrence
detestation
odium
revulsion

Unfortunately, these are all nouns. I needed a verb.

So, in writing this blog, I checked out the "hate" verbs on the Thesaurus page of dictionary.com. Here are a few of those:

abhor
abominate
loathe
shun

I like loathe. I LOATHE crabgrass.

As I gnashed my teeth with the thought, I decided hating-loathing-resenting-disdaining, was not a good frame of mind to be in at the start of the day. So my next thought was, "Come on Jan, think of something positive."

Hmmm . . . what could be positive about crabgrass??

Here's what I came up with:

1)  A blog! There's got to be a blog in this somewhere! How long has it been since you've posted a blog anyway, you naughty girl?

2)  A simile! There must be a way to use crabgrass as a simile in your writing.

Sachi knew her Christmas present had to be hidden somewhere in that closet, and like crabgrass, her curiosity spread to the deepest, darkest corners, insistent on choking out Mama's hiding place.

Not too bad, but perhaps a little contrived.

I continued to plunge my weed claw into the rocky soil, while earthworms squirmed around with every patch of dirt and grass I attacked. Though I tried to avoid the poor, squiggly creatures, a few became casualties of my war on crabgrass.

There was another simile. Editing my manuscript - removing clich├ęs, wordiness, awkward dialogue, purple prose - is like pulling literary crabgrass. Though it all needs to removed, it must be done with care, lest I kill the "earthworms" to the story.

Boy, oh boy. Only a writer could come up with that one. And that made me smile.