Coping

Debbie Delvaux

Staring at his shoes, not looking up to the world around him, just looking down. There is an ache in his body and the only way to fix the ache is to look for what had first brought him here to begin with.

It all was a slow and easy way to escape the reality that was around him when he was young, but now he is 28 and feeling 100. Why did he start to do it?

It was as all young people do to try to fit in their surroundings.  Now he is alone and looking down at nothing.  A foot in his view, he looked up to the leg that it is attached and could hear a voice ask what the time is. He just stared at the leg and didn’t say a thing.  

“I ask if you have the time?” He still stared at the leg and didn’t say a thing. The voice asked if he was okay.  Still no sound from him. Then, as he still looked down, a feeling of a hand is now on his shoulder, holding him in a way that a friend would hold another friend when they are down and out. 

“It’s okay and you will be okay, I know because I see that you want to live and yet there is no other way to not live. Siting at rock bottom is where you are at and yet you still want to live as others before you have done the one thing that you can not do and that was to die for what has brought you to this place.”  

He heard this and slowly looked up to see not a body that the leg belonged to, but instead a light that shone bright and powerful. He stared in awe and a sudden awareness that he was now looking at a spirit in the form of an angel. Of all of his catholic upbringing in the church, he now realized that he was sitting at the gate to heaven. 

“You are not dead but you are alive in the new world that you do want to live in. I can help you. I just need you to ask for help and then you can live to help others.” 

He looked at the glow and then started to get a feeling of immeasurable sadness and yet a sense of happiness around him. The want and the need to be with his family was intense and yet the thought of going back to them for help was something that he didn’t want to do because he hurt them in so many ways. 

“Yes, your family is hurting for you and have been praying for you since you left.”

He didn’t know what to say and he again looked down. Just then he stood up and grabbed the light and cried till there was nothing left in him.  

“I will do whatever there is to do so I can live again. Help me to get better, I want to live and I want to breathe and I want to see the world for what it truly is, a wonderful place to live in that is full of your glory!” 

He felt a sudden tug at his back and then jolt to his body, suddenly as he felt all of these things, he looked down now to see he is floating in the air and not touching the ground at all. 
He is so happy and yet he is so scared that this wonderful feeling is just but a feeling.  

The voice is now telling him to let go and let the wonder he is in help him get better. He stands taller and then says “Let me live”. 

“I will let you live, but let go and you will be born again.” 

He cries in triumph and lets go of the pain he is in, then falls to the ground and slips forever to the power of the light around him.  He comes around and stands up to see that the whole time he is sitting on the steps of a church and now realizes that he had come home after all. 

God had sent an angel to him when he was contemplating killing himself so as to not have to live in the hell he had fallen into. This being the season of holy birth and the season to be with family and friends, when you are hurting and not able to heal on your own, just let go and let God in to heal what you cannot do alone.  

For what it is worth to those that cannot heal, he is and always will be the one to go to when you are in trouble. 

The Journey of Writing

By Ruth Granger-Wellens

I just arrived home from a journey of a lifetime – driving to Alaska from Wisconsin! Well, my husband drove. In fact, he planned the whole trip – each route, each hotel reservation, each small tour we took to see glaciers and wildlife and – I rode along.   He read, studied, and talked to people who had done a similar trip. In the months and weeks leading up to our departure date, I tried very hard to read about where we were going.  But I just couldn’t get a picture in my head. When we started out, and as I rode along – waiting, wondering, anticipating – I realized that this trip was a lot like the journey of writing. 

 First there is the idea – like going to Alaska. As we traveled the roads, I didn’t know what was around any corner or beyond the hill or in the next town. I trusted that my husband was going in the right direction. I did some reading about the area we were in or going to while in the car, and, of course, I did a lot of observing and thinking.  I was never disappointed.

When we write, we first come up with the idea.  This is true whether writing a short story, nonfiction, a blog or a book. Then we begin the journey of writing. We have a direction to go in, hopefully with a sense of what the outcome will be, but we don’t know with absolute certainty how we will get there.  What will the characters do?  Where will the plot go?  What words will make the most sense so the meaning is as clear as it can be?  Our writing will take turns and detours, go up and down roads, see exquisite pictures, hit road blocks, and be rewritten many times before it arrives at its conclusion. 

Alaska was amazing; with hard work and good editing, our writing can also be amazing.      

Adding Tension to a Scene

By Terry Misfeldt

A young writer asked me about adding tension to a scene and how you do it. The simple response is to create stressful situations.

Of course, you have to understand what causes stress. Things like divorce, danger, disaster, and diagnosis of life-threatening diseases such as cancer are on the list.

Think about the television shows you’ve seen where two characters are driving in a car when there’s a sudden, violent collision…and the scene ends! You’re left wondering whether they survived, were severely injured, were intentionally rammed by an evil character, or merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When that happened in the Nashville series, the female lead was killed in the crash. It is a dramatic twist that, in some cases, can devastate the future of a program.

In a recent episode of The Rookie, Officer Nolan is under duress because his girlfriend thinks she’s pregnant and he’s not ready to be a parent again. He already has an older son. They break up when he tells her he doesn’t want more children yet.

Dangerous situations or impending peril add tension. Arguments in dialogue add stress. Think about things that make you tense and craft them into your scene.

An example for adding stress is if you create a scene where a woman is walking alone on a deserted street at night and suddenly hears footsteps behind her after she hears a car stop and the van’s sliding door creak open. Take it from there.

Questions & Tension

Here are excerpts a Guild member shared from a presentation about writing at the Wisconsin Writers Association (WWA) 2019 fall conference.

Good vs. Bad questions to ask while writing.

Good questions keep your reader reading.

            Why is this happening?

            What will happen next?

            What needs to happen to my point-of-view (POV) character(s)?

            What do my characters need, desire, fear, or hope for?

Bad questions cause your reader to give up, especially if they are confused.

            What’s selling?

            Will this get published?

            Why do I suck at this? (Always a bad question)

            What if I get something wrong?

            How do I sell this to an agent?

Maintaining Tension and Conflict in Dialogue

When a conversation needs to indicate conflict, keep in mind that it usually involves one of these types of adversarial relationships:

            Power struggle

            Outright argument

            Head games

            Passive-Aggressive exchange

To enhance and maintain tension when characters are locked in a war of words, use:

Terse dialog (curt, abrasive language)

Short sentences and fragments

Pithy, to the point statements

To ease the tension and diffuse a situation, consider using:

            Idle chit chat

            Information dumps

            Lengthy speeches

Reading, Writing & Arithmetic

By Terry C. Misfeldt

This is about what is commonly known as the Three R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic but we’re not going to spend much time writing about Reading. We will cover how Writing can be improved with Arithmetic. It’s adapted from a Get Motivated Workshop presentation by Amy Jones.

One of my take-aways from the presentation was Amy’s comment that we all have 86,400 seconds in every day. There’s no excuse for anyone who complains they don’t have enough time in the day. It’s how you spend it that matters.

So let’s start with SUBTRACTION. Success as a writer is enhanced when you can subtract stuff from your life. Stuff like events, hindrances, and worry. Is it essential you attend a fundraising luncheon for a charity you’ve only a passing interest in supporting? There are things that may appear obvious for subtraction from your schedule–such as watching every baseball game of your favorite team on television–while others may be more subliminal like scrubbing the bathroom floor every day. Subtraction adds time to your writing itinerary.

Next is ADDITION. You may already have these in your regimen, but consider adding them if you don’t. Add things like Planning, Purpose, Passion, and Play. Yes, P words. Add some time for planning your projects…and your time for writing, re-writing, editing, marketing, and the business side of writing. Add more passion for what you’re working on because that gives you more purpose to accomplish your objectives. Add time for some recreation, too.

MULTIPLICATION. Multiply your expectations. If you can easily write 500 words a day, could you multiply that to reach 1,000 or 1,500 words with a bit more dedication to the keyboard?

DIVISION is important, too. You must be able to divide your writing time with your work, personal and family commitments. Relationships may falter if you lock yourself in your ivory writing tower 14 hours a day and neglect to feed the dog or spend time with your children.

Yes, writing involves arithmetic.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

By Terry Misfeldt

It’s been said the first step in resolving a problem is realizing you have a problem. When putting your fingers on the keyboard results in brain freeze, you are experiencing writer’s block. Ditto goes for picking up a pen, putting the tip on a piece of paper and it doesn’t move.

Even the most experienced writers encounter mental blocks and can’t seem to get a word out. Know that it’s okay when that happens; it’s just time to try a different strategy to get past it.

One of the more common antidotes for writer’s block is to step away and do something else for a time. Yes, that does not create any writing but unless you’re under a deadline, it shouldn’t matter if you’re more productive when you come back to the desk or keyboard. Go for a walk, ride your bike a few miles, take a nap, drink a glass of milk or undertake some other diversion to clear your head and get those brain synapses firing again.

Another method to get around writer’s block is to do some research. Concentrate on designing the scenes you want to create or figure out what one of your characters might do in certain situations. Dig into what the economy was like during the time period you’re writing about. You just may find inspiration in that research and start writing again. Voila!

The last suggestion: Power through! Just start writing when a block has you stymied. When your fingers start flying around the keyboard, you may find the creative juices flowing and words start filling the pages. Just write! You can always come back later and throw it out or edit what you’ve written. Remember you were attempting to get past the blockage.

If all else fails, walk away and wait a few days until motivation strikes you!

Writing for Comfort

By Debbie Delvaux

Writing for comfort.

When I was a young girl, I never had the opportunity to really be one of the gang as I was always feeling left behind. Being the second of two daughters and very shy at times.

I would try to keep up with my sister and her friends. You know like the story goes of the second left behind or the tag along. Sigh!!

Well anyway, when I would be finding myself alone and no one to play with, I would either swing and drift to another world or walk the neighborhood and imagine myself as a member of their family.

The older daughter or just a secret agent disguised as one of their own members.
So many lives to pretend to be and yet so little time to be them when you would hear your mother call to supper and then to bed.

But as a day would go on, I would still try to live that life and be off somewhere when the television got too boring or the weekend too long with nothing to do.

To this day I can see myself in one of those many secret lives and that has given me the chance to now sit at my laptop, make that life come true and with no interruptions except when the telephone rings or one of the cats grabs my leg for attention.

Many of the lives spent elsewhere have given me comfort when I had hard times, bad times, or even silly times to say I will try that in a story someday.

So in retrospect, I have been given a gift of imaginary lives and way to live my own life the way I wanted it to be.

How Do You Know When You’re Finished?

By Gail Blohowiak

I recently listened to Walter Mosley on Wisconsin Public Radio in an interview on writing. Mosley is an acclaimed American mystery writer best known for his Easy Rawlins character. He answered this question for the interviewer.

This was Mosley’s final answer (which I paraphrase) ‘When I don’t find any reason to rewrite again, I’m finished.’ In the interview, he said he rewrites up to twenty-six drafts. That’s a lot of drafts. That’s a lot of rewriting.

I thought I was rewriting too much. I’ve switched my work from first person to third, or present tense to past tense. I played around with the format. I’ve reworked my word choices. I’ve written a scene as quickly as I can and later gone back later to fill in the details.

I enlisted alpha and beta readers for feedback. I’ve joined a critique group. I write and rewrite. I learn. I listen. Then, I write and rewrite.

I thought something was wrong with me! Not according to Mr. Mosley. My manuscript is progressing. I’m only on my sixth or seventh draft which means I have a long way to go.

Now, if I count the drafts from my first play (I am writing a novel from my three SPAM plays), I’m up to thirteen rewrites. I’m on my way, but still ‘not finished’.

So, I’ll go to my favorite writing spot and read, reread, write, and rewrite – maybe not the whole piece at one time, but surely certain parts.

I’m aiming for twenty-six rewrites now. Thanks Walter. Then, hopefully, I’ll be finished.

How about you? When are you finished?

 (I rewrote this piece in only eight drafts. (Make that nine drafts now.) It’s a short piece. I’m finished.)

She Came Sneaking In

By Rhonda Strehlow

She came sneaking into our lives on little cat feet.

We’d left the back door open because we were cleaning the garage.

We first learned of our invader when our dog, Buddy, started barking fiercely in the kitchen. Initially I thought one of those darn little chipmunks had sneaked in—that had happened before. But when I entered the kitchen, the first thing I saw was a tiny ball of fluff eating out of Buddy’s food dish. When Buddy approached to voice his complaint, she whacked him on the nose with a paw the size of a nickel. He backed off. She continued eating. When she was full, she decided to explore. We followed her from room to room. She ignored us.

“What should we do?” I asked my husband.

“Keep her?” He suggested.

“Did we want a cat?” I asked. Rescue dog, Buddy, was a handful. Abused by former owners, he was alternately scared or aggressive. We were still engaging the services of a dog whisperer to help him relax. Did we want to take on another potential problem?

Then I made the mistake of picking her up. She snuggled and promptly fell asleep.

“Please run to the store to get food and dishes and a bed.” I whispered.

“So, we’re keeping her?” My husband whispered back.

“It looks like it,” I said as she snuggled closer.

Rescue cat enjoys comfort of home

We live in the country. She had a long walk to get to our house. We checked with our neighbors, no one was missing a kitten.

When I took her to the veterinarian the next day and discovered she weighed exactly what my premature granddaughter weighed at birth, I knew it was a sign that we’d made the right decision. When the vet asked her name, I looked at her white paws and blurted out, “Boots.” That was a mistake. We should have named her Queen or Your Majesty since my husband, Buddy and I have become her loyal servants.

How I Started Writing – from a Newbie

By Laura E. Aronis

I didn’t think I could write! Me? I couldn’t imagine having enough imagination for something as enormous as a whole book! Characters? Plots? Climax? Resolution? No way! I was content to read other amazing works of fiction, often rereading them over and over again, (which I didn’t realize was setting me up for being a writer.) 

I might have an idea come to me on occasion, or I might daydream about some scenario taking place around me, but I NEVER thought of putting pen to paper and writing it out! That would just be too embarrassing! No one would want to read something that came out of my head, that’s just silly! Until one day… The day that the idea was just too good, the scenario too exciting and the characters too interesting for me to keep them inside and risk them leaving me as I slowly thought of new adventures and stories. 

I didn’t know how to begin, so I started with something that looked a bit like this:

Jack: Let’s go up the hill.

Jill: I do need a pail of water.

Narrator: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. 

Jill: Jack! There’s a boat– (Wait, that’s a different story) Watch out!

Narrator: Jack sees a large boulder coming straight at him and tries to run but…

Jack: Ahhhh!

Narrator: Jack yells as he falls down the hill. There’s silence as his crown (head) breaks.

Jill: (gasps)

Narrator: And that’s the end of Jack. But wait! What’s this? Jill is tumbling after!

The End

Obviously, I knew that wasn’t the way to do it, but I had to start somewhere. I took what I had written and started over, thinking about how other writers had done it and began:

Jack was bored. Nothing interesting ever happened in Kilmersdon, the town where he and his wife, Jill lived. He watched his wife knitting tiny little socks and could take it no longer. “Let’s go up the hill,” he said. Jill finished counting the stitches in the row she was working on and smiled at her husband.

“I do need a pail of water,” she said. Jack took Jill’s hand and they walked out the door. Jill grabbed the wooden bucket that always sat just inside the door of their thatched stone cottage. They walked side by side down the lane that led to the small school, as that’s where the well was located.

They enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine and each other’s company as Jack chased Jill along the old stone wall and up the steep hill that the neighborhood children had to climb every day. 

Suddenly Jack slipped on some loose stones on the path and tried to catch himself by grabbing the top of the wall, but the large stone he managed to grab was loose and came off in his hand. It landed on top of his head, crushing his skull.

“Ahhh,” he said as he started to roll down the hill, much to Jill’s horror. As she tried to run after him, her foot got caught in her skirts and she came tumbling down the hill after her husband. 

The End

So, it doesn’t matter how you start; if you have an idea, just start. You may end up with a morbid nursery rhyme that parents will sing to their babies long after everyone involved is dead and gone.