One tough mother

“You’ll know who you are when you start losing things.”marycoin

“It took a bit of ill-humor to make yourself up out of nothing.”

Wow. Just finished this book this morning. Mary Coin is one tough mother. She did what she had to do to feed and care for six children as a migrant farm worker during the Great Depression. What happens to her, the photographer who took her picture and the present-day historian who is inexplicably drawn to their stories is told in alternating points of view. Silver weaves a story of loss, survival, sacrifice, strength and determination.  Highly recommend.

Mary Coin at amazon

What I’m reading this week

migrant mother“They had never had anything but now they had nothing. Mary realized how different those two conditions were.”

In Mary Coin, author Marisa Silver imagines the life of the woman depicted in Dorothea Lange’s iconic photo of a migrant mother. Beautifully written, so far. We learn the back stories of the young, widowed mother of six (now seven!) children during the depression and the photographer. This is fiction, but the characters feel painfully, poignantly real.

What are you reading this week?

Tips for reading and writing with kids

Ha! I just found this. Someone re-blogged something I wrote many years ago. Funny to find here.

Great Books 4 Kids

by tips from Lori Schaefer

I was browsing around the net today and came across some tips that I thought parents could use when helping their kids with homework.  Shake up spelling words and reading practice with some of the following ideas:

Proofreading is in the CUPS.When students are ready to proofread a piece of writing, have them write the word CUPS in large letters at the top of the page. The C reminds them to check for Capital letters. When they’ve done that, they cross out the C. Next they check for Understanding and cross out the U. They continue proofreading, checking for Punctuation (P) and Spelling (S) in the same way. Reading for only one thing at a time is very accurate. Crossing out CUPS shows you they have done proofreading on their own. (Great tip for late elementary through high school – heck, I could use this…

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One down, two to go

fall giantsWhew! Just finished this giant of a book this morning on the elliptical. It’s the first in the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. It does an excellent job of tracing the roots of present day issues to what was going on one hundred years ago, before, during and just after WWI. The lives of members of five families are tangled and woven throughout the book and across the world.

There are coal mines, manor houses, spies, battlefields, the highest tiers of government, the poorest neighborhoods and yes, romance. Lots of intrigue and backroom dealing.

Follett also describes the roots of feminism and the labor movement in Great Britain. During the war, women took over men’s jobs but were paid less for the same work. Sound familiar? When the vote was finally granted to women, it was only to women over thirty who were householders, the most conservative women.

To walk or to write, that is the question

Three weeks into January. Time to assess progress toward my New Year’s walker

Want to know what I’ve discovered? My goals are in direct conflict with one another. Yup. I mean, what was I thinking?

What are those two opposing goals? Walking more and writing more. The trouble, of course, is that one requires sitting on my butt at the computer for hours at a time and the other requires that I …uhm… don’t. Continue reading “To walk or to write, that is the question”

10 Crazy Things Writers Do

Joan Atkinson

1.  Talk to themselves in the car, to include gestures, as they work through conversations between characters.

2.  Eavesdrop shamelessly.

3.  Gawk at people out of the corners of their eyes or from behind their dark glasses, wanting to look at a fascinating person, but not wanting to be caught staring.

4.  Got to coffee shops for something other than coffee.

5.  Not go into the coffee shop if their favorite table is taken.

6.  Drive a ridiculous distance, at night, in order to have relative strangers read their work and rip it to shreds.

7.  Get up in the morning when even the chickens are still sleeping, just to work in the glow of a laptop for an hour before getting ready for the day job.

8.  Stay up for two hours after the spouse has hit the hay in order to edit that chapter one more time.

9. …

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Ramblings On Reading

Aunt Beulah

I pour a cup of coffee and prepare to immerse myself in a library book—until Joel wanders by. Reading is not his idea of entertainment, so he doesn’t understand my inability to concentrate on a book while carrying on a conversation about his missing socks.

Though his teachers taught him to read, they were unable to inspire him to love doing so. And that’s OK.

During my career, I worked with various committees on curricular goals for literacy. Frequently we had heated discussions about an objective often found in such documents: “Students will read for pleasure.”So nicht!

I remember a stern fellow who taught middle school arguing against the inclusion of such a goal in a literature curriculum: “Only English teachers would think everyone should love reading. What’s wrong with learning to read so you possess a necessary skill? Math teachers don’t think their students should solve equations for pleasure.”


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Letting the River Run

blog river rush

 The Blogging 101 assignment for today is to personalize a prompt from the Daily Post. Here’s the prompt:
“Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you? “

That’s easy. This. Yes, this. You. Here.
You see, I started Blogging 101 on a bit of a whim. I hate not knowing how to do something so useful and cool. And it was free and I could do it in pajamas and fuzzy slippers. And without make-up. How perfect is that?
 Little did I know that it would break open the logjam that’s been obstructing the flow of words from my brain. Yes, I’ve written a few posts and tweaked my blog. I’ve sketched out my next column. But more importantly (to me, at least), I’m making real, honest to goodness progress in the long slog of rewriting my five-year-old NaNaWriMo novel. The words and ideas are once again rushing. Yes, I expect there are a few boulders and bends along the way, but I feel like I’m moving forward once again.

Are you my sister?

blog sisterhood

Thank you that sunshiny girl over at for the nomination.

The rules for the award to follow are as follows:

Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you, linking back to their site

Put the Award logo on your blog

Answer the ten questions sent to you

Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer

Nominate seven blogs

Questions I Answered:

1. What made you decide to create a blog? I thought it would be a good outlet for my writing impulses that don’t fit into my newspaper columns or the still-to-be-finished novel. It’s also a nice way to connect with other and learn new things. I’ve heard that potential publishers expect you to already have a platform.

2. Share something personal about yourself? My 65th birthday is in one month.

3. What are you passionate about? Being a good grandma and a better writer.

4. Do you have any goals for your blog (short-term or long-term)? If so, please share. To post something good about once a week and (at least) to re-blog other’s posts that warrant sharing.

5. What is your favorite color? Red.

6. Throwing your fears aside, what would you actively pursue? I’ll continue working on my novel (rewriting, editing now) and try to get an agent and publisher.

7. Are your blog posts on topics that you know innately or do you take time to research your topics? A little of each, but only on topics that interest me. Usually I’ll see, read, or hear something that inspires me or calls for a response. Me and my big mouth.

8. What is your blog about? Please share. Bits of wisdom. You see, I’m very old now and need to share what I’ve learned before I go, hopefully with a light touch and a bit of humor. I’ll likely use memories as a jumping off point and try to draw a lesson from that experience. I don’t want to make it about the past though. I want to make it about learning lessons and moving forward.

9. What do you envision for your blog? A friendly little chat among friends where we can inspire each other to be kinder, healthier, happier, more accepting, and more forgiving. Life is short and getting shorter every day.

10. What process did you go through in naming your blog? Ooooh, so not done with this. I thought that because I write and want to get a book published one day that using my name would be best.  So I started with that. After seeing all the cleverness and variety out there and writing a few posts, I thought I needed to put in a little more effort. I believe that I still have a lot to learn. And I remember taking a writing class for which we kept a learning log. And I taught school. So that’s where I am now. It may not stick. I’m open to suggestions.

Here are the questions for my nominees:

  1. How long have you had a blog? How many do you have?
  2. What is the purpose of your blog? Is it primarily personal or professional?
  3. Have you had a bad blogging experience? What was it and how did you respond? What did you learn?
  4. Given a day free of responsibilities, what would you do?
  5. Favorite season?
  6. Where do you live? Describe it in a sentence or two.
  7. What year were you born?
  8. Tell us something funny about your family or your pets.
  9. What are the qualities you look for in a life partner?
  10.  Are you an early bird or a night owl?

My nominees!

I’m a Big Chicken

chalk le poulet

I think of myself as a big chicken, bumpy white flesh and all, so I loved Silver Lining Mama ‘s “Stick out Your Neck” post yesterday. It reminded me that the older I’ve gotten, the braver I’ve become. I worry (a little) less about what others think.

Back in 1997, I participated in a Northern Nevada Writing Project Invitational—a workshop for teachers, based on the premise that we practice what we teach. We wrote. And wrote. I become comfortable with sharing my writing. Two years later, I began contributing to a decidedly left-leaning (granola-eating, tree-hugging, feminist…), opinion column in our local newspaper, The Nevada Appeal. That experience toughened me up. My name and face go above every column. For better or worse, I own my words.

chalk wicked chickenThe newest neck-sticking-out adventure for me was writing a NaNoWriMo novel and joining The Lone Mountain Writers, a respected, local critique group. Talk about feeling exposed! The first time I had a piece up for review was like my worst showing-up-naked-at-work nightmare. Now five years later, I’ve survived and—more importantly—learned. The other members are wise, talented, honest, thoughtful, and kind.

Thanks for reminding me that being brave isn’t about not being scared. It’s about being afraid and taking that step anyway. So here I am, blogging. If I’m lucky, no one will even notice my bumpy white skin.