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Crabby's Classroom, Fag Cards, and the Lollipop Man

Surfing the Net one night, I came upon an article about a Victorian building in my hometown in England, scheduled for demolition. The high windows and natural stone in the photo triggered a memory of boys from Crabby Jones's class crouching in short grey trousers on the asphalt below and flicking "fag" cards. Without any other connotation in 1950s England, this was their term for collector cards issued by certain cigarette brands. The boys never shared their game, or marbles, or football with us girls. Around the corner in a separate playground, we had other amusements: cartwheels, trading beads, knitting with bobbins, French skipping with elastic bands around our ankles, and variations of tag.

This was Sandown C.E. Junior School, renamed the Broadway Centre, where I attended from ages 7 to 11, the equivalent of US grades 2-5. A nearby building housed the Infants, ages 5 and 6. Beyond the green gate, our "lollipop man" - so called for the shape of his official sign - escorted us across one of the town's main arteries, The Broadway, before and after school and at lunchtime. (Like most pupils, my sister and I walked about a quarter of a mile each way; very few arrived by car.) I'd remembered his name as Mr. Hunnicutt. Then I found an entry about him, complete with yellow-uniformed portrait, in an old exercise book. (See column on left.) It was Mr. Hunnywood.

I could fill a book with my Island childhood. I vowed to do just that as I jumped the waves in Sandown Bay at the age of 10. Birthday parties, carnivals, fetes, even shoplifting, already appear in my published works (ARROWHEAD'S LOST HOARD, HOMEWARD TRACKS, TAPESTRY OF TIME, AREOPAGUS MAGAZINE, FRISCO POETS ANTHOLOGY). Like Laura Ingalls Wilder, I write to keep alive the people and places I love. Writing pins down fleeting impressions of tactile experiences for family, myself, and perhaps a wider audience.

Fortunately, the decision about demolition of our old school has been deferred. But even if it goes ahead, no one can steal our memories - as I told my first "bosom buddy" Susan in a recent e-mail. Certain details are imprinted in our minds like indelible ink, though they may be different for each of us.

I like to think we could re-enter that building and hear the echoes of morning hymns, of multiplication tables and folk songs, of a teacher reading to us from Kipling and Twain. The two schools, along with Christ Church up the hill, where we performed our nativity plays and carol services, should all be preserved together. To me they are holy ground. Read More 

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A Poem a Day Keeps Detractors at Bay

When I retired from teaching and moved to rural Kansas, I needed a routine in order to pursue my second vocation, freelance writing. Over the years I had saved enough pretty letterheads from rejections to decoupage two trashcans, but also published magazine pieces, two poetry chapbooks, and two middle-grade mysteries. In theory, with so much extra time at my disposal, it should be possible to submit even more manuscripts and widen my audience.

On the other hand, it was tempting to sleep late, take craft classes, read all the books on my bucket list, and make new friends in the community. If I wasn't careful, writing and writing-related activities would be squeezed out of my schedule. So, I bought a colorful, user-friendly planner and wrote the acronym POEMS down the left margin of each day for the coming week.

P = Promotion:
Whatever puts my name and book titles out there in the public eye. Update my web site. Post news and evites on Facebook. Contact a store or school. Print bookmarks.

O = Overarching:
Sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter, add new words to the current work-in-progress. Do background research. Plot. Create character bios. Ask "What If?"

E = Exercises:
Clustering. Word Association. Writers' group homework. Prompts from poetry. Pages in Write-Brain Workbook. Nature walks with pocket notebook.

M = Markets:
Read Writers Digest. Send for magazine samples and guidelines. Look at online
catalogs online. Browse children's shelves at the library. Mail mss and queries.

S = Scripture:
Meditate on Daily Bread devotional. Prepare Sunday school lesson. Jot ideas for themes to write on. Pray my writing will reflect God's truth and enrich readers' lives.

Whenever I complete a task, large or small, in any order, I check the appopriate category in my planner. An overview of the past week shows me which areas need more attention. Often these activities overlap with other areas of life. Over lunch with friends I pass out brochures for my next book signing (P). Reading for pleasure counts if related to my work-in-progress (O). Catnaps can be productive if I write down my dreams (E). In the doctor's waiting room I study Highlights magazine (M). God's Word informs my words and nourishes my soul (S).

This simple acronym silences the voices in my head that tell me I'm not a real writer!  Read More 
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