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 FRESH FROM THE INKWELL 

Guide to the Blog Archives

August 2010: Somewhere over the Rainbow
January 2011: New Leaf in a Writer’s Notebook
February 2011: Kindred Spirits
July 2011: Library Fines and Fine Libraries
November 2011: Bugsy, Slug, the Beatles and Me
December 2011: Do You Know? A Carol for the Family
February 2012: Top Ten Reasons to take up Stained Glass
March 2012: Ode on the Color Green
April 2012: Take me to your Leader
July 2012: For You, Dad
September 2012: A Song for Irene; A Poem a Day Keeps Detractors at Bay
October 2012: Oklahoma Fall
December 2012: Not This Christmas; Janus at the Crossroads
January 2013: Kansas Voices
March 2013: Marching Forward in March
April 2013: A Muse Named April
May 2013: The Desk
June 2013: I Don’t Do….
July 2013: A Literary Cruise; Ballad of Captain Jack Scurvy
August 2013: Yolanda’s Uniform & other School Poems
September 2013: Four Poems in my Backpack
November 2013: Remembering Penny
December 2013: The Joy Jar
February 2014: Three Poems for Valentine’s Day
March 2014: Ghosts of the Midnight Oil; Eviction Notice to my Inner Critic;
Cancelelation
April 2014: Crabby’s Classroom
August 2014: A = Art; B = Bibliography; C = Calvin; D = Danger; E = Exercise; F = Friendship
September 2014: G = Gospel; H = History; I = Immersion; J = Jewels; K = King;
M = Meshki; N = Nuts; O = Obstacles; P = Phyllis; Q = Queen of Hearts
October 2014: R = Rose Garden; S = Seventies; T = Tammie Traylor; U = Unity; V = Vandergriff; W = Wonderland
November 2014: X = Xylophone; Y = You; Z = Zoroastrian
December 2014: Joy Jar
June 2015: Catch a Falling Writer
August 2015: Tuscany, O Tuscany!
September 2015: Relocation, Dislocation & Discombobulation
October 2015: Random Encounter at Random House
March 2016: Two Poems for Easter
June 2016: Two Poems about Fatherhood
September 2016: The Way to the Town Hall
May 2017: Curse of the Dampeners
December 2017: Tia Lynn’s Midnight Ride
March 2018: Marching Forward in March
May 2018: Guide to the Blog Archives
July 2018: Death of a Sequel
August 2018: Interview with Sarah Sanchez
February 2019: Wichita Eagle Reading Challenge
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MARCHING FORWARD IN MARCH

MARCHING FORWARD IN MARCH

From “76 Trombones” on the radio, to our hometown band’s rousing rendition of “Blaze Away,” to the bagpipes of the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle, to the Sousa tunes of my adopted country—I’ve always loved a good march. It’s in my blood.

Today I march forward, not in lockstep with anyone, but to the beat of a different drum. I look back only to see how far I have come, and to glean material for stories.

Though I camp out frequently for spiritual refreshment, or to help a fledgling writer, the movement is ever forward, never in retreat.

Along the way, I leave touchstones to celebrate victories large or small—reminders of why I set out on this crazy venture. Fan mail from students. My first royalty check. A napkin from Cherilyn’s launch party. The blue star Miss Downer gave me in kindergarten for my retelling of “I Saw a Ship A-Sailing.”

Single-minded as a foot soldier along a straight, solid Roman road, on the
foundation laid by writers who marched before us, I keep marching.

Step by step, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page after page, chapter after chapter, to completion of another book.

And another. And another.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Read More 

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TIA LYNN'S MIDNIGHT RIDE



Mrs. Claus smiled, as she tied a blue sash on the dress of a life-size doll. “Rifkin! Mifkin!” she called.

Two elves came running.

“I’ve just finished this one,” Mrs. Claus told them. “Her name is Tia Lynn, a special order for a little girl in Kansas. Could you pack her up and take her to the sleigh? Careful now!”

The doll’s eyes closed when Rifkin placed her in a satin-lined box. He fitted the clear plastic lid, and Mifkin pasted a label on top: “For Payton.”

They carried Tia Lynn to the loading dock, where more elves were buckling reindeer harnesses, with much jingling and jangling of silver bells.

Rifkin and Mifkin eased the box into the last empty spot, right up front by the driver’s seat. Dancer and Prancer stamped their hooves, eager to start their flight around the world.

“Ho, ho, ho! Time to go!” Santa boomed.

He kissed Mrs. Claus goodbye. He tested the lamp on Rudolph’s nose. Then he swung his jolly, red-suited self into the sleigh, and with a flick of the reins the journey began.

Tia Lynn felt snug and safe in her corner next to Santa’s boot. But she couldn’t help wondering how long this ride might last. And who was this little girl called Payton, in Kansas? What was she like?

Turning south, away from the North Pole toward Greenland, the sleigh soared high in the night sky. Every time they came to a town, and found a house where one or more children lived, Santa commanded the reindeer to dip down, down, until they landed on the roof.

Tia Lynn could not tell what countries they visited. No one had taught her any languages yet, apart from Elfish. But at one rooftop, she heard children’s voices from a bedroom below. They spoke a kind of English, so Polly Ann guessed they were in Britain. Here the sun would rise six hours earlier than in the Central Zone of the United Sates, where Payton lived.

Santa checked his list once, twice. As he slid down the chimney with his sack, Tia Lynn hoped the kids would stop talking, and pretend to be asleep—or they might end up with coal instead of presents.

Up, up, and away! The silver bells jingled, as the sleigh streaked over the Atlantic Ocean. Tia Lynn’s eyes stayed shut throughout the trip—until a sudden jolt flipped her box upright, and they sprang open.

Through the clear plastic lid, she saw a full moon, and millions of stars. What a spectacular sight! What a magical night!

Santa Claus chuckled. “Ho, ho, ho! We just missed a meteor!”

He steered the reindeer on a steady course, until the Rocky Mountains loomed alarmingly close. The sleigh wobbled, making the doll fall on her back. Again, she could see nothing.

She must have dozed off, because the next thing Tia Lynn knew, Santa was whistling, “Home, home on the Range, where the deer and the antelope play.”

Kansas! Finally!

By now, the British kids would be opening their presents, but out here on the prairie it was only midnight.

Tia Lynn felt the sleigh plummet down to the roof of a two-story farmhouse. Santa checked his list once more and filled his sack with toys, setting her at the very top. He dropped into the wide, brick chimney.

Inside the house, he stood Tia Lynn under a sparkling Christmas tree. He gobbled up two cookies, slurped a glass of milk, pocketed a carrot for Rudolph, and disappeared into the night.

All Tia Lynn could do now was stand wide-eyed in her plastic box, and wait. And wait.
A rooster crowed. Sunlight spilled between the curtains. Feet pattered down the stairs. Then a girl with polka-dot pajamas and curly hair appeared in the doorway. Was this Payton?

The girl stared at the doll through the plastic lid. A tear trickled down her cheek.

“Oh, Tia Lynn,” she whispered. “You’re just what I asked for!” She went on talking, as she removed the lid and hugged the doll. “I didn’t know if Santa would find my house. Besides, I didn’t think I’d been good enough this year.”

Payton smoothed the blue dress. Then she tried out all the moving parts—arms, legs, neck, and eyes. Tia Lynn could walk, or she could sit, whatever Payton wanted her to do. They were going to have so much fun together.

Readers, the rest of the story is up you. What adventures can you imagine for Tia Lynn and Payton?

...........................................................................................................................................
[This story placed 2nd in the Kansas Authors Club Region 3 writing contest 2017.] Read More 
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Curse of the Dampeners

PRAIRIE WRITERS ASSIGNMENT, APRIL 2017 - HAZEL JEAN SPIRE


CURSE OF THE DAMPENERS

Jean loved to write. Jean lived to write.

That was before the voices began.

From the time she discovered the power of words, essays and stories poured from Jean’s pencil, earning stars of red, blue, even gold, from her teachers. Hearing of Jean’s prolific output, Mr. Carter walked across the playground to lend her a book with a turquoise cover— Let’s Write a Story—about how to become an author!

A dream was born. Poetry flowed from Jean’s fountain pen, and found a place in the school magazine. But then the Dream Dampeners moved in: insidious, naysaying voices that cramped her style for decades to follow.

"Those whimsical tales might suffice for grade school, but this is College."

"Your syntax is all wrong."

"Will you ever get paid for this?"

"Boys don’t like stories about girls."

"You can’t get your foot in the door without an agent."

"An agent won’t take on a writer without a platform."

"Your zip code is too obscure. You must move to New York City."

When she was not writing, Jean loved to draw. Jean lived to draw.

That was before the voices began.

In grade school, her stories were embellished with colored pencil scenes, which Miss Cassell allowed Jean to outline with Indian ink in her secret cubby behind the 5th grade classroom. With the encouragement of Mum, Dad, and Miss Wheeler, she entered her seascapes in the Baptist Festival.

That was before the Negatories took root: niggling questions as to whether Jean was wasting her time.

"What good is art to you?"

"Artist is such a pretentious word."

"I could show you someone with REAL talent."

For a while, these ruthless intruders drove out all hopes of success in the arts, either visual or literary. So many of them took up residence that she could no longer pinpoint the source or validity of the voices. People who knew what they were talking about, or those who knew nothing? Her own deep-seated insecurity, or sheer laziness?

At each stage of life, with each relocation, Jean’s passions resurfaced. She would dust off her sketchbook, buy a new journal, and seek out kindred spirits. In due course, she learned how—and where—to prepare manuscripts to submission and paintings for exhibition.

That was before the voices returned—with a vengeance.

"Rhyme doesn’t sell."

"Kids want to read about today’s time, not history."

"Memoirs by unknowns are hard to sell."

"Agents only take on young authors, for career-long relationships."

"Top houses want attractive faces on their book jackets."

"Never write without an outline."

"You don’t have an art degree, or backing from prestigious galleries."

"Editors are looking for a something fresh, something edgy."

"This is too quirky, too controversial."

"Cozy stories are passé."

Jean took the hurdles in her stride. She decorated her gigantic trash can with rejection letters, and won a string of awards.

The Dampeners and the Negatories went on murmuring.

"It’s a local contest, not a Pulitzer Prize."

"There were only five entries."

"Sure, you sold a painting, but only to someone who knows you."

Eventually, Jean racked up credits with magazines.

"Just Sunday school take-home papers and regional rags," the voices countered.

Finally, three years after signing a contract, Jean’s first middle-grade mystery came out. Now would the voices let up? Not a chance.

"One spouse and two friends make a poor showing at a book event."

"Did you see the lines round the block for that other author?"

"Your little paperback will get lost among the hefty stacks of the latest Harry Potter."

"Chain bookstores won’t place works by small presses, and Indies are going out of business."

Nevertheless, Jean kept writing--and painting. She invited the voices of Discernment to take up lodging instead. She acknowledged the truths about mergers and budget cuts, with gratitude for the emergence of self-publishing options.

She did it for the adventure, finding her place in the fellowship of writers and artists, who graciously shared the benefit of their experience. In due course, Jean would do the same for the students following in her footsteps. Read More 

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THE WAY TO THE TOWN HALL

Here is a sneak preview from my current project, Volume II of stories by my late father, L. R. Longhurst. This one, typical of his wry tales with a twist, was published by London Opinion in 1952.

THE WAY TO THE TOWN HALL

In the waiting-room adjoining the sales manager’s office sat twenty alert, hawk-eyed ambitious men. Tall and suave men, short and cocky men, thin and waspish men, plump and genial men. Each designed to a different blueprint. But all breathing in a superior brand of oxygen.

“Wanted,” the advertisement had pleaded, “Chief Salesman at £1,000 per annum. Must possess initiative and imagination. Live man. Corpses need not apply.”

At length the sales manager’s secretary popped her pretty head into the waiting-room, and promptly withdrew to put on her Wellington boots. In such an electric atmosphere some form of insulation was called for.

Entering again, she told Applicant No. 1 that the boss would see him now. No. 1 entered the holy of holies with all the assurance of one who in his time had sold as many combs to bald-headed men as he had deckchairs to people with no gardens.

Application No. 2 reckoned he could sell umbrellas in California; No. 3, sunshades in Manchester.

Likewise, Nos. 4 to 20 inclusive were all self-confessed best sellers.

The manager buzzed for his secretary. “I’m darned if I know which one to choose,” he admitted. “They’re all good.”

“Why not give them the direction test?”

“Good idea!” exclaimed the sales manager, for many a smooth talker had stumbled over that.

“Now then,” he snapped, as No.1 was re-ushered into the office, “how would you get to the Town Hall from here?”

The applicant scratched his head, for about the first time in his life lost for words.

“Er—you take the first left and second right. No, I’m a liar; it’s the first right, second left. Then at the crossroads you take a 99 bus. Or is it a 66 tram?”

To give force to his halting remarks he waved his arms about like a Boy Scout practising semaphore. The manager was unimpressed. “Send in No. 2.”

No. 2 got to the Town Hall with the aid of a piece of paper on which he drew a map that was Town and Country Planning at its most futuristic. It might possibly have led the reader into the river; certainly not to the Town Hall.

No. 3 indulged in a bout of ums and ahs, with some hand-waving thrown in. He would have made an admirable windmill but a poor Town Hall director.

By the time it got round to No. 19 the unhappy applicants were practically standing on their heads in a misguided effort to trace a route to the Town Hall. The sales manager himself opened the door to let out No. 19.

Taken by surprise, No.20 was jet-propelled into the office, the crouching-to-the-keyhole position having given him extra momentum. The manager frowned at the would-be salesman, but was secretly pleased. Here at least was a man with initiative!

“I won’t ask you to direct me to the Town Hall,” he said cunningly. “Tell me how to get to Mill Street.”

Pausing only momentarily, No. 20 rattled off: “First-right-second-left-over-the-bridge.” The words staccatoed like a machine gun working overtime. “Then- take-the-left-fork, cross-at-the-lights, then-second-left.”

The speaker didn’t need to use his hands; they were firmly entrenched in his trousers pockets.

No. 20 got the job. He was a man with initiative and imagination. There was no such place as Mill Street in the locality. Read More 
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