When I was very young, my brother, younger sister and I spent a great deal of time gathered on the floor to listen to the huge console radio because no one had a television. When we bought our first television, we had a choice between an eight-inch screen and a twelve-inch. My mother feared the twelve-inch might be too large. All programs were in black and white and we had only one channel. Our favorite program was Kukla, Fran, and Ollie in which several hand puppets—Ollie was a dragon–chatted with Fran Allison. Programming didn’t run all day. At midnight or earlier, the National Anthem played after which a test pattern came on and stayed on the screen until programs started the next day.
My greatest disappointment was the programming. I’d thought when we turned on the television, our favorite radio shows would come on: The Lone Ranger and Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy. But they didn’t. All we got was Fran Emerson and, as much as I loved them, Kukla, Fran and Ollie was no Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.
What did I learn?
Technology doesn’t do everything we think or hope it will. As exciting as it is, technology does not always change the world for the better. Texting, for example, has brought only the ability to communication with the person sitting next to you and causes automobile accidents. Although cell phones take pictures and, with the proper apps, do lots of other stuff, we have not learned to communicate better and more deeply and meaningfully with each other. Thanks to social media, we get instant reports on uprisings in Egypt and slaughters in the Syria, but has that instant access made response to emergencies faster? We can talk to people on the other side of the world, but have we learned to live in peace with our neighbors—or those people on the other side of the world?
When we instantly hear that people are starving, do we respond more quickly?
But the limitations of technology only highlight the limitations of those of us who use it. Technology is only a tool, an amusing toy that doesn’t replace a caring heart.
BUT next week, a new CRAFT TUESDAY on, you guessed it, TUESDAY! Hope to see you!
Later: Whoops–I must be foggy from hitting the wall or perhaps I’d like to get this election over sooner and dropped a week off the calender. Next week’s topic is still under consideration. The NEXT week is Craft Tuesday.
My husband–who is also a sports’ nut–always says the best thing my father did was to teach me to love football, basketball, track, and baseball. I learned to love a few more on my own. I grew up in Kansas City, MO, and my father was a HUGE Jayhawk–University of Kansas–fan. We went to every home football and basketball game starting from when I was about three years old. A legend in our family which my older brother disputes is that there was actually a picture of him when he was very young in the Kansas City Star, shouting during a KU football game, “Let’s score a home run!” We went to games in good weather and endured rain, freezing weather, and snow. In fact, we didn’t think we were having a good time if we weren’t cold and wet and miserable.
However, by the time I graduated from high school, I decided to enter new and–to my parents, both KU grads–hostile territory at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. At that ime, the Wildcats had great basketball–Final Four my senior year–but the worst football team in the country for years! We were regularly blown out 70-0. We were so bad, I tell my husband, that when we actually scored a touchdown, we’d have victory dances in Aggieville.
All of which brings up my joy with Kansas State’s football this year–and last and during all of the seasons Bill Snyder has coached. Yes, this makes me shallow and interferes with my doing worthwhile things like writing books or–ugh–cleaning house. However, our success this year fills me with fear. In fact, as the Wildcats dominated West Virginia this weekend, I didn’t relax halfway through the fourth quarter although we had a huge lead. I’ve seen it vanish too often to ever feel comfortable.
But I’m not sure loving sports is completely shallow. When my team wins a football games, I’m happy. Okay, I’m shallow BUT happy and I don’t see anything wrong with this. Oh, sure, if any sports program overtakes and overshadows the importance of ethics and honesty and education, that’s wrong. I’m not in favor of that but I do love my team. I belt out the Fight Song over and over during games. I have a POWERCAT magnet on the side of my car and zip through town feeling proud and meeting other K-State fans. I tape every sports program after the game to revel in the win.
My team is number THREE in the BCS ratings. Not something to build my life on but something to enjoy as well as filling me with trepidation.
What do you think? Do like or dislike sports? Why? Do we emphasize athletic success to much? Of course we do but is there anything wrong about enjoying the victory of your favorite teams? I’d like to know how you feel.
My parents didn’t teach me to hate
I look back over the years and realize what an amazing statement this is: my parents didn’t teach me to hate. Never once did I hear a word against any group or people, religion or race. I didn’t grow up with the burden of prejudice. I didn’t have to unlearn the lessons of racism.
You may not think this statement makes my folk sound special. I hope your parents did the same.
What makes this fact remarkable is that my father was born in 1904 and my mother, in 1907, hardly years of openness and acceptance of others. I was born in the 1940’s and grew up in a world filled with bigotry and hatred, in a world of separate restrooms and in a city where the public swimming pool was closed because white people didn’t want to swim with black people. Because of the way my parents raised me, I didn’t understand why anyone would object to this. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
I thought of this again about a week ago when I watched a PBS program about Oscar Hammerstein. He was a man born in 1895, a man ahead of his time, a writer who asked questions and forced discussion on many issues, especially of race and prejudice, in the lyrics of his marvelous musicals.
In 1949, Hammerstein wrote South Pacific. I was born in Kansas City, MO, a little off Broadway, but wonderful touring companies came through. I saw South Pacific in the theater when I was eight. After the show was over, I asked my mother about the song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught. She told me that some parents teach their children to hate other people, people who are different. I asked her why. She couldn’t explain. Neither can I.
In Showboat written in 1927, Hammerstein dealt with misogyny. Julie, who had “black blood”, was married to a white man, a union which was against the law. I saw this movie when I was nine and couldn’t understand why two adults who love each other couldn’t marry. I still don’t.
My parents raised me in church and taught me that the Gospel means acceptance and love for all, no exceptions.
Thanks, Mom and Dad.
In writing mysteries, the setting usually enhances the characters and the plot. Agatha Christie’s English village represents an entire genre of walkabout crime whereby manor houses, inns, and churchyards are often sited and cited on hand-drawn maps. It would be hard to imagine Inspector Morse or Inspector Lewis without Oxford University as the backdrop. And the bleak rural Scandanavian settings provide Wallander with mood, characterization, and rationale. The ferocious anger and hostility and crumbling building facades within ghetto environments serves as the undercurrent to numerous police/detective series. And Clive Cussler’s NUMA series relies almost totally on understanding of the surface and sub-surface ocean dynamics and modern ship propulsion technology.
In literature, perhaps no one expresses the importance of setting more than William Faulkner, whose Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, became not only the for his most powerful novels and characters, but also became a place even more concrete and enduring in the mind’s eye than the reality of Oxford, Mississippi, itself. It was the place of giant live oaks and dark swampy forests and expansive yards in front of mammoth columns holding up porches than went on forever. And the entire setting seemed to be decaying measurably within the pages of the novel. Not so long afterwards, Tennessee Williams chose a similar setting for his Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
For romance writers, it seems to me that setting is equally if not more important in developing characters that interact or bounce off one another. My beloved Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s many Regency romances depend largely on their expansive descriptions of homes, parks, shops, and costumes of London, Bath, and several villages. Behavior of the characters draws out of these settings naturally and easily.
Recently my sister-in-law, Jane Myers Perrine, established the Texas village of Butternut Creek as the setting for her romantic trilogy – The Welcome Committee…, the Matchmakers….and the Wedding Planners of Butternut Creek. In each case, the houses, the church, the schoolyard, and the public buildings provide a cozy place for her characters to meander slowly into place as they drop their troubling backgrounds and engage with each other in the present safe environment.
While it is true that cruise ships or desert islands may provide a contained setting for a romance plots, one could wonder about how much character development may occur. It is rather like a one-joke movie where the comedy seems more and more contrived. On the other hand, my all time favorite romances include the wild and expansive settings of Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile that include double and triple entendres. And find me a woman of any age that didn’t love Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in the cityscapes of New York and Seattle – Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. That valentine heart on the Empire State Building was the ultimate manipulative event in moviedom, but oh was it ever effective. It reminded me of the ice skating scene at the end of Serendipity, where you knew the impossible was going to happen right then.
And speaking of John Cusack and Julia Roberts, which, of course we weren’t, the very constrained setting of the resort in the desert, actually enhanced both the plot and characters in America’s Sweethearts. It was a throw-back to the old Agatha Christie village, a walkabout romance.
I forgot that the first Tuesday in September was supposed to be CRAFT TUESDAY and the last section of Writing the Query Letter. I think I was hysterical as the month moved closer to my October 1 deadline. I’ve submitted the complete to my editor. I’m mostly sane again. Here’s the final section.
This is a short because I’m winding things us AND hoping to be inundated with questions.
Two attachments I always include in the query letter. 1) the synopsis which I’ve mentioned before and 2) a contest/publishing history. At a certain time in your writing life, you will have honors to mention. As your contest wins or finals increase, as you publish in magazines or journals, there will not be enough space in a query letter and any such list will be confusing. In the query letter, mention the really important information: Golden Heart finalist, First place in the Emily. Mention these also on the contest/publishing history page. Repetition doesn’t hurt. I always listed them most recent date at the top. If you’ve written many articles, chose the most relevant and important.
Here’s an examples:
Publishing History of Jane Myers Perrine
The Mad Herringtons Avalon Books 2002
The Grenade in the Backyard Houston Chronicle 1999
Contests (I’ve made all these up)
Manuscript Contest/year Placement/Genre
The Turn of the Gerbil Heart for Love 2004 Third/Young adult
Far Away/ 2003 First
Manny the Man Perfect Hero/2004 Secon/Romance
You get the idea. This is a neat, professional and very clear way to show your past work. Sorry about the alignment of columns–WordPress doesn’t’ like them.
One more thought: keep your query letter simple and easy to understand. An on-line friend put up a letter she was going to send in. The gimmick was that the heroine of the book wrote the letter in her own voice with her own information. I’ve never been more confused because there was no explanation. I didn’t say a word because I was a very newbie at the time and others who knew so much more thought it was wonderful. I bet the editor didn’t. Editors and agents go through thousands of queries a month. If yours is hard to read or confusing, yours will not be read.
THE LAST WORD! In order to interest an editor or an agent, you have to prove your talent. The place to start is with your first contact: a well-written query letter.
Any questions on writing a great query letter?