Category Archives: Stuff

How is writing a novel like figure skating?

Today I’m beginning a new once-in-a-while blog topic which will begin with “How is writing a novel different from . . . . . .whatever. . . .?   My last two series–Craft Tuesday and Twenty-five (more or less) Things I’ve Learned which have recently fallen by the wayside but may yet appear when I think of something to say.

But today, I’m going to concentrate on one oft asked question:   how IS writing a novel like figure skating?  

I love nearly all sports and watch figure skating competitions, the real ones, not the ones made so the professionals can earn extra money.  I’ve noticed several similarities as well as differences.   The one that got my attention came while I watch this years US championships.   When one skater fell, I realized that  when a figure skaters falls, everyone sees it and gasps.   But the great part about writing is that when we make mistakes, we are in isolation.  We can fix the error.  When we err, Dick Button doesn’t  say, “Oh, dear.  That’s a costly mistake.”  When a skater substitutes a single Salchow for  the planned triple, the error is bemoaned by judges and commentators in front of the entire world.   However, if I switch point of view in the middle of a paragraph, I  can edit and no one know with the exception of my editor or critique group who are usually really nice and don’t take off points.–or low–score.  People don’t leap to their feet and applaud or throw teddy bears to me.

No, while I sit at the computer, I don’t know if what I write works.  Is this funny? I ask myself.  It was when I wrote it–I’d thought.  But after reading it four or five times, it no longer is.    I’d really like a score and a few teddy bears before I go on

Second,  both may follow esoteric designs.  I remember back when the short and long programs were preceded by a competition during which the skater had to trace a number of figures on the ice.  they were then graded and ranked by how closely they followed the figures.   They looked like this.

In writing, we also may have charts in which experts tell us how to construct a novel.   Compare the charts on the left and right and you’ll understand that.  In writing, they are often confusing and no two are alike.   And, in my opinion, if we follow what someone tells us to do, probably we aren’t writing the best novel we can.  In writing, those charts are suggestions.  In figure skating, they must be exactly followed.   Same and different.

NEXT:  on Friday I’ll add one more way in which writing and figure skaiting are alike, featuring my favorite skater Rude Galindo.


Seeking your opinion

My friend Ellen assures me that pets feel the emotion of their owners and react.

Okay, I accept that about dogs.   Our Pepper would run whenever she thought George and I were about to argue because she could feel the tension between us.  Many a fight ended before it started because we laughed when she took off down the hall.    Our Dreamer would get on my lap and quiver when I cried.  She never did any other time.

But cats?  Ellen assures me they do and I might believe her now.  

We have two incredibly spoiled tuxedo cats (I may have mentioned them before).   Maggie hasn’t slept with us for years and Scooter only bothered George at night.   But during the last weeks of George’s latest and last illness,  both cats slept with me.  It wasn’t a matter of there being more space on the bed.  They cuddled with me.  Scooter used my legs as a pillow and Maggie slept against my side.   This lasted for two weeks after George died when they quit.  

So what do you think?   Did the cats pick up on my sadness and worry?  Were they comforting me?    I think so.  I believe they were using their warm little bodies to keep me warm, to keep me company.   It helped.

And here’s a picture of Kansas State’s Rodney McGrudder

Illogic is me

I’m working on financials, going through baskets full of papers and letters and statements, separating them and attempting to bring order.  Unfortunately, at the moment the dining room table is covered with stacks that spill over into other stacks.  Someday, I’m going to go through all those piles again–someday.

Which brings up the subject of how often I believe the illogical.   Case in point:   I don’t trust banks.   Although I consider myself an intelligent woman, usually, I have a deep distrust of financial institutions.   I’d rather hide our money under the mattress than invest it.   If I lived in a house with a yard, I’d probably dig a hole and bury a box filled with bills.  However, I don’t believe the manager of our apartment complex would appreciate my excavating in the tiny strip of grass between the apartment and the parking lot.

I have no idea why I feel this way.   I’ve read about the Depression but I also know bills were passed to assure this wouldn’t happen again.  Sadly, I also know these bills have been weakened down in the last few years–but even before the crash of Wall Street, I didn’t like financial institutions.   When the junk bond failures hit or Wall Street ruined the economy, I’d say to George, “See, I told you.  You can’t trust banks.”   Perhaps it was the movie It’s a Wonderful Life which I saw when I was very young.  Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about buying a shovel recently.

Another illogical belief:  I don’t believe airplanes can really fly.  To me, there is no explanation for how a metal tube can throw itself through the sky without falling to the earth.   

But my lack of  logic is refuted by people who know stuff, who know much more than I.   Because of that, I  know it is safer to keep money in a bank than under my bed so I do that.   I know airplanes can fly because I’ve made numerous trips, clenching my fists and biting my lip but I do.   When faced with the thought of driving for three days of flying to my destination in a few hours, I choose the plane because  it’s faster.  I also read the statistics that it’s safer.  

Do you share these illogical beliefs or do you have others?   Please share–it makes me feel so much better to know I’m not the only one.

And here’s a picture of the UofL Cardinal basketball team    

Know your limitations! Better yet, hire someone

My BFF—although when we met years ago in the church nursery, we didn’t call ourselves this—recently celebrated an important wedding anniversary. Her children planned a surprise for Betty and Chuck. All their friends were asked to make a quilt square and one of the wives would stitch them together. How much fun, I thought. How easy and cheap.

Ha! I spent nearly seventy dollars on creating that 10” X 10” piece of cotton, expended hours coming up with the design and putting the square together, and it ended up looking as if our cats found a box of crayons and some glue and made a mess.

For that reason and to save you the heartbreak, let me give you some tips if you are ever asked to do this.

1) PLAN I ended up with three different ideas and purchased the supplies for each. That’s what cost so much and took up so much time.

2) KEEP IT SIMPLE My final idea was a montage of events and groups she and I had shared, an homage to the past, nostalgic and heartwarming. However, I had too much detail. If I’d stuck with only a few ideas, there would not have been the big black smear or the messy iron-ons.

3) KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS I’m a writer not an artist. I probably should have written a reflection on all we did together and my memories of my friend and her husband and glued it on the square. I could have printed it off on colored paper. The whole project would have been cheaper and prettier and without the black smear.

4) And this is the one I really recommend: Hire someone to do this for you.

Fortunately, Betty loved the square. At least she said she did. That makes up for the time and money and makes me happy.  (PS, that is NOT Betty and Chuck’s  quilt but that is our cat.  I’m donating this quilt–made by my gandmother nearly a century ago–to Brenda Hiatt’s auction for a cure for diabetes.)

Football Isn’t Fun Any More

The football team of my alma mater, Kansas State, is ranked number one in the BSC poll.  

Collin Klein is the top player in the running for the Hiesman trophy.

And he’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated with an article about the top player on the top team inside.  You do know about the SI jinx, right?

If you think he and the team are feeling pressure, it’s not even close to the stress I’m feeling!

A little late blogging today

I woke up this morning and realized this is Tuesday, my day to blog and I had nothing!  

There is a good reason.  I bought a new car.   By new car, I mean new to me.  

Twelve years ago, George bought me a brand new yellow Ford Focus.  I love cars in bright colors both because they make me happy and because I can find them easily in a parking lot.  It worked wonderfully.  Never had to spend money except for oil changes and new tires.

Until two years ago.  My battery kept running down.  I had to have it jumped every three or four months and bought four new batteries.  At the same time, when I got into the car and before I put the key in the ignition, the radio would come on.  I believed the radio was draining the battery so set an appointment with the radio specialist at the dealership to check it.   He said (I paraphrase here), “Lady, you’re nuts.  There’s nothing wrong,” because—in my experience–mechanics never listen to women.  I could go on and on about this but I won’t in this blog.

And yet, the radio kept turning on and the battery kept running down.  I had the radio removed.   Didn’t change things and still no one could find a reason for this.  Yes, I know it was a short in the electrical system but, “Lady, there’s nothing wrong with your car,” but they couldn’t explain  the new batteries.  I had to keep AAA on speed dial.

I’m on deadline:  October 1 for The Wedding Planners of Butternut Creek.  When the car wouldn’t start last Wednesday, I had it jumped and drove it for thirty minutes, I thought the charge would last three or four months and I’d have plenty of time to look for a new car after October 1 because it was obvious I need a car that starts without the aid of jumper cables.

But the charge didn’t last.  Saturday morning, the battery was dead again. 

Monday, we bought a new (to me) car, pictured above.  It’s a 2008 Mazda 3 and is so pretty and clean but it’s white!   In the picture my dear husband took, my Power Cat (the logo of  my Alma Mater, Kansas State University) shows up beautifully against the white.

But the car is white and I won’t be able to find it in the parking lot.  My plan is to do something on the roof of the car to identify it.  I’m thinking a purple stripe to match the Power Cat.  I should be able to pick that out in a parking lot.

I am open to suggestion.  What do you think would brighten up and make my new car easier to identify?