In my career, I have written numerous processes. Some were in the form of video scripts, some were instructions for people on an assembly line and others were tips for improving one’s writing. I also tend to read through processes to see how well the writer has or has not explained the steps. So it is delightful when I come across the following recipe (Yes, it’s a process!) and notice a glaring error. Can you find it? 

Recipe for Jamaican Baked Chicken

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  2. Combine all ingredients except chicken in large bowl. Rub seasoning over chicken and marinate in refrigerator for 6 hours or longer.
  3. Evenly space chicken on nonstick or lightly greased baking pan.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for an added 30–40 minutes or until the meat can be easily pulled away from the bone with a fork.

My suggestion? Switch steps one and two.

Another suggestion, whether your are writing a description, narration, a novel  a play, or anything with publication potential, do yourself a favor and proofread it. If you are submitting a work for publication, you are well advised to have it professionally edited. Yes, that costs money, but it’s worth the piece of mind. I’ve seen NYT best sellers with typos! So you are best served by having a Beta reader, a proofreader and an editor who will check your content and your copy.

Think about this. A person wrote a four step process for cooking chicken and couldn’t get it correct. What are the chances there is at least one error in your latest work?

LONG LAKE by John Todd (1845) published by Purple Mountain Press, 1997.

John Todd 1800-1873.

Reading about where you are by Gary McLouth

The Adirondack mountains of New York State were measured in comparison in size to Massachusetts by early explorers, and more recently, to the area of Connecticut and Rhode Island, or over 6 million acres, or just one big ancient mountain range replete with lakes and forests called the largest State Park east of the Mississippi, and designated in the New York State Constitution as “Forever Wild.”

Having found home in the central Adirondacks for most of my life, I can attest to the abiding sense of awe I feel just by being here. The vistas of mountains from lake shores strike me speechless while reminding me of the indubitable dominance of nature. As I look out over the water at the forested mountain ridges, I feel big and small at once. I  imagine my presence here as something grand and significant through communing with nature’s overwhelming presence, and the belief that I am an integral and organic element of the world.

A passage from what is considered by Adirondack historians as “the first book to deal with an Adirondack topic” says it from the perspective of a man who penetrated this wilderness some 170 years ago. What he has written doesn’t seem much out of date to me.

When you are thus in the midst of a great forest, knowing that you must go fifty or sixty miles ere you reach a human being – knowing that here man has not left the prints of his puny foot, — that God himself reigns here in solitude, you have a subdued feeling of dependence and insignificance that is new and peculiar. You feel that you might fall like one of the leaves that is falling around you, and the forest would stand, the mountains cast their deep shadows and the lake mirror back the bright heavens, and the world move on just as if you had never been.

A writer, to whom I have already made allusion, thinks the wilderness is, of all others, the best pace in which to renew health of body and vigor of mind. Before any one lays his plans to penetrate it far, let him make up his mind to endure fatigue beyond what he ever before endured, to sleep where-ever night finds him, and to come as near starving as need be. It will do well enough to talk about living on venison or moose, but it is always better to hunt the bear before you sell his oil. It is obviously the best place in the world to recruit the body – for you must work as hard as possible, and change all you habits of diet, & c. Then you are completely shut out from the world, and know nothing of what is passing without. So you may cease to give yourself any trouble about it, and you thus leave the world behind, and the mind is wholly unbent – an advantage which it can obtain nowhere else. All habits of mind and body are changed, and all are recruited…

                                                                                end

 

Recapturing Youth

By: Geneva Kelly 6-2014    (WC 772)

The pressures of adulthood can make things seem so serious.  With work, kids, crazy relatives, bills, stress and random illness- it can be hard to look at things with brighter eyes.  But what if for a moment, you could recapture one thing from your youth?  What if you could bring back that most valued trait that adult amnesia has made you forget?  Would you want to be fearless, or more confident?  Would you want to be equally as silly or lighthearted?  Or would you just settle on having some of your (don’t give a shit a bit) back?

We spend our adolescence waiting for the freedoms that come with adulthood, and our adulthood thinking it wouldn’t be so bad to have those simple things we took for granted when we were young.

Curious as ever, I questioned 40 people to find out what random things people miss.  I used social media, friends, family, and people at work for a variety of answers.  I asked men and women ages 30 to 70, and here are some things that I heard.

For starters, if we could get back our childhood energy, we’d all feel a lot better!  Coffee and Red Bull are fine, but everyone claimed to be pretty much addicted.

We miss being fearless.  And I say we, because I am in total agreement.  Men and women agreed that they miss being brave enough to try anything.  A women in her 70’s used to love parties but life made her antisocial.  A man in his 60’s used to love rollercoasters but was now scared of heights.  A 50-something on social media admitted to being afraid of technology (which was kind of funny considering she was on Facebook).  And a 40 year old man mentioned his fear of bridges because of a past car accident.  In my late 30’s, the thing I fear the most is myself.  It’s the fear of getting in my own way, and the possibility of not feeling fully alive each day.   I miss the days when I used to sing out loud just because.

But what about those days when you were 16, and didn’t care about anything?  The days when it didn’t matter who was watching, and you could simply be yourself?  I’ll tell you what happened- gray hair, bigger bellies, boredom, and the internet.  If you compare yourself to the millions of pictures you see every day online, you could feel bad, being Miss America.

When I asked the women 30 and older what they would want back from their youth, I heard things like: my body before pregnancy, my thighs before cellulite, my hair before grays, and (my favorite) my round bootie.

Men weren’t that different though.  Some of youngest wanted to bring back the hair missing on their head, which by 50 somehow shifted spots and started growing in their ears.  Some wanted their eyesight, and just like women, wanted those six packs (before they became so fond of the drinkable kind however, and got beer bellies instead).

Aside from the physical things, and equally at all ages, there were random answers about wanting to recapture a feeling.  Some wanted to feel loved or excited, nurtured, or appreciated.  And one guy at a sweet age of 75 told me he missed being surprised.  He said, “At my age not that much surprises you anymore.”  Lord do I hope he finds sweet surprises.

Some older folks, wanted to have back simpler times; when bitch wasn’t an appropriate word on the radio, and when they sang about love- instead of big booties and fast money.

Those who ranged from 40 to 60 wanted their memory and sharp mind back, because walking in the room and forgetting what you came in for, gets annoying after a while.   A few people wanted to bring family members or parents, to have just one more moment with them.  And some wanted missing items like a school ring, or lost photos.

One guy told me about a teddy bear he had when he was three.  Poor Mr. Teddy got peed on, and was never seen again.

Being an adult is funny.  I miss the days when dying my hair was for fun and not because of the many grays. I miss running outside in the rain and stomping in puddles without worrying what bacteria may be lurking.  Now, I understand some of the things that I didn’t in my youth.  And though there is still so much I’m trying to figure out; I’ve decided that for the things I can’t wrap my head around, well- I don’t give a shit a bit.

 

 

 

One Thing by Geneva Kelly

One Thing…

By: Geneva Kelly

    As a follow up to a previous article, and my usual quest to examine the differences between men and women, I asked around to find the answer to one more question.  I asked at work, and then posted it on social media.  If you could change one thing about your significant other, what would it be?  Would you want them to talk less?  Laugh more?  Change their hairstyle or clothing choice?  Or possibly have an attitude adjustment.

    Quite a few women said, “I would change his attention span, or his lack of communication.”

    Men joked around by saying, “I would change her nagging, or her decision making.”

    Mostly, men echoed complaints about how women take forever to get ready.

    “When my girlfriend promises to be ready in five minutes, that five minutes shouldn’t really mean 30,” said a handsome 20-something.

    “Guys don’t have a clue what it’s like to walk in 3 to 6 inch heels,” I said, in defense of my stylish mama’s.  “Deciding what to wear just based on your shoes takes time.”

    Another guy told me, “My girl is too passive.  I don’t like to pull things out of her head.”

    I found that interesting to hear from a man.

    Along the lines of being passive, another guy stated clearly, “She should be more assertive in the bedroom.”

    Following was a women that mentioned her man was boring and she felt like tapping the walls while they were having sex.

    I wondered if by simply communicating with one another, those things could change.  Because it’s such a sensitive subject no one wants to be vulnerable enough to bring it up.  All of these complaints could have a remedy if we were honest with one another.   And even if they didn’t change, making someone aware of how you feel could release you from possible resentment.

    A new dad in his 40’s answers the question by saying, “I would change everything!”

    Apparently the lack of sleep is getting to him.

    On-line a male friend on Facebook said he would change his first wife’s problem with infidelity.  For wife number two, he would miraculously alleviate her manipulative skills.  And wife number three?

    “That will never happen!” He said.

    I can’t say I blame him.

    While still on Facebook, several women said they wish their men weren’t so cheap.  Others wished their men didn’t spend so much money.  Women agreed that they would want their men to be more exciting, because sitting at home every day is just not enough to keep the spark going.

    I found it funny that men and women alike would both change things like snoring, belching, cleaning, smoking, and the amount of time they spend with their family.

    After days of asking, it surprised me that both genders agreed they would change the amount of drinking their partner does.  One guy in his 30’s said, “I wish she realized how small she is.  When she drinks, I babysit.  And I don’t mean the kids.”

    The one that stood out the most however was when one lady, also in her 30’s said, “He has been drunk every day for the last 10 years!”

    She clearly did not want to deal with it anymore.

    Only one person, married for 20 years to her high school sweet heart, said, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

    After gathering this info I don’t really believe we are that different after all.  Most of us simply want meaningful relationships; partnerships.  We want to be recognized by the person standing next to us.  Though some extra finances and excitement don’t hurt either.

    I’m pretty certain my significant other would say, “I wish she wasn’t so bossy.”

    If only he just did what I asked him to do!  See— I don’t have a problem with the truth.  Do you?

THE DIRTY WORDS

THE DIRTY WORDS

By Russ Miller (734 words)

 

Have you noticed the foul language of this present generation?

Even movie scripts are rife with verbal and visual degradation.

It is a moral risk taking family to the theatre these days,

Dirty dialogues abounding, what has happened to decent mores?

 

They say: ‘that is the way people talk today.”

F words and B words and others I won’t say.

Environment could be a reason for some,

But I’ve even heard scholars, swear with aplomb.

 

What is the need for profanity and what is the gain?,

For anyone to use words that are unquestionably profane.

Violating sensitivities, with intent to defame,

Some cultured listeners may tolerate the use, albeit with disdain.

 

Dirty words in text, used to be blocked out leaving blank spots

Later the technique was to print the first letter, followed by dots

There is no guessing what the words were, that were blocked out,

And now filthy words are complete, leaving nary a doubt.

 

Have you notices “T” shirts the collegians are wearing?

Four letter words emboldened, encouraging solicitations for paring.

Coed dormitories are convenient for debauchery and such,

Parental influence is no longer a factor and not seen very much.

 

One’s shallow lexicon, is an indication of one’s choices,

Obviously demonstrating their short comings, when hearing their voices,

But a small vocabulary does not have to be defiled,

By using words that you would not teach a child.

 

A shameless vocabulary, imparts shame indeed,

And demonstrates that the relater is sorely in need,

Of more cultured articulation, without the crust,

For an otherwise acceptable message, void of disgust.

 

I recall orators, in the classic annals of literature who excel,

Outstanding by their brilliance and lauded prose to tell.

I cannot recall in quality works that I have read, vile or dirty words,

Common scurrility as used today would only be among the absurd’s.

 

Yes I know that times have changed, as our mores relax,

But the rules of decency still prevail, the facts are still the facts.

There are some acceptable exceptions within limits, that may do no harm,

Imagine Rhett Butler saying, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a darn”

 

GONE WITH THE WIND, will live for centuries,

One word contributed to a ban by the Church and their juries,

The word was “damn”, it relegated a great film to the list of the profane,

I’ve heard worse from Priest’s mouths, with scorn and disdain.

 

 

I will have no influence with the dirty mouth generations,

Nor will I try, I am satisfied with my own untainted creations.

My writings span a period over 70 odd years to date.

I search for right words, with no deference to the common vulgate.

 

I am embarrassed to read or hear irreverent uncultured trash,

Shakespeare said “ Speak the Speech, proudly with panache.”

We are judged by what we say and how we say every bit,

I want my words to be remembered with class, as I say it.

 

Would you be pleased or uncomfortable, listening to you,

Uttering foul, obscene vulgarities, like maybe some friends may do?

It is not just the middle or lower class now, using foul orations,

Even socialites use evil tongues with defiling connotations?

 

Some say “that’s just the way it is at this point is time,” really”?

I have not heard it taught in churches or schools, where languages flow freely.

Most offenders clean up their mouth, speaking with a child or a parent.

There are times when even the worst offenders know, that they daren’t.

 

Does anyone give respect to a dirty mouth friend or a mate,

Admiring their curse words, which connote a distasteful spate?

Spare me the need to listen with disgust and dismay,

“Speak the Speech with panache” as Shakespeare would say.

 

Have I Spoke the Speech, have I encouraged some restrain.

As the word master teaches, there is no need to be profane.

Words are our jewels, with millions of facets, sparkling like stars,

For all to use, in dignity, with pride, they are for us, they are ours.

 

It is our choice and ours alone, to choose from the myriads of verbal jewels,

Profanity has no meaningful use in any language, and is not taught in schools.

Those who embrace sounds of scurrility, are justifiably regarded as low class.

Even Webster and, Funk and Wagnall’s gave “THE DIRTY WORDS” a wide, wide pass.

…………………………………………………………………..

 

For over 100 more nostalgic or poetic

short stories, by Russ, go to:

www.russmillerstories.com

What makes a good writer?

What makes a good writer?

Geneva Kelly

Are you a writer, or insane enough to love one?

Suppose you had the chance to sit down with one of your favorite authors. Who would it be, and what would you ask?

If you’re the writer chances are you’ll ask: What was your inspiration? How did you get your big break? How long did it take before your work got accepted? My question would be, “What do I need to do, to become a successfully-known writer?”

If you are a writer’s lover on the other hand, your question may be, “When will they stop questioning everything?” I’ll make that one easy for you by saying NEVER.The word Write on a cork notice board

Just the other day he called me dramatic—my lover that is. It’s not my fault my story was about him! I could blame it on his eyes. I could say he threw me into a frenzy of anger because loving him is painful. Or I could do what I did: tell him that I remember everything he’s ever said! Blame it on the writer— not the girl.

Over the years I’ve wondered when and where, why and how for just about everything imaginable. But the one thing I have never wondered is what makes a good writer. It seems to be the only thing that makes total sense to me.

Being a good writer means creating stories in the middle of doing something else, without even expecting it to happen. It means being in tune with the world; being able to laugh at it, when you want to throw your hands up and slap the shit out of somebody. It means being Clark Kent at your day job, just so you can pay your bills on time, while locking up bad guys at night with the strength of your pen.

It also means relating to pain with compassion, or total disregard; whatever works best for the story. It’s knowing that at the end of the paper you spilled your guts, no matter what the outcome. You had no choice but to get it out!

I’m aware that my writing comes from a place that sometimes has nothing to do with me. It comes from a place I’m unfamiliar with and don’t even care to question. I can’t say that about much of anything else in life.

You know you are a good writer if what you write moves others to places that make them laugh, and cry. But you also have to be willing to laugh at yourself. I believe honesty has a vulnerability that can break through steel. Writers are taught that good writing means more than telling someone you had the best day of your life; a good writer shows them what if feels like to jump out of that plane (even if you bump your head on the way down).

A good writer is an architect. She enjoys straightening out the lovely mess in her head and structuring the roles of the ten or more people living there.

On the other hand- if you are the one in love with a writer, there are a few things you should know. You should be:

  1. Crazy.
  2. Patient. There are times when you will have to be more supportive than you want. (Like when your lover stops you mid-sentence because something you said just gave them a new idea for a story.)
  3. INTERESTING. Writers just don’t do BORING very well.  Sorry for the bluntness, but at times we have to make something out of nothing and in order to do that, we need some inspiration.
  4. Good in bed. Ok- this could just be a personal opinion, but writers are liberated by passion. We breathe it, sleep it, see it when it barely exists; if you want to see our creative juices flowing- it’s simple: get them flowing.

After reading Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, I thought it was awesome that he emphasized how his wife’s unwavering belief in him pushed him forward. He said, had she doubted him, he may have given up on himself. For me, this confirmed the importance of supportive people in our lives.

I am intensely against horror films, so reading anything from Stephen King would seem almost unheard of to someone who knows me well. Something about a man chasing me down the hall with a large knife and a crazy grin, just doesn’t do it for me. Though now, I am able to understand the writing behind it, and I’m intrigued by how this man has mastered the craft.

I never expected him to have such a sense of humor; never expected to relate to his writing either. But after reading about his life, he no longer seemed so creepy. After I finished the book, I even listened to the CDs. Hearing Stephen’s explanation of his story inspirations, amazed me.

I got a kick out of it when my son’s father questioned why I, (of all people) was listening to Steven King? While he (of all people) was listening to Pastor Joyce Myer (after my suggestion). I’m laughing because Joyce doesn’t care for horror films either. Though I’m pretty sure she would say, “Love the man, not his actions.”

There are plenty of things I say and do that I’m sure will warrant forgiveness. But I think as far as writing goes, I wouldn’t  forgive myself if I didn’t make it my business to share my stories with the world. Even with all my misspelled words, and failed attempts at punctuation; if I didn’t write, I would not know my purpose.

So I think that’s what makes a writer good. When you can’t think of anything else that you crave doing; when you have to make a story of something, nothing, anything, or—you know- your lover.

If plain yes and no just don’t work for you because all the details matter; or if you can describe the way something tastes, smells or feels, so that someone else can enjoy it just the way you did- then you know you are on the right track. And if by not writing, it feels like someone took out one of your lungs, and the only way to breathe is to write that breath back into your life- then you know you are a good writer.

     Oh man- I am dramatic!

My Archive – by Gary McLouth

My Archive
by Gary McLouth

The den, euphemistically called “the office,” is walling in on the 7 X 3.5 ft. mahogany writing table. Book shelves long overstocked sprout files and layers of borrowed and purchased reading, but there’s still some floor space, and I know the contents of each pile, sort of. My wife remarks how I’m turning the cozy den into a “rat’s nest.” Since I was born in the Chinese year of the Monkey, I respond with scratching and giggling.

The scene reminds me of graduate assistant day at SUNY Albany. The Associate Director of the just launched NYS Writers Institute, where I had a position, asked his Assistant Director and me to get his “damned office” organized so he could keep his academic course material separate from the anticipated onslaught of Writers Institute business. The afternoon should be time enough for the job, he assumed.

The room layout was awkward, crammed by two bulky desks butted end-to-end, squeezed into the space where one might have been able to get to the windows that overlooked the courtyard three stories below. Tiers of books and files leaned precariously from floor-to-ceiling shelves along all available wall space. Boxes and an assortment of shopping bags littered the floor. There was just enough walk-around area for a tightly choreographed dance trio. And, the room was cold.

We started where most reasonable do when facing someone else’s office stuff. Laughter, hilarious laughter. Then, careful not to break anything, we sifted through reams of notes, papers, and copies of copies. A random collection of novels, short story collections, medical and law tomes, Bibles and dictionaries got sorted. Texts marked by paper clips and match books were stacked. When we got down to the surface of the desks, gritty scraps of paper and ripped magazine pages waited: phone numbers and names, phrases, indecipherable messages. We liked, “call me.” Clearly out of date, the scraps got scrapped. We wiped the desks clean and started on the bags and boxes. Mistake.

What to do when confronted by the self-collected hagiography of a man’s live? Beginning with love poems from the 1700’s, we did our best to arrange the mess into a kind of chronology. Books first, manuscripts second, personal letters last. The method helped clear a path to the open windows which let in the cold. It also exposed an Oakwood pole rack in the corner; it was draped with several heavy wool overcoats and two hand-knit mufflers. In a crook of moth-eaten collars, a little bird sat silent on her eggs.

I remember a look of discombobulation on our mentor’s face. Some nervous laughing and a timid retreat from the “new office.” As we passed down the long hallway, we heard a plaintive moan. “Where’s my novel?”

Years later, his mother and a trusted friend scoured every possible redoubt for the novel manuscript. Nothing. Sometimes I wonder whether the novel my mentor was looking for was in that archive of a rat’s nest, or whether he was uttering a Jobian epithet of despair. I don’t really know, but as things pile up around here, I take comfort in believing there’re some stories in my archive.

***

Feel free to leave a comment about your thoughts. What did it make you remember of your own life?