Tag Archives: Writing

Consider One Word

Am I the only one who lets go of her New Year’s Resolutions before January is history? Not just let go, but sets them free to pester a more disciplined soul somewhere? And slam the door of failure behind them as they leave?

I not only ignored those resolutions, I broke them. All. Eventually I quit making any resolutions when the time came. It continued for some years. Whenever asked if I’d made my New Year’s Resolutions, I smiled and changed the subject.

Until our Quills of Faith Writer’s Group Co-Leader, Kate Barker, brought a new idea to the first meeting of the year in 2017. Instead of that list of resolutions none of us kept, how about trying a new idea that was catching fire. “It works for me because it gives me a focus,” Kate said, now a veteran one-worder. “And then I begin to see how things come together during the year.”C.Elliott-Resolution Words-PixabayAn interesting concept. Just in time, too. I’d had a setback on my writing journey and a special, focus-word could serve as motivation to pull me out of my slump. I decided to give it a go and chose my first word – Forward (for 2017).

In typical, overkill-Cathy-style, I began researching quotes and verses and memes with my word at the heart of each. Soon, I had a ten-page file with colorful pictures and encouraging quotes to flip through. Daily. Or anytime I felt a little crumbly inside. These truths came from many places and many people. They supported my writer recuperation in the best of ways. The repetition of wise thoughts and advice served to replace my nagging self-doubts. Embracing the one word thing worked for me.

The next year, I chose Brave as my word. Again, success. Then last year, I chose Wisdom. Another winner! Focusing on all three words mended my heart (I’m a slow healer) and amended my point of view. Like a compass, they guided my steps and directed me toward the person I long to become.

Treasures from MY One Words.Green

And…no broken resolutions left behind. Nothing to lament. Rather, the commitment to my chosen word was a positive in every way.

The latest cozy mystery I’m writing features some folks who will play an important part in solving the case. They are part of a group referred to as Plain. Introduced to their ways, my non-Plain heroine saw something lovely in their lifestyle. Something restful and pure. So did I. Which made me wonder if my 2020 word was associated with them.

Then I found this beautiful rendition of “Simple Gifts.” A Shaker Hymn written by Joseph Brackett (1797 -1882). Performed by Yo Yo Ma and Alison Krauss. Ahhh….

Naturally, I found synonyms for the words Plain and Simple:

Plain – Minimal, unadorned, unfussy, down-to-earth, unpretentious, homely, pure, homespun, honest.

Simple – Uncomplicated, trouble-free, undemanding, humble, natural, effortless, easy, elegant.

My focus on the gift of simpler living began months ago. Maybe it’s been knocking on my heart for years and I’m finally listening. Recently, I started a board on my Pinterest site titled, “The Bounty of Simple.” You can see where this is going.

So, I searched for a word for 2020 to keep me focused on the beauty of less. On what IS without a lot of excess to make it more. Like a rosy-cheeked child holding her beloved kitty. There’s a story there. An attachment between the two. Adventures untold. Yet the simplicity of this picture made my heart smile and unleashed my imagination.

Simplicity seemed the perfect word for 2020. I’m excited to see where it takes me.

veronika-homchis-Child & Cat-unsplash





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Love Letters

Have you seen writing imprinted on furniture? Whether on fabric or wood, it’s a graceful, vintage look. On close examination, one often recognizes the writing as a collection of love letters. My heart melts as I read the tender snippets & invent stories of the two who penned those thoughts. Pictures or pillows can also feature words that inspire…like dream or believe or love.

Pillows w:Writing

How welcoming! And inspirational. (Image by StockSnap from Pixabay)

I once saw a pillow decorated with the word Paris in fancy cursive next to an image of the Eiffel Tower. Made me want to book the next flight. (Sigh.) Love the look of imprinted writing. Probably, because I love words.

My only imprinted items are a couple of insulated water bottles. One was a gift. The other? A must-buy. But I’m very attached to them. And their writerly look.

A while back, I was putting together a workshop for a writer’s conference & wondered what visual aids I might use to make my point: Turn your rejection into REdirection! After all, one wants to find the right market for a piece. One needs the editor to believe in the work, to be a cheerleader. A rejection might be a good thing. A loving thing. It could turn out to be a wise new path. A REdirection, instead.

But how could I take the sting out of rejection for my workshop attendees? I remembered my own pile of rejection letters. Maybe I could I use them. An idea popped from the pile. I’d mimic the writing I’d seen on various fabric-covered chairs or pillows or other pretty furnishings by making a lovely writerly something out of the harshness of rejection.

First, I bought a big container of Mod Podge. Then…,

  • I photocopied the rejection letters;
    • Some on white paper;
    • Some on an aged-looking, onion-skin,
  • And ripped them to shreds!
  • I placed them at artistic angles;
    • On a lampshade;
    • On a lidded container;
    • And on a paper-mache star;
  • Then secured them to the surfaces with the Mod Podge.

My class got such a kick out of my crazy crafts! They amazed at the unexpected use of rejection letters to make new things. Pretty things I could use. Filling the container with Hershey Kisses, I passed it around so they could taste some REdirection love. I attached a silver thread to the star & stuck some rhinestones in the center, changing it into a Christmas ornament.

But the crowning glory was the papered lampshade, which I placed on top of a 1910 Weller (art pottery) lamp base. It sits on a small dresser in my bedroom to this day.

Weller Lampshade copy

When I look at it, I’m reminded of my beautiful writer journey, bruises & all. I don’t see rejection anywhere. I see love letters.


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Word Power

My little granddaughter, Sidney, is now five years old. Her world has expanded from preschool and the back yard mini-trampoline to kindergarten and Saturday soccer, now an enthusiastic “Purple Dolphin Tails” team player.

And to email.

I got my first message from Sidney’s own gmail address with the subject line, “hi gramsey.” Though probably typed in by her mother, the words stirred an immediate inner awww. Below, in the message box, Sidney had written:

[?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?][?]Hands typing on the computer

Have you ever seen a message so profound? Doesn’t it show she has a curious mind? And perseverance? So many question marks! That’s a lot of work.

When the second email came yesterday, the message was a simple “gramsey.” Even though my daughter said Sidney tired after so much precise typing and left to play other games, it was enough. Rather like a girl in love who delights to hear her name on the lips of her beloved, reading mine typed by those tiny fingers brought bliss.

Ah! The power of the written word. And of the writer.


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Rabbit Trails

Max & Ruby. Ruby & Max. Two cuter bunnies have not been seen since Beatrix Potter gave us Mr. McGregor’s garden-gate-crashers.

Inspired by the Rosemary Wells children’s books I have loved for years, these DVDs star mischievous Max and his long-suffering-big-sister, Ruby. My granddaughter, Sidney, likes these sweet adventures. Me, too. I’ve bought more than a few for us to enjoy together.

The other day, I found an unfamiliar episode called “Ruby Writes a Story.” What could be better for a writer? It made sense to add it to my collection of writing-related DVDs. Maybe I could show it at our writer’s group, Quills of Faith. A legit reason to keep a Max & Ruby story for myself, right?

Max & Ruby: Ruby Writes a Story

Ruby Writes a Story

I was all anticipation as I shoved the disc into my computer. What wonderful wisdom would Ruby have for us writers? After all, her creator, Rosemary Wells, was a prolific children’s book author. Maybe there was a wee writer nugget somewhere in this little story.

But I didn’t love it.

The characters were still adorable. I related to Ruby’s struggle to start her “Once upon a time” story, while Max, astride his stick horse, roped his wind-up lobster and herded toy chicks. Such distractions are a part of the writer life.

I detected a wee gem, too: the story you seek might be right in front of you. And it could start, “Once upon a time, there was a cowboy….”

But for me, the best part of the Max & Ruby adventures is sharing them with my granddaughter, Sidney. Hearing her cute comments and contagious giggles always pushes the experience over-the-top.

The new DVD and I are planning a trip soon.


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Just Do It!

Recently, I signed up for a workshop to learn to make a little quilt called, “Emma’s Legacy.” It’s just the kind of pattern I like best – very old-fashioned and scrappy. Reminiscent of the collection of quilts in grandma’s linen cupboard, tenderly pieced with parts of grandpa’s best shirt or baby’s christening dress. In those days, folks used what fabric they had, giving it new life in the form of a functional coverlet. A treasure cherished by generations that followed.

As Jane Austen would say, “I was all anticipation” until I heard that this pattern was so very complicated. The pieces are small and there are a lot of them to sew together in an intricate way. And then, there are the points! Oh, my.  All those points must match perfectly. One gal told me that after attempting the “Emma’s Legacy” quilt, she had renamed it “Emma’s Lunacy.” She failed to finish it.

After hearing her take, I thought about backing out of the workshop. Seriously. Did I want to set myself up for failure?

I called a meeting with me, myself, and I to regroup. Where was that old American-can-do-spirit? What about “nothing ventured, nothing gained?” Or “say ‘yes’ to the dress?”

Okay, maybe that last cliche doesn’t apply here. But you get my drift.

So I decided not only to take the class, but to complete the quilt on my newly acquired 1945 Singer Featherweight. A tiny sewing machine for a tiny quilt.

I feel a little victorious before it’s time, facing the lunacy project with renewed passion. But I am confident that with a little American ingenuity, I can see it through to the end. Now, to focus that same spirit toward a certain writing project I’ve been tickling around the edges. It’s time to plunge forward into the fray, ready for battle, expecting victory.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh?


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One Quilt Begats Two

After putting together my daughter’s quilt, I found myself again collecting material for a new quilt when I really should have only been collecting a different type of material. Research for a new book. (Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.)  To justify this new blankie to myself, I labeled it “Legacy Recycling.” Sounds important, right?

If one is inclined to think I’m too politically correct – and no one has ever accused me of that – the premise behind the idea is to reuse some old squares stitched into a quilt nearly forty years ago by my mom. Sadly, the quilt is no longer useable. The sashing and backing are worn and torn. The batting has separated from itself, giving the quilt a lumpy effect. Even the yarn ties are frayed.  Still, I never could toss out that tattered treasure, all these many years.

The inner squares, depicting the story of The Wizard of Oz, were in great shape. I could remake this quilt, once lovingly crafted for my own little girl, into a sweet story-quilt for my granddaughter, Sidney Anne.

I purchased some wonderful, fresh fabrics to encase the old squares into a log-cabin design with a charming backing of cozy flannel. My fingers were itching to stitch.

Before I began, I wanted to finish up a sock monkey I’d meant to send Sidney ages ago. That project had spent too much time waiting on the shelf and my granddaughter was growing fast. So I got busy. I crocheted a flower for the hat and made Miss Monkey a frilly skirt, for a ballerina affect.

Once the monkey was on its way, I returned to the little quilt. But I got distracted when I found a gorgeous pop-up book of The Wizard of Oz at Costco.  Wouldn’t it be fun if I could read the story aloud to Sidney, pointing to the quilt squares at the right time?  Then she could tell the story to her baby dolls or young cousins, or that darned sock monkey, using the quilt as a guide. Unfortunately, the book turned out to be too scary for our precious three-year-old.  Since then, I’ve spent a lot of quilting time (and writing time) haunting various bookstores, attempting to find the perfect, age appropriate story of Dorothy’s adventures. No luck so far.

There have been myriad other diversions to keep me from finishing the quilt. Christmas is coming and there are homemade ornaments to make, home-baked treats to whip up for holiday potlucks, and practice time for Christmas concerts.

Besides, I need to abandon the quilt project for a while. And write. Which I should have been doing all along. A new project looms with a self-imposed deadline. I don’t want to miss this great opportunity. But what’s with me and unfinished quilts?

At least there’s a completed monkey on my resume. Which is better than a monkey on my back, I guess.

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Game Change

Like many of you, tonight I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Vancouver. It’s something I’ve looked forward to with almost addictive fervor. “Hi, I’m Cathy and I’m an Olympiholic.”

To be honest, I was glad the USA wasn’t hosting because who could compete with China’s stunning ceremonies two years ago? They set the bar impossibly high. I was concerned for Canada and the comparisons that would obviously be made.

So when groups of native peoples danced over the ice – each doing their own versions of the steps with no apparent attempt to synchronize the show – I thought, “Oh-oh.” Granted, the native costumes sparkled with unique ethnic beauty, and the set was definitely a wow, but I had all that perfect Chinese precision in my head. Wasn’t Canada going to even try and compete?

But it didn’t take long for me to get caught up in the power of the story. With techno-visuals that must rival Avatar (I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say for sure), the stage of ice broke and parted; the seas simmered with salmon, great whales, and other creatures. I was glued to the TV, wanting to see more. I didn’t even miss the precise moves that so awed me in 2008 because I was captured by the story of Canada, seen through the eyes of its patriots. I watched to the last…to the spectacular lighting of the torch.

As a writer, I should have remembered. Story is king. Even if all the words are perfectly placed and tantalize the ear with fabulous phrases, if you don’t have a good story no one will read the book. Or not for long. No one will publish it either. The key is for the reader to be swept up into the story, to go on an emotional adventure with the hero. Maybe in this case, with many heroes who have many stories to tell.

Precision is one thing and in China, it was intoxicating. But story is all.  And Canada captivated me with hers. I’m anxious to find out what happens next.

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Filling Up the Cup

Along with missing the January 1st goal on my first blog post, I also was way behind sending out Christmas cards. In fact, it never happened. Again.

This was getting to be a habit, though my excuse this year was a good one. From the end of July until the 16th of December, I was writing (and rewriting) my new cozy mystery – Medals in the Attic – the second book in a continuity series. The time line for the project was incredibly fast and I spent almost every spare non-day-job-minute at my favorite coffee shop, typing on my keyboard, willing a mental growth-hormone into my manuscript.

All that writing…yet no time to write out Christmas cards. That troubled me, because it’s the only time of the year that I contacted some folks. What if I lost touch with some of them? Or maybe they would think I didn’t care about them. Not good. I couldn’t help but view my cup – or maybe that was a mug – as half-empty.

Once the book was completed and Christmas a memory, I decided to write out those pesky cards anyway. Dear ones wanted to know how my 90-year-old Mother was doing, I was sure. And coincidentally, I had a great new picture of my granddaughter to share. So I was really doing them a favor.

I found a couple boxes of cards on sale at T.J. Maxx and got busy. Dropping the completed stack into the mail box was a deep sigh moment for me. Nice! But still, I felt a bit embarrassed since they were so late. And they weren’t even Christmas cards. Would anyone mind? Another deep sigh.

Then, the other day I came home to a phone message from my cousin, Sam. “Got your Season’s Greetings card for next year and I wanted you to know how much I admire you for being so far ahead of everyone else!”

Wow. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But she does make sense, you know. I imagine myself kicking back, relaxing during the next Christmas season, knowing my cards are already sent. It’s a good feeling.

In fact, I think I see that half-empty cup starting to fill.

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