It’s Not Just Stuff. It’s Memories.

Stuff. When we were clearing out my parents’ house, filled not only with 70 years of their stuff but also with stuff from my grandparents, and their parents, I had a hard time letting go. Because stuff isn’t always just stuff. It’s memories.

My house is now jam-packed with memories in the form of old furniture, beautiful glassware, and the odds & ends that my family touched, used, and cherished. Family no longer with me, except in the form of their stuff. My poor husband, who is not nearly as into stuff, is a bit overwhelmed by my collections. I understand that but I can only hope he understands that somehow holding on to everyone’s stuff helps me to hold on to them.

Last week, a building was torn down in my hometown that once housed my father’s shoe repair shop. It had burned last fall and needed to come down. Oh, how I remember the smells of that place. Forget English Pear and Freesia, if someone made a candle that smelled like leather and shoe dye, I’d light it every day. Reeder’s Shoe Shop in Eldorado, Illinois had belonged to my grandmother and her father before her. Dad ran it for several decades but had closed it down years ago after he had a stroke. Since then, the building had changed drastically. Long gone were the stacks of never-claimed shoes, the old sewing machine that could stitch through anything, the table loaded down with scraps of leather, and the long bank of sanders that shaped rubber soles and created the fine dust that covered everything in the store with a layer of black grime. The shoes had been tossed. The dust had been cleaned. The smells had evaporated. But the building still stood, holding onto the memories.

Until now. So I sit here crying. Not for a building. Not really. Not even for stuff. But for the family whose voices I still hear, whose hands I still feel when I touch their stuff.

The World Needs You To Be An Artist

A family member just passed away. I have two friends recently diagnosed with cancer. I know people who are dealing with depression, addiction, chronic pain, and the inevitable march of time.

Some of the people in my circle are lonely, sad, overwhelmed, grieving, depressed, broke, jobless, friendless, faithless. So when I post on Facebook that I’m excited about releasing my first book, a part of me feels… guilty. Frivolous. Shallow. What I’ve done will not cure sickness. It will not feed the hungry. It will in no way change the world.

I’ve written a book about monsters chasing people through the mountains. And yes, there is a love story in the book. And a tale of good vs. evil. And a touch of spirituality. But it is, after all, entertainment.

Except to me, it’s more than that. I accomplished a dream I’ve had since childhood. I started a new career in my fifties. I figured out how to do something that I had absolutely no idea how to do. (And am still trying to figure out a lot of it!) I faced the fear of rejection and self-doubt and worked past it. I set myself a huge goal and (eventually) met it.

More so than that, I tapped into that awesome creative spirit that seems such a mystery to those fortunate enough to experience it. I can’t really tell you how I thought of the story of BUKU. I can’t really tell you how I came up with multiple characters and a storyline that seems to tie together. I can’t really tell you where the melody to “Iris’ Lullaby” came from. Creativity remains somewhat magical to me.

Which brings me to my point. In a world filled with heartbreaking things like death and cancer and pain and depression, creating can be essential. It reminds us that there are things far more fascinating than the everyday world. That there are things far more mystical, far more meaningful, far more enjoyable. It reminds us that there is something beyond us that we can connect to as we delve within.

I don’t say these things because I wrote a book. I say these things to encourage you to write a book. Or paint a picture. Or make a quilt. Or sing a song. Or take a photo. Or plant a flower. Or color with your granddaughter. Or whatever it is that is inside you, longing to be let out. We can’t stop the sorrowful inevitabilities of life. But we can interlace them with things we create with our hands and our minds and our hearts. We can bring beauty and peace and passion and godliness into this cold world.

I hope you create something today. Or this week. Or this year. Not because the world needs more entertainment. But because it needs more hope.

Because She Read I Now Write

I dedicated my first novel BUKU to my husband Mike because it would not have been possible without him. He was the one who finagled the budget so we could afford for me to quit my full-time job. He was the one who did that again when my freelance jobs dwindled away. He was the one who went to work every day while I pursued my dream of writing a book. BUKU would not have been possible without him.

But it was my mother Carolyn who taught me to love stories. Mom was a reader. Big time. She was a dichotomy, or as Kristofferson says, “a walking contradiction”. She battled depression, probably more so than I realized as a child. Because what I saw her doing was leading a 4-H club and coaching softball and teaching the youth at our church alongside my dad.

I also saw her read. All the time. I think she used it as a way to battle her depression.  She was always in the midst of a book. And she made sure the whole family was too. She would go to the library and spend hours picking out a bag full of books, not just for herself, but for me and my brother and my father. Dad would read a few. My brother would read a few. I read a lot. She read them all.

My grandmother fussed at times about mom’s lack of housekeeping skills and the amount of time she spent reading. However, the thought occurred to me the other day that I don’t know if I gained much of anything long-term from Grandma’s cleaning skills. (Though I did from her cooking!)

But from my mom, I learned to love stories. And words. It was while diving into those books she meticulously picked out for me that I developed the dream to write my own books.

I didn’t get to tell her this, but I have no doubt that because she read, I now write.

Making Dreams Come True

When Lee Ann Womack won Female Vocalist of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards, it was a dream come true. Literally. Lee Ann used to watch the awards show as a child and dream of winning the coveted trophy. She worked hard, with single-minded conviction, until she actually did it. She was named the top female singer in country music in 2001.

But Lee Ann said that after the euphoria died down, she was left with a big question. What next? What do you do when you achieve what you’ve worked for for so long? Well, I am about to find out!

No, I’m not up for an award. And probably never will be. But I am about to release my debut novel to the world. Of course, my dream doesn’t center around one book. I hope to write many more. But here at the top of a hill I’ve been climbing for several years, I find myself contemplating the path behind me. It extends all the way back to childhood when I read books that transported me to other places and times. That’s when I told myself I could do that too. The adult me took a long time to get around to it, and I can tell you that path has been long and steep and even torturous at times. But hey, young Jenny. Look at the hill we have climbed.

There’s lots more to do. I’m self-published, so stuff like covers and formatting and marketing and websites is all in my hands. And of course, it’s time to start on the next book. It’s just that, right now, I want to acknowledge that I did it. Whether it sells or not, I have fulfilled a childhood dream.

And folks, I can tell you. It feels good.

I hope you remember your dreams. I hope you can do something that helps you accomplish them in some way. Maybe you can’t become an astronaut, but you can still explore the stars by studying about them. Maybe you can’t be a superstar, but you can still sing or act or paint or pick out a tune on a guitar.

What hill did you want to climb as a child? Have you tried climbing it lately?

Buku: Lock, Stock, and Oil Barrel

BUKU the prologue:
The way it began is kind of sketchy. At least now. Maybe at some point in time someone somewhere knew if Dr. Buddy Givens truly was a benevolent genius concerned with saving the world economy. That was the image he sold to governments around the globe, and the one they all bought lock, stock, and oil barrel.

A precious few at the time, and many more once it was too late to stop, attributed his motives to greed, megalomania, or out-and-out insanity. Some labeled him evil.

Trying hard to be heard above the manic hype, ecologists warned of historical disasters like kudzu and Asian carp, when the introduction of foreign species overwhelmed delicate ecosystems. A handful of savvy farmers and ranchers resisted the tidal wave. The religious right, of course, shouted that a man-made creature was an abomination against God.

In the end, it didn’t much matter whether Givens was charitable or malicious or just plain naive. His scientific endeavors, once touted as the thousand-year solution to all the earth’s energy woes, directly contributed to the collapse of modern society, the deaths of billions of people, and the threatened extinction of almost every living thing on God’s once green earth…

….

So begins my debut novel Buku.

 

Spring Forward

March 11, 2018 — It’s pretty odd, when you think about it. Don’t get me wrong. I love Daylight Savings Time. Tonight my “day” will feel longer because it will still be light out at a time when it was already dark yesterday. That makes my world brighter, especially since I am more of a night person than a morning person. But think about it. The entire country (or most of it) was on board for: “Okay, everyone, on the count of three, let’s shift time!” And we all agreed that 2 a.m. became 3 a.m. And when our bodies told us to wake up, it was already an hour later. And we carry forward from there. It’s honestly pretty absurd. But, it’s what we humans do. We adjust our world. Instead of simply adapting, we manipulate it. We mold it to better suit us. And why not? The clock is a human construct. The rest of the animal kingdom rises and eats and sleeps to the whirling of the earth around the sun. We alone created a way to wrangle time for consistency sake. We as communities mutually agree on things like working hours and entertainment hours and eating hours and sleeping hours. We have molded time to suit our needs. So, why not agree to change it by one hour every spring because it suits our purposes? I know some complain about it. I know a few states cross their arms and refuse to participate. Me? Even though I “lost” an hour of sleep last night, I embrace the absurdity and applaud the folks who first said – hey, why don’t we change the clock every spring? And then again every fall? We are humans. We can do that.

You’re a Dog. Hey, I’m a Dog Too!

Some friends were out of town, and I was over at their house walking their dog. Suddenly, their neighbor appears in his yard with his dog. Both dogs let out a yelp and strained at their leashes trying to get to each other, whining in frustration.

I wonder if we would be like that if we could easily spot fellow writers and other creatives. Would we have an instinctual urge to run up to them, check them out, size them up and shoot a hundred questions at them trying to figure out if they have a secret we don’t have? Just a thought.

Wanna read the start of the prologue to my novel Buku? http://jenniferandersonwriter.com/2018/04/10/buku-lock-stock-and-oil-barrel/

It Needs To Be Fun

I head up a ministry in which we invite the at-risk students of an after-school program to our church once a week for classes in art, music, sewing, crafts, cooking — whatever I can find teachers for. It’s a lot of work, as you can imagine.

This semester, we are doing a music video. With the help of some of the kids a few years ago, I wrote a rap. (Yep, I wrote a rap.) A great guy in town who has a video company is going to shoot and edit it for us. What I planned to work on today with the kids was practicing the song.

Except they weren’t into it. Shyness, young teen “coolness”, the lack of a music leader — all of that resulted in a bunch of kids staring at me like I was asking them to eat rotten apples. I got frustrated and told them none of us had to be there. Their teacher stood up and read them the riot act. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.

And then our star music student played a beat on the keyboard. Some of the kids started singing. The other kids joined in in loud boisterous voices. It certainly wasn’t pretty. It is still a long way from good. But all the sudden, we were having fun. And almost everyone was joining in. Even some of the girls who have been “too cool for the room” all year did the rap.

The lesson for me was, the kids weren’t at fault. I was. Because I was failing to make it fun. It wasn’t intentional. I always want them to have fun, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t accomplishing that. Once it became fun, they participated.

I think the same applies to ourselves. If we want to create, to be truly inspired in what we do, we have to include play. I’m not saying work won’t enter into it. Because it will. But first, it has to be fun.

Just Write

In my quest to learn what I need to know about writing and publishing a book, I have subscribed to a dozen or more different blogs/email lists/Facebook pages/etc, all with instructions on how I should write, why I should write, what I should not do while I write. There seems to be a lot of advice and rules and suggestions and no-no’s. I find that some apply to me. Some I disagree with. Some are talking about the kind of writer I will never be. The only thing I know for sure… the one rule that I will state applies unequivocally to every writer, in every genre, for all time… all of my knowledge and wisdom summed up in one sentence is: If you don’t write, it won’t get written.

And by the way, I think this applies to all creatives. (And we are all creative.) What we have inside of us, the part that is unique to us… if we don’t express it in some way, we stop it from ever being revealed to the world. Or at least our world. Or maybe even, just to us.

Kitty help

Working on the novel. This is what I have so far, with the help of the cat.

“Shepherd,” she said. “He’s not our enemy.”
999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999He glanced at her, but his eyes returned immediately to Oso.

Today

Today. I waited a long time for today. Dreamed about it. Worked toward it. Thought it would never arrive. But today I can officially say I have written a book. I just finished my final self-edit and am sending it off to a few beta readers. There are several more steps I need to take before I can hold a copy of it in my hands, but today is a big day. Today I can claim to be an author.

Check out the start of the prologue to Buku.   http://jenniferandersonwriter.com/2018/04/10/buku-lock-stock-and-oil-barrel/