June 17, 2024

R is for Research by Carol Harrison


 

R is for Research

I have loved research since grade school. One of my favourite assignments in elementary and high school involved researching and writing an essay. I enjoyed the facts I could find and the opportunity to learn more about various subjects.

As a writer, research is important whether we are writing fiction or non fiction. A website called Lumen Learning posted this on their webpage to answer the question, what is research in writing?

“Research is the physical process of gathering information and the mental process of deriving the answer to your question from the information you gathered”

In fiction this can be about your characters’ behaviour or idiosyncrasies. It can involve researching cultural and social context and historical details. Making sure you find the answers to questions about your characters, your settings, and your historical accuracy can help give you confidence in your material.

When I was writing A Mother for Anna, which is set in 1903, I used the term “milk mustache”. One of my early readers asked me if that was a term commonly used during that time frame. I assumed it must have been, but further research showed me the term didn’t get coined until in the 1920’s. A little detail but by changing it my novel became more accurate.

Where can you find materials?

1.     Start with what you already know. This might be snippets of family stories, photos of people, clothing, housing, or any other details. For my Prairie Hope series, I had those little nuggets of family history that left me asking what else might have happened?  I had old photos to show the clothing of various time periods and also some old family documents.

2.     Access material from a variety of sources.

a.      Archives/ records/ maps

b.     Newspapers

c.      Encyclopedic knowledge – google for valuable insights into various time frames

d.     Libraries

e.      Travel to places to get ideas of the scenery, distances, etc.

f.      Opinions – whether stories of people who lived through an era or opinion pieces from papers.

3.     Organize material. What links together? What is non essential for your writing?

4.     Use the materials to lay basis for plausible story lines.. Ask yourself the question about whether this could have happened by having factual accuracy. The little village of Hepburn in my Prairie Hope series didn’t get a store until 1912. Where did the homesteaders have to travel to get supplies? If I would have had them go to the little village it wouldn’t have been accurate and anyone reading it from the area would have realized that.  If the railroad didn’t go to Hepburn in 1899, where did the settlers disembark and how did they get to their homesteads? Contemporary novels are easier to know details or travel to find out what things are like than needing to rely on historical maps and documents for historical pieces.

Enjoy this part of the writing journey as you delve into the research to help make your writing the most accurate it can be. What sources have you used to help you learn more about a character, place, or era?

 

 Carol Harrison writes and researches from her home in Saskatoon, SK. She also enjoys searching out information on family history.

 

 

June 14, 2024

Rhubarb by Sharon Heagy

 

            Rhubarb. Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. If you get close to actors having an indistinct background conversation, this may be the word they are repeating to each other to mimic a conversation. This practice is attributed to the English actor Charles Keon who established it around 1852 at London’s Princess Theatre. The word was chosen because it does not have harsh-sounding consonants or clear vowels.

            Rhubarb has other uses as a word. It has been known to mean nonsense, poppycock, codswallop, gobbledygook. (There are some great words for nonsense, but I digress.)

            It can also mean a heated dispute which may include a scuffle. Like a donnybrook, a brouhaha, a dust-up, an argle-bargle. (More digression - deviation, detour, departure, excursus. You get the idea. My apologies. It’s just one of those days where I need a touch of whimsy, fancy…– ok, I’ll stop.)

            Rhubarb is also a vegetable. As confusing as this is, that statement is true. It is related to the buckwheat and sorrel family. In 1947 a New York court classified it as a fruit in order to lower the tariffs and reduce the price of bringing it into the country, but it is indeed a vegetable.

            The leaves are inedible and contain toxic amounts of oxalic acid. The stalks are full of antioxidants, fibre, calcium and vitamin C. To harvest rhubarb you don’t cut the stalks but rather you pull the stalks out one at a time. This encourages new growth.

            What on earth does rhubarb have to do with writing? Let us consider this wonderful plant. The leaves are huge! Like elephant ears! Well maybe like the ears on a large stuffed toy elephant. But still. They cover the stalks and protect the plant. Just as God covers us as writers of faith. 

            The stalks grow under that precious covering, from the ground up. Out of one plant many stalks emerge, just as many ideas for writing projects are given to us by the Lord as we are sheltered and nurtured under His covering. When rhubarb stalks are ready, they can be plucked out and used. Many ideas for writing projects are grown through Jesus and, when they are ready, full blown, they can also be plucked out and used for His glory. And as they are pulled out, there remains room for more ideas to take root. 

            Rhubarb tends to be bitter. It generally needs a bit of sugar, just as our prose needs a bit of sweetness and anointing from the Holy Spirit to produce something wonderful for writer and reader alike. 

            And when ideas will not form, we may need a time of rest. Just like the rhubarb plant, which needs a season of rest to grow and thrive again. Then one day when the sun brings warmth to the soil and the clouds yield rain, new sprouts will pop up and they will be covered by giant leaves and God will nurture them into full grown stalks once more. And, in His grace and mercy, He will do the same in us as writers. 

            I need to go now. There is a person in this household who will perhaps read these words and will most definitely inquire if this wouldn’t be a fitting time for a fresh rhubarb crisp. The rhubarb in the garden calls and I must go and pluck out some mature stalks. God bless.                       

June 13, 2024

Overcoming Resistance by Steph Beth Nickel

 



I first came across the idea of resistance as it pertains to our writing in Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art.

If writing is a regular part of your routineand you've overcome the resistance that threatened to keep you from putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, at least for the most partyou may not be able to relate to this post. And that's awesome!

However, if you, like me, are still dealing with resistance, read on. 

I can come up with any number of excuses for not working on my long-neglected manuscripts. Maybe you can relate.

My clients' work has to be my priority, as do my volunteer responsibilities.

I have an excess of "starting energy." But pushing through "the messy middle"? That's a different story.

Do I really want to finish my manuscript(s) and revise it/them two, three, or more times?

Do I have what it takes to learn to self-publish?

Would it be worth the financial investment to get my books out into the world?

Since I've planned to self-publish one or more books annually for several years but have never done so, maybe I should simply give up on my publishing aspirations completely.

And seriously . . . does the world really need the books I have chasing each other around in my mind?

It's so much easier to work on short pieces like blog posts and articles.

I have errands to run and housework to tend to.

I have so many books TO READ (and podcasts to listen to).

And, to be perfectly honest . . .
I think I'll just lie here on the couch and scroll on my phone, pausing long enough to watch a series of mindless reels, another YouTube video, or a full-length TV show.

Talk about resistance!

Whenever we encounter resistance as writers, we have to be honest with ourselves, acknowledge that much of the time we're simply making excuses, and develop a detailed plan to overcome.

So, here are a couple of steps I'm going to take: 

Before needs to become one of my new favourite words. Before I lie back on the couch and pick up my phone on any given day, I will work on my manuscriptif even for 15-30 minutes.

I will schedule actual timeslots into my week for writing and others for researching self-publishing. I am not only a pantser when it comes to writing but also when it comes to life. I vehemently resist a rigid schedule. And while a certain amount of flexibility can be a very good thing, some things have to be done at a specific time on a specific day or they will remain undone. At least that's how it is in my world.

I'd love to hear what you do to overcome resistance.



June 11, 2024

Run with the Bison by Joylene M Bailey

 



Between stimulus and response is our greatest power - the freedom to choose.

- Stephen Covey -


At the time of this posting it will be exactly two weeks since our 10-year-old grandson was rushed into emergency brain surgery. A CT scan showed that what they had been treating as a migraine was actually a 3 X 5 cm abscess in his brain caused by severe sinusitis.

Needless to say, it's been a shocking and traumatic time for our family, not to mention the courage it has required from our grandson.

During his recovery, he and his mom have been talking about the difference between cows and bison. When a storm is coming, cows will turn away from the storm and run. The storm will eventually overtake them, and they'll be in the storm for longer because they're running with it. Bison, however, will turn towards an oncoming storm and run into it. They still go through the storm, but their time within it is much shorter.

This is such a great picture of courage, and I've been thinking about it a lot as I go through these days. It's a good anecdote to remember for all aspects of life, whenever we are facing difficult circumstances.

I wonder if you might be facing a writing challenge, or even something God has been nudging you to write that you'd prefer to run away from. It's too hard, possibly it's a controversial or unpopular topic, or something else that requires a lot of courage.

Take a moment to consider your response. Do you want to be a cow or a bison? I encourage you to turn towards this challenge, and even to run into it. If God brought it to you, He'll give you the courage of a bison.

******

Feature photo by Unsplash


 
In this photo our grandson, Deklan, is holding a stuffed bison his mom found in the hospital gift shop. He named it Courage. If you think of it, please pray for his recovery. Through many prayers and the grace of God, he's come a long way, but he still has a long way to go. 

June 10, 2024

R is For Razzle-Dazzle by Bob Jones



Some people use up words, and some people make up words.

 

Think of the words okeydoke, fuddy-duddy, super-duper, roly-poly, fiddle-faddle, and my mother’s favourite, dillydally. “No dillydallying! We’ve got things to do.” You’ve most likely heard them or used them at some time, but somebody made up those words from their imagination.

 

RAZZLE-DAZZLE

Take the word razzle-dazzle. If you follow the NHL and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I guarantee you’ll hear that expression sometime over the seven-game series on a did-you-see-that goal scored by Connor McDavid. The word means “a complex maneuver designed to confuse an opponent” or “brilliance”.

Razzle-dazzle has been in use since the late 1880s as a descriptor of a scarf with a disjointed pattern. During WWI, Allied ships were painted in bright zig-zig patterns to confuse German U-boats. The term was even good enough for kids because when I was one in the early 60s, there was a daily CBC TV program called Razzle Dazzle. Did you watch it?




CHICAGO

If you watched the Broadway musical, Chicago, you heard the song “Razzle Dazzle”. The lyrics imagine the impact of the word:

 

Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give 'em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather 'em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

What if your hinges all are rusting?

What if, in fact, you're just disgusting?

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they’ll never catch wise!

 Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle

Razzle dazzle 'em
Give 'em a show that's so splendiferous

Row after row will crow vociferous

Give 'em the old flim flam flummox
Fool and fracture 'em

How can they hear the truth above the roar?

 

TRUTH

Good question. How can they hear the truth above the roar? The strategy behind propaganda is, the louder a lie is roared, the easier it is to be believed. When I travelled through Ukraine I asked people, “Is it easier to believe a lie or the truth?” Every person answered, a lie.

The R word for June, razzle-dazzle, is a reminder to be on guard against lies in all their forms.

 

Lies told to us.

Lies sold to us.

Lies we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Lies that undermine relationships.

 

The other reminder is in our writing to remember we are truth-tellers.

 

The truth sets people free.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate truth.

Writers who are followers of Jesus are freedom fighters using truth.

 

There is no need for razzle-dazzle in writing Christian truths. The gospel is brilliance enough.

 

Thank you for writing, reading and commenting.