Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Journey in the Wayback Machine

My friend Emily is a sophomore in college and experiencing some frustrations. I have confidence that she will survive the growing pains that many of us lived through. Her situation gave me the idea to review the journal entries for MY sophomore year at college with the purpose of sharing some excerpts with her. Just to show Emily that some things never change.

What a trip!

I had forgotten much of what had occurred during the 1969-70 academic year while I attended Linfield College in McMinnville. Some of the antiquities will amuse Emily, I'm sure. Some of the historical events that occurred those two semesters are amazing.

Here's a sampling:

* I paid $29.03 for my books first semester, and $29.00 second semester.
* Amy Tan was a freshman on campus. Yes, THAT Amy Tan.
* The girls' dorms had resident dorm mothers in charge. Gray-haired women right out of the 1930s who kept a tight rein on us. We had to sign out and sign in when we left the dorm in the evening, and adhere to a curfew. The doors were locked every night (an hour later on Fridays & Saturdays). The only way to gain entry to the dorm once it was locked up was to ring the doorbell for the dorm mother.
* Apollo moon shots were still exciting. We pulled an all-nighter in the dorm lounge first semester to watch a 3:00 am PST moon walk. Second semester, Apollo 13 experienced preflight problems before it blasted off on April 12. We all know what happened next.
* The Viet Nam draft lottery was passed. We gathered near televisions to watch the drawing that determined the draft status of our male classmates.
* Frerichs Hall, the music and theater building, went up in flames December 16. We'd had a fire drill in our dorm the night before and treated it as a joke. The flames and smoke that could be seen across campus sobered us. Decades of theatrical costumes were lost, the professors lost a career's worth of books, papers, and mementos. All the practice pianos were lost, and a concert harp was reduced to a shell. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the flames did not spread to the adjacent science building with its chemicals.
* It snowed on March 1. Big wet flakes that melted on the pavement -- but the Hawaiian students didn't care!
* I typed my papers on a portable, MANUAL typewriter. I had a clunky blue clock radio that received only AM stations, and I played my record albums (those grooved black pizza-looking vinyl things) on a cheap foldup stereo.
* President Nixon sent troops into Cambodia, which set off riots on college campuses across the nation. Oregon's public colleges cancelled classes in an attempt to prevent problems. Everyone was stunned by events at a school we'd never heard of before -- Kent State.

Many of my journal entries discussed exasperation with professors, the difficulty in getting motivated to study for exams, midterm progress reports, researching and writing papers, and the melodramatic lives of the 18 to 22-year-old women living under one roof (talk about estrogen overload!). There were fraternity serenades for pinnings and engagements. Football, basketball and baseball games to attend. Movies on campus and in "Mac." Trips to Portland. Burgers, fries and milkshakes at Alf's.

A tumultuous period for our nation and the world -- yet we students went about our daily lives. Isn't that what History is all about?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Travels with Guinness

It's expensive to own one horse, let alone two. Boarder Kim made the difficult decision to sell Guinness, her 13-year-old Lipizzan gelding. A prospective buyer gave Guinness a test "drive" and had the biggest smile during his canter. Sold! However, first he had to undergo a vet check. That was completed today.

Kim had to chuckle at Guinness' expression when his new owner and her trainer immediately loaded him onto the trailer following the vet exam and completion of paperwork. "Wha...Huh?"

The good news is, Guinness is remaining in Oregon, down the valley. Technically it's "up river," but on the map, it's "down."

The bad news is, it's hard to part with an equine partner.

Fortunately, Kim has Finn, a promising young warmblood to bring along.

So we say farewell to another of our equine pals and wish him and his new owner the best.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Northwest Author Series

Christine Fletcher

Today was the fifth presentation in the series supported by the Wilsonville Friends of the Library, and the Wilsonville Arts & Culture Council.

Christine Fletcher is the author of two young adult novels ("Tallulah Falls" and "Ten Cents a Dance") and a DVM! Like most avid readers she came across books that she was sure she could have written better. After attempting fiction while teaching veterinary technicians at a metro community college, she took the brave leap of quiting her job to write full time. Today we reaped the results of her success.

Ms. Fletcher didn't present much that I haven't already heard in fiction writing classes and writers' conferences; however, each time I attend such a session, a little more sticks with me.

Ms. Fletcher's "Rock Bottom Essentials" are: CHARACTER, CONFLICT, and DETAILS.


The ubiquitous character questionnaires are useful, but don't procrastinate while filling out every little detail. What really matters are the Protagonist's WANTS and FEARS and WHY those particular wants and fears. What does the Protagonist want more than anything? Why? What is at stake? The stakes don't have to be cosmic, but they must be huge for the Protagonist.

A compelling Protagonist is one who feels intensely and who takes action.

When selecting the Inciting Incident that sets the Story in motion and makes the Protagonist act, consider WHY that particular inciting incident and WHY that point in the Protagonist's life.

Character is revealed by action.


Conflict drives the story. Anthing that opposes the Protagonist creates conflict. Time (deadline) is often used to create conflict, and don't forget weather.

Conflict can be internal (sometimes the most interesting) or external. The situations that create roadblocks for the Protagonist may be simple to dire.

Conflict of some kind must appear on every page, whether subtle or small to fireworks.

Create an Antagonist worthy of the Protagonist. Know the Antagonist as well as you know the Protagonist -- his or her Wants, Fears and Whys.

"Torture" your characters! Don't pull your punches. Crank up the action as the Story continues. Each obstacle must be bigger and closer to the Protagonist's motivation as the stakes ramp up.

Never resolve all the Conflicts before the end of the Story.


Emerse the reader in the Story world through your prose style and the use of details.

Select the right sensory details to draw the Reader in. Help the Reader visualize the Story world, but don't forget the other four senses.

Description conveys emotion.

Precision counts. Use the right word.

Ms. Fletcher's years of teaching were evident. Although (if I understand correctly) this was her first effort at teaching fiction writing -- she was well organized, kept on point, had a helpful handout, and finished with adequate time for a few Q&A.

I thoroughly enjoyed today's session. The two hours zipped by and I left with additional ideas for fixing my own fiction.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hollywood on Horses

SPRING FEVER!! It was a warm, sunny day here in the Valley...another teaser of spring and summer to come.

All of us on the "daylight shift" at the barn spent some time outside on our horses. We basically did walkabouts around the little barn, and up and down the alley between paddocks. None of us was in the mood to work in the covered arena.

During our walkabout, Genevieve and I chatted about how Hollywood gets horses wrong. Mostly we were laughing about the humorous discrepancies that horse folks notice but obviously no one connected with the movie understood.

There was the white horse that morphed from a cute little white cob into a muscular big quarter horse into a sleek thoroughbred as its coat went from white to fleabitten to dappled. Or the chestnut with chrome that had four stockings and a wide blaze when it took off over the fence, but only had three stockings and a narrow stripe when it landed. And there are the Arabians that morph into half a dozen other breeds throughout the movie. For history buffs, Hollywood has yet to explain how New World breeds arrived in ancient Rome. The topper, however, are the gender changes! The adorable gelding rescued by the young heroine that changes anatomy when it jumps must be a biological marvel.

A big laugh is the tweed hacking jacket apparently worn by everyone who rides horses -- at least in Hollywood. Ever notice all the new boots in movies? No one's tall riding boots are broken down at the ankle and faded at the calf. Ditto the chaps. They're never wrinkled, worn smooth, nor is the dye rubbed off from use. And talk about immaculate! None of the actors are coated with horse hair, have green smears across their thighs, or have hay in their hair.

We never realized the western saddle was invented by the ancient Egyptians! Just throw something over the saddle and no one will ever notice the ancient Romans or medieval knights are riding western saddles. Then there are the women riding astride in voluminous skirts in period settings when it would have been scandalous to do so.

All stables are built out of walnut or mahogany with brass fixtures. Hollywood stables lack manure piles and dust -- and nothing is held together with bailing twine. There is no mud, there are no gnaw marks on the stalls, all halters are freshly oiled leather that are neatly hung by the stalls.... movies are a visual medium and we non-Hollywood horse folks are less than glamourous in stained breeches, scuffed paddock boots with half chaps, layers of fleece and down in the winter, and helmet hair. Still, a little touch of the REAL horse world wouldn't hurt the story line.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Something to Strive For (for Which to Strive?!)

This weekend I met a couple who are in their early 90s. The husband drove them to Canby from Salem. He is mentally sharp, uses a cell phone, and can program it with new numbers.

I can't program my seldom-used cell phone without the manual!

I hope I'm healthy, firing on all synapses, and using the latest technology when I'm 93!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winter Ain't Over Yet

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we had more snow today. Not too serious here in the burbs, although it was a little slick for walking. Indy, of course, loved it. The real snow continued for about 1-1/2 hours after our walk, then changed to a rain/snow mix. The mix continued into mid afternoon. By the time we finished running errands it was good ol' western Oregon rain.

The next few days promise COLD rain and a chance of snow mixed in. Glad I left Phantom's mid-weight turnout blanket on him.


What a guy.

Whatever I ask of him, he tries to give it. When it's something new or my position isn't correct, he gets anxious. But if I can get out of his way and provide the right cues, Phantom is a wonderful report card. If I've got it right, he gives the correct movement. Not that I'm asking for anything very advanced since I haven't worked with a trainer for years. But still....

I've only owned and ridden two Arabians, but both demonstrated a strong desire to please. If there is a problem with Arabians, it is their nervous anxiety in trying to anticipate what's wanted from them. Once they give you what you wanted and you praise them lavishly, you're in like Flynn.

Give me a desert tent horse any time!


I've plotted out what I call "Book II" of the story arc and I've drafted a couple of scenes.

I'm still handwriting my ugly first drafts. It seems the mechanics of using the computer interferes with the flow. My creative quirks include a preference for narrow-ruled 3-ring binder paper which is impossible to come by, so I settle for college-ruled. I must have fine point ballpoint pens -- my handwriting is too small for medium point writing instruments. I write the first draft in black ink. First edits and insertions are written in blue ink. Subsequent revisions and additions are done in green and purple ink (I love Pentel RSVP fine point ballpoint pens). Red ink is reserved for major edits and or directions (insert this chunk on page __). Once the handwritten drafts are completed, I will type them into the computer, editing as I do so. At the end of each session I print out the day's work and add the pages to the binder. Major editing commences once the whole document is printed out.

So I keep plugging away at the story.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Arabians in Motion

On Sunday I attended my first meeting of Arabians in Motion. I'm an inactive member of the organization that is an affiliate of the Arabian Horse Association. I love the breed, which is the main reason I belong to AHA. I participate in it's Frequent Rider Program where I keep track of the hours I spend in the saddle and receive acknowledgment when I attain specified milestones. I joined AiM because it promotes the Arabian as a sport horse.

Interestingly enough, I've never competed in an all-Arabian show. When I had my little red mare, the Region IV (Oregon & most of Idaho) shows didn't offer any hunter over fence classes. Plus, I had no means of transporting my horse. The Arabian show dates often conflicted with open hunter/jumper shows that my fellow boarders and trainer attended -- and when I had the means I went with them to jump my mare, which was why I was doing hunters. I've never shown Phantom outside of a couple of in-barn shows the year or two after we paired up. When I had the funds, I took lessons and rode in in-barn clinics, which left no money for competition.

Karen Bragg of Painted Valley Farms ( -- Sorry, I don't seem to have a means of inserting links into my text) was scheduled to make a presentation about Arabian bloodlines following the business portion of the meeting, which apparently attracted several members to the meeting, including me. However, we had to sit through the business portion before we got "dessert."

So as I'm listening to folks discuss their multiple horses, AiM-sponsored shows, endurance rides, potential club-sponsored horse activities, etc., I wondered why I even belonged to the club. All I have in common with these folks is an affinity for the Arabian breed. I live on a single income and make major sacrifices to own a horse (don't own a home, don't travel, rarely eat out, don't go to the mall, skip concerts and other outings, etc.). I don't own acreage. I don't breed, train and sell Arabians. I've never owned a horse trailer let alone a vehicle that could haul one. I can't afford all the membership fees to compete in Arabian and open dressage shows, then there are the additional show fees and appropriate turnout. Nor have I been taking lessons to prepare for competition. All the things these folks apparently took for granted in life and horse ownership were outside my ken.

At last it came time for Karen's presentation -- and she was missing a power cord in her projector travel case! So she began chatting extemporaneously about the origins of the breed and major bloodlines that dominate the show ring. Those of us who stuck it out were impressed with her knowledge. So -- I'll watch for a future opportunity to enjoy Karen's illustrated presentation.

And I'll keep buying lottery tickets.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


So at 7:30 am this morning I step outside with Indy for our morning walk and find the following.

Teenagers, I assume. Although I thought they had a curfew. Indy's final trip outside for the night was around 11:15 pm. So this had to have occurred after that.

Ah well. No harm done, and we weren't the only ones punked. As Indy and I strolled up the street I noticed several yard objects had been relocated from their usual spots. Simple fun.

The garbage can usually sits just outside the garage and is used for depositing the scat of the Canis familiaris who rules our house. Indy's poop, in other words. I doubt the kids realized that. Guess they were punked, too, but didn't know it. ;-)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Solar Event

We've experienced great weather the past few days -- approaching record highs. I longed and rode Phantom outside today. He was very good, since the wet weather generally confines us to the indoor arena for months. I continued to work on my alternate posting trot, doing lots of direction changes and circles. Our work to the right didn't go as smoothly as I wanted -- undoubtedly due to my position. :-/

Quite the busy day at the barn. We seemed to arrive in shifts. Char was just putting on Pugsley's bridle and Lindsay was departing when Genevieve and I arrived. We were mounted when Molly came to do ground work with Harley. All of us took our horses outside for at least a stroll. Then Trainer Tracey and Kim each drove in. Zorro and Phantom free grazed while we let the dogs play. All of us gathered in the sun to chat and soak up some Vitamin D. It was pleasant to gather with fellow boarders and enjoy our brief teaser of spring weather.

These are the days when we struggle with which turnout to put on the horses. Temperatures still drop to freezing overnight and it's frosty in the morning, so the medium-weight blanket is appropriate. But when it pushes 60 degrees in the afternoon, even a turnout sheet is too much. But we must also prepare for abrupt changes in the weather. The clouds are supposed to return tomorrow and bring rain. As a reminder that it ain't spring yet, the meteorologists are talking about a dramatic drop in the freezing level over the weekend. *sigh*

So today we boarders relished our moment of companionship in the warmth of the sun.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Books of 2008

I started keeping lists of the books I read in 1965. Back then I was reading for class and recreation, so I listed only those books that I read for fun. The following are the books I read in 2008. Most were recreational, a few were for research.

"Thursday Next, First Among Sequels" - Jasper Fforde
"Sorcery & Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot" - Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
"The Grand Tour" - Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
"Dead Heat" - Dick Francis & Felix Francis
"The Secret" - Rhonda Byrne
"The Pillars of the Earth" - Ken Follett
"The Other Boleyn Girl" - Philippa Gregory
"A Place of Execution" - Val McDermid
"Interred With Their Bones" - Jennifer Lee Carrell
"The Footprints of God" - Greg Iles
"Murphy's Law" - Rhys Bowen
"Death of Riley" - Rhys Bowen
"The Purrfect Murder" - Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown
"No Time for Goodbye" - Linwood Barclay
"Inkspell" - Cornelia Funke
"If Looks Could Kill" - Kate White
"Spook" - Mary Roach
"Careless in Red" - Elizabeth George
"Brideshead Revisited" - Evelyn Waugh
"Cold Comfort Farm" - Stella Gibbons
"Her Royal Spyness" - Rhys Bowen
"A Royal Pain" - Rhys Bowen
"The Feng Shui Detective" - Nury Vittachi
"The Last Templar" - Raymond Khoury
"Critical" - Robin Cook
"Outliers" - Malcolm Gladwell

I'm definitely going for escapism. I prefer fiction to nonfiction. I'm reading YA fantasy because that's my writing genre. I try to avoid reading books that are similar to what I'm writing so I won't be unconsciously influenced.