Two thirds of the CEC Critter Control Staff taking a break. Yep, on top of the dog crate in the tack room with Indy residing in the "flat" below.
The boys are earning their keep, despite what you see in this photo. The last two times I've been at the barn I've seen one or the other with a mouse. Although, Monday had a definite eeeuuw factor, since Scar hadn't quite finished the job with the poor, mangled field mouse that eventually expired. :-P
I brought my camera to the barn today to capture photos for the most recent Sunday Stills challenge. The cats may reappear again in a few days, but from a different angle.
Amber Keyser's topic was Don't Suffer Alone: Using a Critique Group to Enhance Your Writing Life. She is a member of the Viva Scriva critique group, three of whom attended and participated in the presentation.
I don't belong to a critique group. I should. If I could be assured of finding folks like Viva Scriva, I'd enlist immediately.
Amber went over the benefits and characteristics of a critique group, how to give and receive critiques, as well as resources for locating groups.
I think her most significant piece of advice was: "The best way to improve your own work is to learn how to give helpful, in-depth critique. Receiving good critiques is useful too, but giving is better."
She also likened good critiquing to "thinking like a doctor." Your emotional response to the manuscript (what you liked or disliked) relates to the symptoms. You must then diagnose the underlying cause for your reaction (characterization, plot, personal, etc.), and then come up with a cure/solution to make the manuscript better. And -- do no harm.
Then the members of Viva Scriva demonstrated how their group works. For the benefit of the workshop attendees, they read aloud a short children's story written by Amber. They then discussed what they liked about the story, where the story did not fulfill its promise, and they made suggestions to consider for improving the story. All delivered kindly and intelligently. This was the highlight of the workshop for me.
The woman seated beside me was a member of a new critique group formed in Vancouver (the one across the Columbia River, not the Winter Olympics one). Her group all wrote genre fiction. The members of Viva Scriva all write for children (picture books to young adult, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry), and all or most are published.
Amber's assessment of the characteristics of a successful critique group include a similar level of dedication to craft (this is not the same as published v. unpublished), and knowledge of the conventions of the genre (although the members don't have to all write the same genres). Most of all, mutual trust and respect are vital ingredients.
Amber and the members of Viva Scriva emphasized that it takes time and thoughtful evaluation to give a good critique. It was obvious from their comments on Amber's draft that they cared nearly as much about the story as did Amber, and were there to help her make it the best that it could be.
It's always re-energizing to gather with other writers!
I admit it. I'm an English Major. Correct spelling and grammar are important to me. I also acknowledge that I don't always get it right.
...now that I'm online reading blogs and keeping up with friends on Facebook, I am often appalled by what I read. I understand that folks write quickly and don't always proofread before posting their comments. But I begin to see patterns and suspect that the error goes beyond mere typo to not knowing any better, or worse yet, not caring.
I see a group of college students responding to each other with "Woah!" Or some variation thereof. Now, I've been involved with horses for 30 years and I've had occasion to use the term. With emphasis, I might add. It is spelled W-H-O-A. When directed at a horse, it is often followed by a colorful and derogatory adjective or two. Even in the midst of an equine emergency, it's still spelled "whoa!"
I would think college students would know how to spell the word. At least one out of the group. They apparently all know what they are intending to say. But it seems not a one of them has caught the error.
I was reading a message board earlier today. The spelling and grammar was several notches below that of the above-referenced college students. So I give the students the credit due them.
Again, hastily written, emotional postings on the message board. However, repeated misspellings within the post indicate the author doesn't seem to know better. Twice, one person wrote "payed" instead of "paid."
Bloggers insist on using "to" in place of "too." I make the same mistake. Sometimes the second stroke of the finger doesn't make sufficient contact with the key. But I usually catch and correct the error during proofreading.
"I have went" as well as "myself and Joe went" are heard repeatedly on the evening news when individuals are interviewed by a local reporter. Apparently "myself went" out of the classroom during English class.
There are those who advocate establishing English as the official language of the USA. This proposed requirement generally targets adult immigrants to this country who struggle with the language. Interestingly enough, many of the folks who think it should be our official language don't speak it correctly, either. Why Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady doesn't think we speak English at all!
At one time poor spelling and grammar were enough to eliminate a job applicant. But I guess it doesn't matter any more. After all -- the person doing the hiring has to recognize the errors.
So now you know why English Majors are prone to TMJ syndrome. It results from gnashing their teeth because of rampant spelling and grammatical errors. ;-)
No Sunday Stills contribution today. Too wet and wild this past week to tote around my camera.
...I'm back to work on The Legacy of Pennleah. Much to my First Reader's delight, I'm sure.
Coming to the climactic scenes and there are a lot of threads to bring together. And the threads are woven through nearly 300 pages of the story. Argh!
So I'm going to push through to the completion of the story. It appears that I'll be veering off from some of the scenes I envisioned for the outline. Ah well... that's what the creative process is all about.
While Legacy was on the back burner, I sketched out scene shortcuts for Water Tribute, the next novel I will be drafting. I even started the first chapter anew.
Even drafted opening paragraphs for Five Notable Estates (aka Five Families). Although there is still much more research to be done on this story that is beyond my current capabilities.
So I am writing, even when not progressing on Legacy. That's what writers do. We can't help ourselves.
I just received from one of my book clubs the coolest research source: The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, by Ian Mortimer. Just flipping through the pages, I know it will be a wonderful resource for world building. Whether the setting is medieval or not, consideration of the sights, sounds, and smells -- as well as culture and world view -- will aid in the creation of settings for my characters. Whooo hooo!
Indy comes with me to the barn on a regular basis. During nice weather, I cable him to the picnic table and provide him with a bucket of water. He can choose sun or shade as he waits for me to finish playing with Phantom. During our dreary, wet, and muddy winters, however; Indy waits for me in his crate in the tack room. I know he is safe there, and he quickly settles down for a nap while I groom and ride.
Mufasa and Scar, our newest additions to the Critter Control Staff, are fascinated by the "dog in a box." The first time they observed Indy enter the crate, they stood on their hind legs to peek in from the sides, and then jumped on top to peer at him upside down.
But wait...it gets worse. When winter arrives I bring to the barn the gray fleece cooler that covers Phantom from ears to tail. I toss it on my sweaty pony following my ride after I remove his tack. I then let Phantom glean the barn aisles or free graze outside while I put things away and record our ride in my journal. Once Phantom is returned to the paddock in his turnout blanket, I either toss the cooler loosely folded atop my saddle on the rack in the tack room, or bundle it up and place it atop Indy's crate. Instant kitty bed!!
Even more humiliating!!
Whenever Mufasa and Scar have access to the tack room in the little barn, they curl up on my cooler on top of the crate -- individually or curled around each other like a feline Mobius strip. Indy's presence does not deter them (after all, he is the Fluffy Puppy and intimidated by the hissing kitties). So now it has become a common site to see Indy snoozing in his crate with an orange kitty or two napping overhead.
But oh so embarrassing. So please don't tell the Canine Union about this!!
Ed's challenge for today was to select two "best" shots from our 2009 contributions. Since I didn't begin my participation in Sunday Stills until May, you'd think it would be easier with fewer photos to select from. Not so much. Do I go for the photos that I think are my artistic best? Or do I go with sentimental favorites? *sigh*
Best to just jump in. So here goes.
From August 30, 2009: Sounds.
I call this one "Flying Pigtails" for obvious reasons. Listening to a horse and rider on course one hears the rhythmic beat of hooves at a canter broken by pauses as the horse or pony flies over a fence. At the children's and adult amateur ring, each ride ends with applause, cheers and whistles of encouragement from family and friends. From the nearby warm-up ring can be heard the shouts of trainers as they call out instructions to the riders who will be next on course.
Cute kids on cute ponies are a mainstay at hunter-jumper shows. I found this girl with her pink bows and beige jodhpurs to be representative of a Children's Hunter.
From December 27, 2009: Odds and Ends
This is a sentimental favorite. The metronome belonged to my Grandfather who played violin with the Portland Symphony (now the Oregon Symphony) for 49 years. It sat atop the upright piano in the music room of his home in northeast Portland where my father grew up. The music holder is likely one of my father's finds rather than one actually used on his trombone. It contains a "fake" list of songs and keys in which to play them, used for dances and other single events when a contractor brought together musicians to provide an evening of music. My father and grandfather also played in bands or orchestras for Broadway road shows, ice shows, home shows and other entertainment back in the day when music was live.
The January 2010 issue of Writer's Digest celebrates its 90th anniversary with "90 Secrets of Bestselling Authors." Here are a few of my favorites:
"Being goal-oriented instead of self-oriented is crucial. I know so many people who want to be writers. But let me tell you, they really want to have been writers. They wish they had a book in print. They don't want to go through the work of getting the damn book out. There is a huge difference."
"A genuine creation should have character as well as be one; should have central heating, so to say, as well as exterior lighting."
"People do not spring forth out of the blue, fully formed--they become themselves slowly, day by day, starting from babyhood. They are the result of both environment and heredity, and your fictional characters, in order to be believable, must be also."
"To me, everything in a novel comes down to people making choices. You must figure out in advance what those choices are going to be."
Marion Zimmer Bradley
"Too many writers think that all you need to do is write well--but that's only part of what a good book is. Above all, a good book tells a good story. Focus on the story first. Ask yourself, 'Will other people find this story so interesting that they will tell others about it?' Remember: A bestselling book usually follows a simple rule, 'It's a wonderful story, wonderfully told'; not, 'It's a wonderfully told story.'"
"I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide."
"If you can teach people something, you've won half the battle. They want to keep on reading."
"In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I'm writing. I just write what I want to write."
Interesting! Harper Lee wrote a classic that is taught in classrooms throughout the country, yet speaks of the need for a thick skin. James Hilton, who created Mr. Chips, provides a priceless description of giving life to characters. As for "getting the damn book out" -- Michener wrote how many epic novels that encompassed hundreds of pages?
Also of interest...
The "Conference Scene" section of the January 2010 issue features "giants of the conference scene." The Willamette Writers Conference was one of the four listed. Willamette Writers is described as the "largest writers' organization in the Pacific Northwest" and the conference is "full of fun suprises." For the size of this conference, it is incredibly well run. The conference staff and volunteers, as well as the employees of the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel do exemplary jobs.
In September 1965 I began keeping a record of the non-classroom books I read (September - August). This would have been my sophomore year in high school. There's a gap from August 1970 to January 1972 (busy English Major, I guess), but from 1972 forward I have continued to record the books I've completed during the calendar year.
Here's what I read as a high school sophomore: The Door, Mary Roberts Rinehart; Letter From Peking, Pearl S. Buck; The Revolutionary, Schoonover; On the Beach, Neville Shute; The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck; Alas Babylon, Frank; Travels With Charlie, John Steinbeck; Doctor in the House, Gordon; Doctor at Large, Gordon; Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell; Up the Down Staircase, Kaufman; Failsafe, Burdick & Wheeler; The Trouble with Angels, Trahey; Mr. Roberts, Heggen; and The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Quite an eclectic mix. Back in the day when Portland students attended the schools in their own neighborhood, I walked about a mile to and from high school with my friends Kathy and Louise. I recall our lively discussions about GWTW during those treks, and our assessments of Scarlett versus Melanie. At the time, Kathy was convinced that Melanie was a wimp. I saw her more as the steel magnolia type. As for Scarlett -- I think she'd be a female Donald Trump in a more liberated era.
Having read The Complete Sherlock Holmes, I hesitate to see the new Robert Downey version of Holmes...since I hear it veers widely from the source material. Ah well, that's Hollywood.
Too bad several of the books from 1965-66 are hard to come by nowadays. Some are pure "feel good" stories, a couple were sharp political commentaries on the times.
Okay, so fast forward to 2009. I'm reading for escapism, curiosity, and the genre in which I write: Inkdeath, Cornelia Funke; Coraline, Neil Gaiman; Silks, Dick Francis; The Red Dahlia, Lynda La Plante; The First Counsel, Brad Meltzer; The Alibi Man, Tami Hoag; The Glass Dragon, Irene Radford; What the Dead Know, Laura Lippman; Seeker, Jack McDevitt; The Devil's Eye, Jack McDevitt; The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, Alexander McCall Smith; The Miracle at Speedy Motors, Alexander McCall Smith; Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, Alexander McCall Smith; The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell; Survival, Julie E. Czerneda; Migration, Julie E. Czerneda; Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows; The Tomb of Zeus, Barbara Cleverly; What Angels Fear, C. S. Harris; When Gods Die, C. S. Harris; Why Mermaids Sing, C. S. Harris.
Predominately mysteries and science fiction/fantasy. Also several series.
Dick Francis and Tami Hoag get horses right -- he raced them, she competes at the upper levels in dressage. I like Alexander McCall Smith's atypical mysteries. I'd heard good things about Guernsey Literary and even had a copy on the shelf, but wasn't into reading a story comprised of correspondence. But I'm glad I took the advice of a friend and read the book. Sweetness was a pleasant outing with a very young detective protagonist and the beginning of a promising new series.
The Tomb of Zeus was a disappointment as an historical mystery. Not so, the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries. I'm finishing up the fourth book in the series now.
I bogged down in Julie Czerneda's novels for some reason. I thought a science fiction trilogy about a British Columbia salmon researcher would be a hoot, especially since I worked with fish and wildlife biologists for 24 years. But my interest waned for awhile before I continued to the end. The last book of the trilogy has yet to be opened.
Don't know what I'll pick up next when I finish reading the current mystery. I always have to have a book in progress, even if its just placing a bookmark in my next selection. Maybe I should browse my bookcase of classics and more literary works for a change of pace.
Anyway...it's rather intriguing to review the list of books that piqued my interest in any given year.
Several boarders at CEC began a tradition of riding together at the barn on New Years Day. It's a day to just school per usual, catch up on news after everyone has been so busy with holiday preparations, and sometimes the group works up a drill team routine. It's meant to be a fun and casual gathering to begin the year in the saddle...the way we prefer to spend our time.
This year the Play Day was expanded to include members and friends of the North Willamette Valley Chapter of Oregon Dressage Society. It provided an opportunity to share the fun with even more horse enthusiasts, as well as welcome new folks to the facility to see what's offered.
We began the day with "Ride a Dressage Test." Participants rode the test of their choice and received helpful comments from the "judge." No scores or placements on Play Day.
This was followed by a "Walk/Trot Pleasure Horse Under Saddle" class. I believe it was the largest number of horses ridden at the same time in the arena since the facility was built! All equines were well mannered and again we received helpful comments on how our horses performed.
Following the potluck in the club room -- hey, horses and food always go together -- we returned to the arena for the gaming portion of the day. No blood was spilled and everyone had a great time, whether on horseback or cheering from the sidelines.
The Play Day games included but were not limited to:
Ride a "buck." Keep a dollar bill under your leg longer than anyone else.
Musical "chairs." Poles fill in for chairs...for obvious reasons.
Musical "chairs" dash.
The "clothes horse" race required riders to race up and down the arena to don various items of attire. The more glam the better!
Flying chiffon in the "clothes horse" race.
What's a Play Day without a spoon race?
Looks like the chickens were given the day off and potatoes were used instead.
As the song goes, "Oh the weather outside is frightful...." Today was a wet one and at times the wind-whipped rain came down so hard you couldn't hear yourself think. But it didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm. A great time was had by all.