Raspberry Time


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Look what greeted me when I got home today! Our first berries of late summer. The raspberries have been coming in rather sparsely this year because we (and when I say we, I mean my wonderful husband) reworked the beds where they were planted. Raspberries spread. We started out with only about 12 -15 plants about four years ago. When my hubby dug them up at the beginning of the planting season this year, we gave away probably close to forty plants. Our neighbors have some and I gave some to a good friend at school.

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The sky several days ago must have been foretelling the raspberries with these colored clouds. That was during the cool snap we had, but next week, just in time for school to start, the weather is supposed to turn hot again, raspberry weather and late season tomatoes and beans. I’ll be picking and eating and freezing what we can’t eat. Raspberries are a sure sign of the end of summer here in Wisconsin, but just around the corner are crisp weather and delicious Honeycrisp apples! For now, I’ll savor the end of summer and the sweet flavor of raspberries!

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Seasonal Changes Afoot

 

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I’ve been procrastinating. I was supposed to publish this post on Wednesday, but here it is Friday, and I’ve only just now begun to write. I apologize to those of you who look forward to my Wisconsin Wednesday posts. The thing is I don’t want fall to arrive, and I think that if I just ignore what I need to do, time will slow down and give me just a little more summer. That wish is only an illusion, however. Fall is coming, and the past two days have given us a taste here in Wisconsin of the change in temperature that is inevitable. The wheel of the seasons is turning.

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The highs for the past two days have not risen above 70 degrees by day, 50s by night, but that isn’t the only change I’ve noticed. The scent of autumn has arrived here in Wisconsin. It’s a distinct and heady mixture of wild grapes, apples, leaf mold, fresh river water and northern air. When it arrives is different every year, but I smelled it a couple of days ago, right before the rain and drop in temperatures. Seasonal changes are occurring  quickly now, almost as if one change signals many others to begin, both in the natural world and also in my own life.
20150819_152434I talked last time about the disappearance of the songbirds. Yesterday I saw something that signaled the end of summer. Cedar Waxwings are flocking now. They arrive this way in early summer, and they leave this way too, usually with the first few cold fronts of autumn, all together like they are setting off on a road trip, gathering their family members for the long trek. Seeing them leave makes me sad, not only because they are one of my favorite birds but also because I know it will be another year before they return. Here they are gathered along the top branches of the dead tree by the river.

The goldenrod is slowly taking over as the star of the show in fields and meadows here along with a few late blooming Joe Pye Weed.

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My gardens are still going strong, but not for much longer now. The Pinky Winky hydrangeas are changing colors, and the purple Liatris are nearly played out now.

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All around us a gathering is taking place. I’m harvesting the bounty of my garden. The oak tree out front is loaded with acorns, the fields are full of corn waiting for harvest.

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On Monday I go back to school, another sign of fall arriving. Schools have already begun football and soccer games. Cross Country is in full swing. Back to school commercials blare from all radios and TV sets, but I’m not yet ready. I’d like another month to enjoy the warmth of summer, another month to enjoy the birds, butterflies, flowers, and fruits of summer without having to think about AP, SLOs, RTI, and UDL, that horrific alphabet soup of “have to.” Can I get an amen out there? I hope to keep up with my blog all year, but I may have to move my Wisconsin Wednesday posts to Friday and have a This Week in Wisconsin instead. We shall see. Thanks for stopping by to see what’s happening in Wiconsin!

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Shannon Anderson to be in Word of Art 2

srha1987:

I’m very excited to go to Illinois to read my short essay “A Place of Peace” about my special spot by the river here in Wisconsin! I can’t wait to see the art that Sarah McCashland created to go with my words!
I’m buying a book for my mom. Is there ever a time we don’t want our mothers to be proud of us? I’ll post news and pictures of the event here on my blog. Stay tuned!!!

Originally posted on In Print:

Congratulations to author Shannon Anderson! Her work has been selected to be in the Word of Art 2 exhibition and publication! Shannon is an aspiring novelist and teacher. She has written one novel and is at work on two others, as well as short stories and some poetry. She teaches English in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. When she’s not teaching, she is writing or gardening with Stella, her silver Labrador, by her side.

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Writing Lessons from David Rhodes

One piece of advice new writers should follow is read a lot and write a lot. I try to do both often. My reading tastes are eclectic. Sometimes I read for pleasure, sometimes as a teacher, sometimes as a writer, but always as a consumer of wonderful words. What determines the books I choose is as varied as the books themselves. Sometimes a cover inspires me, sometimes a title. Sometimes word-of-mouth recommendations lead me to pick a book I might not have considered before. That is what happened when I bought David Rhodes’ Driftless a few weeks ago. I knew nothing about this author’s work, but several of my friends who also were Waupaca BookFest board members recommended his work.

I read Driftless in a matter of a few days. It took days only because I didn’t want to rush it. It was a fine meal meant to be savored, allowing each word or phrase or sentence, even at times entire chapters to move through my imagination and leave their footprints on my consciousness. The book consumed me as I consumed it. I can’t tell you how often I stopped to consider a description or a simile, its beauty or aptness, or often both, hitting me right between the eyes. I didn’t use a highlighter or a pen handy while I read because I really just wanted to read for pleasure, so I dogeared the page where the passage was so I could go back to read it again and again.

Driftless tells the story of Words, Wisconsin, and the people who live there, but the Midwestern landscape is as much a character of this book as the people themselves. If you’re not from Wisconsin, you may not understand the title, so David Rhodes begins the book with a prologue explaining that the area where Words is located is in the Driftless Region, an area unaffected by the last ice age which “endured in its hilly, primitive form, untouched by the shaping hands of those cold giants.” The isolation and unchanged nature of the region serves as a metaphor for Words and the people there. It provides a a fascinating look at rural America–something I’ve become a bit obsessed with– in modern times.

I could write volumes on this book, but I mainly want to share some of the passages that arrested me and made me appreciate the poetry of Rhodes writing. I hope they inspire you as much as they did me.

1. This first passage tells of the moment two of the main characters met and fell in love. They have since lost that connection that Rhodes depicts so vividly here as something quite beyond their control:
“I’m Cora,” she said.
“I’m Grahm Shotwell,” he said, and his voice expanded like summer.
“Pleased to know you,”said Cora. She offered her hand. Grahm took it, entangling them in a mutually inquisitive texture of fingers and palms. The most primitive parts of themselves immediately began speaking to each to her, without permission. Their imaginations entered caves deep in unexplored forests, and joined painted bodies dancing around orange fires. The thin membrane of keeping the watery world of dreams from diluting the hard substance of reality stretched to breaking. Through a quick organization of bodily fluids, Grahm’s face turned bright red, and Cora tried to pull her hand away but found she couldn’t move it.
“Oh, no,” she said.
“Let’s find a place to sit down,” said Grahm.

If that doesn’t communicate the irresistible attraction between two people at the moment they recognize it, I don’t know what does.

2. In this next section, Jacob Helm, who has lost his wife and cannot stop grieving, arrives at Gail Shotwell’s house to work on a lawnmower. He hears music and goes to investigate. She is naked and playing a guitar; she’s a musician who lives alone. He is quite unprepared for seeing this beautiful naked woman and feels “accosted” by her beauty:

“This woman communicated an exuberant compact burgeoning that had years ago departed from Angela, whose bodily form had been consumed in a losing battle against disease. But even in her best days, Jacob feared, before illness had begun to exact its limping toll, Angela had never possessed this creature’s combination of raw visual appeal and unrehearsed grace. She glowed with health. Her neck, stretching out of the extraordinary suppleness of her shoulders, mimicked in every detail the curving stem of a lily rising to its flower. and the problems posed for him by the rondure of her hips were addressed in his imagination, one after another, before they blossomed into conscious questions, only to be posed anew.”

3. Later Jacob is alone looking at pictures of his wife in a photo album. He misses her and still grieves her and the closeness they shared. These lines break my heart.

“He looked away from the album and closed his eyes, as though protecting them from the unbearable glare of memory.

Her illness had driven a wedge between them, interrupting their sacred dialogue, the source of his joy. How he missed that vital center–talking, touching, and living one life in two parts. The disease persisted until what she most longed for she could not share with him at all, and their citadel against the outside world was finally breached.”

4. Throughout passages describe the landscape. These two resonated with me because even after 20 years here winter is such an enigma to me. I still am baffled and assaulted by the cold. Sometimes though, a mild day or two provide a respite from the harsh winter days. These two passages capture each kind of weather in winter.

First one:“It began to snow–not heavily, but persistently. Driven like powdered fog from the north, a dry, weightless snow arrived in Thistlewaite County with a nearly audible sigh, an empty, barren whisper that Upper Midwestern farmers recognized in the marrow of their bones and meteorologists detected through their digital instruments as the kind of snow that could get bad.

A stationary cold air mass perched above Wisconsin. It lingered there for several days, until, like the Owl of Minerva, it stepped off its frigid crag, opened its monstrous shadow wings, and came south, squeezing water out of the air.”

Second one: “Sometimes in the theater of winter, a day will appear with such spectacular mildness that it seems the season can almost be forgiven for all its inappropriate hostility, inconveniences, and even physical assaults. With a balmy sky overhead, melting snow underfoot, and the sounds of creeks running, the bargain made with contrasts doesn’t look so bad: to feel warm, one must remember cold; to experience joy, one must have known sorrow.”

5. In the chapter Finding July, the reader is privy to Jacob Helm’s thoughts in finding his friend, July Montgomery, who has died in a farm accident. If you’ve ever experienced the shock of something that altered your world, you will recognize Jacob’s emotions.

“There are some things, he later reflected, that change everything else. Their breaking makes no sound yet fractures the world. Afterwards, nothing can be restored to its original order. It’s Gone. But at the time, at the moment of domestic impression, Big Events don’t appear to have any power at all, a single leaf falling. They don’t seem as if they will be important. Their terrible reckoning is hidden from view.”

6. Toward the end of the book, we see Grahm Shotwell again. He is at July’s house walking through the outbuildings of July’s farm. He is lonely for July and grieving in his own way. Rhodes manages to express the ineffable feeling of absence just after someone passes away.

“Everywhere, things that couldn’t move waited for July to touch them again. The Mason jar of arrowheads that July had picked from his fields sat on his tool bench, longing to be reseeded into the ground. Wrenches wanted to be picked up  and fitted around a nut. It wouldn’t be long, he knew, before they would be auctioned to someone else, along with the cows and everything else.”

As I wrote this post and read again David Rhodes’ words and sentences, I realized I don’t want to parse them. I can’t take apart what he put together to understand how I might do what he did. I will soon, but I am still too awed by the images he evokes to examine them too closely. I want to savor them a while more. What I can say is that  if we want to be writers who can do this sort of thing with our words, we must read books like Driftless to  absorb through osmosis, through touch and sight and sound, how he makes us feel. Read. A lot. Immerse yourself in glorious words, my friends, and write.

 

 

The “Wilds” of Wisconsin

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Although technically we are past the dog days of summer, we are still enjoying warm weather here in Wisconsin. The beautiful warmth is fleeting, but during summer all sorts of plant and animal life thrive. Though many of the songbirds that I adore hearing this time of year have already fled for warmer climes, other animals and plants are just about at their peak. Here is a sampling of what I see around my home or on my walks with Stella. All this beauty is part of the charm of living in Wisconsin–that is, if you like peace and quiet and beautiful scenery!

Grandpa Ott morning glories growing on the trellis right off the patio out back.

Grandpa Ott morning glories growing on the trellis right off the patio out back.

These are my favorite morning glories. They self-sow each year. In fact, I transplanted these from another area of my garden. I never have to replant, and they are beautiful each year with virtually no pests or problems. They are thought to have come originally from Bavaria. I bought several seedlings from Turners Farm Market, and I’ve had them since!

Just down the street, my neighbor Keith has planted his backyard in native prairie flowers and grasses. Each time I walk down our street I’m treated to a new display of flowers and grasses as they bloom and grow. This year these yellow flowers were in bloom next to the lavender bee balm. I think they are called yellow prairie cone flowers.

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Queen Ann’s lace blankets the roadways here this time of year in advance of the goldenrod that bursts forth from fields and ditches.

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Along the way Stella and I pass the river and enjoy the eagles, deer, and sand hill cranes we see along the way. I never want for beauty when I’m here.

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Just another day in Wisconsin.

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Butt in Chair Equals Early Death?

This past school year I gained 12 pounds. Yes, you read that correctly. Ordinarily during the school year I gain anywhere from 5-8 pounds, but this past year set an all-time record for me. I was horrified and still am because 8 of those twelve are still hanging on. School starts in only three weeks. I wouldn’t be concerned about gaining the extra weight if I felt good, but I felt like crap at the end of the year. Not only was I busting out of my jeans, but I also was tired all the time, and my lower back and neck hurt ALL the time. I knew I had to employ drastic measures to get back into shape.  For me this means walking and running usually, and dreaded body weight exercises. My vanity made me want to lose the weight I had gained, but a little voice inside me whispered that for the first time my health was at risk.

During last school year I became really sick, bronchitis in the fall and then pneumonia in the spring. That had not happened in about four years. Was that only a coincidence of working really hard last year? Maybe, but I had also fallen into the routine of doing my job over every other aspect of my life, including spending time at home with my husband and taking walks with Stella, my Lab. I was overwhelmed, over-stressed, and sedentary, a potentially lethal combination. Does that sound familiar to any of you?

Last year author Tom Rath, author of such books as Strengths Finder 2.0, How Full is Your Bucket, Strengths Based Leadership, and now Eat Sleep Move, said that “sitting is the most underrated health threat of modern times.” How does that square with the “butt in chair” mentality of writers? And teachers? And secretaries? Or anyone who spends much of his or her time plopped in a chair either by choice or necessity? Read this article in Forbes Magazine for more information about his research. I guarantee you’ll think twice about how you work.

Having a health crisis last year made me sit  stand up and think about my future (or lack thereof) if I continued my work only sedentary lifestyle. If I were going to be happy, healthy, and successful person, I had to take care of myself first. To that end I decided I had to do something to shock myself into changing. I have always been inspired by pictures people take of themselves when they were really overweight and then the after ones of them in bikinis or swimsuits with ripped abs. I think that is the appeal of The Biggest Loser. We get to see how people transform their lives each week, their successes and failures. When they first weigh in in public and expose their fat in front of people, I cringe for them because I know how embarrassed I would feel. Heck I can barely wear a swimsuit in public and not because I’m fat but because I’m modest. I think Victorian Era swimsuits look pretty good! Weighing themselves in public like that I think is designed to make them accountable and give them nowhere they can hide the fact of their weight from anyone, especially themselves. They can no longer deny how much they weigh or o how big they really are.

I decided that I couldn’t be quite so public with myself–aren’t you relieved?–but I did take a picture of my stomach. I will never show it to anyone, but I do look at it when I want a cookie  or don’t want to take a walk because I’m too tired. I also want a record of how far I’ve come and what I don’t want to look and feel like again when I must choose between my health or my job this school year. No job should consume so much of my life that I don’t have time to fill the well of creativity that keeps me happy. That only fills when I have time to spend with important people in my life and my writing.

I have dedicated myself to my writing and my health this summer. I haven’t lost the weight that I want to lose yet, but I’ve already changed my life by exercising nearly every day and working either on this blog or on my books. Though progress in my writing is much harder to quantify, I’ve made progress in both areas. I now walk 4.5-6 miles most days. I also do Spartacus workouts twice a week with some modifications for my weak upper body, and Popsugar is my “go to” site for fun workouts that are doable and short. I’ve built muscle and no longer have pain in my lower back or neck as often. I’m not where I need to be yet, but I’m getting there. I’m also using my Pinterest profile to keep track of  workouts I like. Checkl out my Pinterest Health and Fitness board. The inspiration for the sculpted belly I want is the cover picture on this board.

You can also find my board for my novel on my Pinterest page too, but I’ll be posting about that soon.

Any job that requires that we put our job responsibilities above our health and time with important people and activities in our lives is asking too much of us. In those cases the time we invest to accomplish work tasks is not worth the money we make because once we don’t have our health, we can’t be successful at anything. We can’t even enjoy our lives. I truly believe “sitting is the new smoking” because last school year I lived the kind of life that endangered my health.  I allowed my job to take precedence over everything else including my husband, my family, my friends, my art, and my spiritual life. I won’t live that way ever again. I am making a pledge to myself to move more, write more, love more, live more, and work less. I will care for myself first so that I have the energy and health to take care of everything else.

Graziano Gardens

 

Graziano Gardens

Last Saturday I was feeling lonely because my hubby was away, my friends were camping or otherwise occupied, and I needed a little inspiration for my house and garden. I’ve also been trying to do something creative other than writing to, as my husband says “keep my saw sharp.” We writers need to use our creative energy in more than one way to keep the creative juices flowing. Since the main character in my book is also a gardener, I thought getting back into gardening would not only be good for my creative spirit and let me feel some of what Faith feels, but it would also be a good way to be active, a real challenge when I sit so much at my desk writing. It is definitely a workout.

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I use to really enjoy gardening, but the past few years I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of work I need to do, and I’ve been lazy and uninspired. We have lived in our house now for nearly ten years, and all our landscaping needs overhauling. After a time, shrubs reach their full height and need radical trimming or removal, perennials need dividing–especially when you neglect doing that year after year, and some overzealous plants reproduce and take over–Siberian irises anyone? That’s where my gardens stand right now. I’d really like to pay someone to come in and redo everything, but who can afford that?

20150801_143255That’s why on Saturday, August 1, I went to visit my friend Shelly Christie, the owner of Graziano Gardens.  That’s us: she’s in pink looking lovely even in the heat! People display their creativity in numerous ways, and I’m glad Shelly lets her creativity shine in the garden. You can see it even in my less than stellar photography. Last Saturday was the first in her new Super Saturdays at Graziano Gardens. I visited to get some inspiration for planting and also to go to the Barn-tique sale–the barn on the property has all kinds of antiques and collectibles to restore and up-cycle into some new treasure for your house or garden. Pinterest anyone?

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In addition, I listened to the very knowledgeable Rob Zimmer discuss gardening and designing with native plants. Rob is a columnist for the Appleton Post Crescent and is also known as the Yard MD. I did get some inspiration for next spring, but still have too much to do with what I already need to divide and move to buy anything else, except for two daylilies–there is always room for more daylilies, and Shelly had some beauties. I purchased two called Pardon Me (love the name!) miniatures with cranberry red flowers with green throats. They are re-bloomers too. I can’t wait to get them in the ground. Today, I promise.

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If you need an injection of creative inspiration and haven’t been to Graziano Gardens yet or haven’t been in a while, I urge you to go. The gardens surrounding the garden center will inspire you as will the numerous plants and pots for sale. Shelly and her crew are wonderfully  helpful and friendly! Also mark your calendars for the next two Super Saturdays this fall. The weather will be cooler, perfect for gardening. Here’s the info! I hope to see you there!

Super Saturdays, September 5th & October 3rd

  • Super Specials & Sales
  • Barn-tique Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Linda Otto Peeters of Willow Farm – Wet Felting / Jewelry Making
  • Mum Arrival
  • Fall & Seasonal Decorating Tips
  • WE-SHARE-A-COUNTY Fall Driving Tour

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Southern Roots and Northern Blossoms

Hello to my readers and to any new followers I’ve gained recently! Thank you for reading my words. I started this blog two years ago, and I am so glad I did. When I started writing two years ago, I just wanted a place to record my thoughts and practice the habit of writing. Over time, however, I found my voice, and my writing has evolved. Now I mostly write about my journey as a writer, but I also write about my life here in Wisconsin and my memories about the South and sometimes about what is happening in the world that evokes a response from me. I hope you’ll find my posts meaningful and my words at times funny, poignant, interesting, provocative, and encouraging. Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll follow my journey!

When I moved to the Midwest some 20 years ago, I had no idea what my life would hold. The title of my blog, Southern Roots and Northern Blossoms, came from something my mother’s friend, Shirley Friedman, said to me after I expressed my concerns to her about moving away from all that was familiar and comfortable. I was concerned I wouldn’t be successful away from the South, the only home I had ever known. She said, “Now, sugar, you have southern roots but you’ll have northern blossoms.” She was right. I’ve found success here in all the ways that truly matter, with my friends, my family, my career(s), and my dreams, and I want to share my insights and observations with you, my readers.

Since I moved here, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover both my profession, teaching, and my calling, writing. Though I was always interested in writing–I was an English major after all–I had no idea how to go about writing stories or novels. Then I took a class with Richard Behm at UW-Stevens Point called Teaching Creative Writing, a part of renewing my teacher certification. I discovered my love of creating a story, of bringing into the world something completely original which had never been before. Shortly after taking that class, I proposed, wrote curriculum for, and began teaching a creative writing class to high school students. What I didn’t expect was that I would find my passion for writing in that class. Before that I was a dabbler, a wannabe writer. During and after teaching that class, I took my writing seriously and have now completed my first novel and am working on my second while I revise my first.

If you’re an aspiring author, I hope you’ll find in me a kindred spirit who shares your love of words, images, and stories. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned and also what I’m reading, especially passages that sing. If you’re from the South, I hope you’ll find my memories resonate with you and remind you of aspects of the South that you love. If you’re from the Midwest, I hope you’ll see this region with the same wonder and affection I do, except for winter. I’m not sure I’ll ever appreciate winter.  Expect some sarcasm and occasional whining in that season. :) Wherever you’re from I hope you’ll follow my blog and share your thoughts with me. I’d love to hear from you!

Perspective: On the Inside Looking Out

Image result for revisionAt the end of June I began work on another revision of my novel to incorporate what I learned at UW Madison’s Write-by-the-Lake in Laurie Scheer’s class, Mastering Your Genre. I highly recommend this class for everyone working on a novel or screenplay, but you could also read Laurie’s book The Writer’s Advantage: a Toolkit for Mastering Your Genre. I highly recommend it. The research you do will open your eyes to what has been done before and how you can offer something new in your genre. My research led to my learning a number of lessons not only in writing but also about life. One of those lessons involves perspective.

I’m a slow writer. Mostly when I revise, I weigh the words and images I put on the page, but even when I’m composing my first draft I struggle with a number of problems, chiefly point of view. Christine DeSmet, best-selling author and writing teacher extraordinaire, read and critiqued my entire first draft, God bless her. I don’t know how she could stand it! I can’t tell you how often she put in her notes, “You’ve switched point of view here.”  It must have been vexing. I was slow to see the difference, I think, because I was in l love with the writing process, rather than trying to see from a character’s point of view and only that character’s point of view. Now I understand whose point of view carries a scene and why and how not to switch point of view even as I write my first drafts.

The work I’ve been doing lately has to do with point of view, but it goes deeper than I thought before. It involves seeing the world of my story from the perspective of each character, and it is slow going. Since I delved more deeply into the genre of my book, I realized that my main character wasn’t strong enough. She needed to carry the story much more than she had before. That meant I had to understand her world as she did, to understand and love and hate the people and places she does. I had to feel what her home means to her, what falling in love for the first time feels like, what feeling betrayed feels like, all those things from her point of view, her perspective. I’ve had to imagine what life would have been like when being unmarried at 19 dubbed you a spinster, when wearing trousers rather than a corset and dress made you provocative and unladylike, when the only prospects of survival for a young lady were marriage or inheriting a large amount of money.

I’ve also imagined what living at a time when the world as you  knew it had collapsed and the societal structure was either non-existent or changed so as to be unrecognizable. You see my book is set in 1869 Charleston, South Carolina, so I try to delve into what society might have been like then, what relationships between women might have been like, both between white women and between white and African American women. To  see from Josiah’s perspective, I’ve tried to understand PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and the struggle to live life normally after witnessing the unspeakable horrors of war. Back then PTSD was called “soldier’s heart” or “nostalgia.” I’ve tried to inhabit that world as much as possible, but not until I took Laurie’s class did I feel I could crawl beneath my characters’ skins and see their world from their perspectives.

Often I don’t take the time to look at life from a new perspective. I drive the same route to work each day. I travel the same path when I go for my morning runs with Stella. I drink the same basic smoothie recipe on a daily basis. To change that, something must jar me out of my routine. That’s what this class did for me. Today when I was out for my run, I decided to try something different. In my book my main character Faith has a special oak tree which she has considered hers since she was a child. It is a live oak, a big one that I imagine looks like the Angel Oak  on John’s Island in South Carolina. She goes there when she needs to think or be alone. I don’t have a special tree where I go to think, but a very old white oak tree stands in front of my house. At one time I imagine it might have been someone’s special tree because it survived standing in the middle of a farm field rather than being chopped down for fire wood.

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Today when I was walking back home after my run, I decided to include a picture of this tree in this post. That is it to the left. Since I’ve been thinking of perspective, however, I wanted to do something else, too.  I wanted to climb this tree to get Faith’s perspective from inside a tree. As a child I climbed trees,  but that was a long time ago. I climbed up to the first limb, but I chickened out going any higher. My middle name is not Grace for a reason. One day I still might climb it, but not on the spur of the moment when my husband is not around to rescue me if I can’t get down. So I did what I think is the next best thing. I took several pictures from beneath the tree looking up into the branches as though I were about to climb it. Below you’ll see what that looks like. Quite a different feel from the one above, wouldn’t you say?

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Before this revision of my book, I was looking at the world of my story as I always had, from afar. I was looking AT it rather than being inside the story looking out from it. Before I was telling the story, reporting it rather than inhabiting it with my characters. To understand my characters and what they see and feel, I’ve learned I must see from the perspective of each of them . They will show me what is important to them. I must be present in the story with them and feel what they do, see what they do, love and hate what they do. I must be with them in their world rather than looking at it from afar.

Wisconsin Wednesdays

During summer I’m amazed by the beauty of Wisconsin, especially the rural areas where I live. It comes fast and furious because there is a finite number of sunlit, warm summer days here up north. All of us appreciate each of them and spend as much time out in the fresh air and sunshine as we can. To showcase that beauty, I’ve decided to do post pictures each Wednesday highlighting some aspect of Wisconsin. I hope you’ll enjoy what I choose to show you. I’ll also use the hashtag #RuralAmerica, so if you want to post your own pictures in the comments or on Twitter, I’d LOVE to see them!

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These are my purple cone flowers or Echinacea purpurea, a perennial flower in the sunflower family. In my garden it is one of the easiest plants to grow, and it also grows in the wild here in the Midwest. Most of these I never even planted. They came up from seed form the original two or three plants, but they look so pretty where they were that I left them there. They have blessed us with numerous blooms that attract lots of honeybees and butterflies.

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Two of our “neighbors” who live within a couple of miles of us raise honeybees, and my cone flowers are a great source of nectar for the bees who pollinate them each summer. I wish you could smell them; I wish I could make a perfume of their scent!

Cone Flower with Honey Bee

Cone Flower with Honey Bee