Research: The Agony and the Ecstasy

I think I’ve written on this topic before, but I’m in the middle of research for an article and it’s tiring. Research is not always necessary in writing, certainly. A lot of people poo poo the idea with the thought it stifles creativity. I do a lot of writing without research. I let my crazy imagination out of the starting gate and let it have its way. Research has its time and place. When I need to, I usually take great pleasure in doing research for a work of fiction (there have been a few exceptions). However, research for an article is sometimes agony, depending on the topic. I’m not completely certain why the difference, but I’ll take a stab at figuring it out. You decide whether you want to look on and watch my brain work.

I wrote a story a few years back called Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl. I did a lot of research and loved every minute of it. The story takes place on two continents, America and Poland. In the present, it took place in the 1960s, in the past, the late 30s and early 40s. I did extensive research on Poland between 1939 and a little into the early 40s after Hitler had captured Warsaw. I studied their government back then, the fall of Warsaw, some of the main players in Hitler’s regime, holocaust stories, stories of Jews who fought to stay in the city, those who escaped. I read biographical books and articles. I did not use all of this information in the story, but it helped for context as I pieced the story together. I also studied ships that left Poland to go to America, even looked at a manifest just out of curiosity. I researched Krakow and Warsaw in the 60s. I looked for Polish names popular in the time and their meanings. Every moment of research was delicious. I love history. It was a difficult story to write because it was my first foray into time and locale switches, and I had trouble with the plot. I got bogged down in too many characters. I want to put it into a book after my current endeavor, but I will make some big changes the plot but the research will still be used.

Research for my current fiction project has been tedious, even daunting. I looked into the structural hierarchy of hospitals. I spent many hours figuring out how the Ohio State medical board disciplines doctors, laws on sexual crime from a physician and also charges for a citizens for these issues. The problem is, every hospital is a little different. Titles are different, in some hospitals there’s a difference in who hires, fires, and oversees different personnel. As to the laws on sexual crime, it was hard to understand the differences and levels of charges, and how a courtroom scene would be for an underage victim. I think it’s obvious why this research was more unpleasant. I don’t need all of it, but a lot of it.

I write a lot on matters of faith and the Bible. While I am very familiar with the Scriptures, I am not an expert and there is a lot of perusing online Bible sites like Bible Gateway, Bible Tools, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and commentaries. It’s quicker to google Scriptures on hope or the resurrection, which gives a long list, than it is to pour through a hard copy for hours on end and find them on my own. That is simply because if it’s for an article, I will never get it written, or lose interest if I wade through it in my personal bible. Most of the time I enjoy this because I love the Bible, but I can get overwhelmed taking the Scriptures and weaving them into the article. I realized today that with these kind of articles I need to do an outline.

I’ve written several articles on Bible or everyday idioms, Bible stories where they came from. Also fun.

Fluff pieces once in a while require a bit of research, but it’s not usually too daunting. I researched cow breeds and tagging for a silly story on three calves on a farm who were getting tagged. Fluff, believe me. For those familiar with my Dear Andy advice column using puns – Fluff with a capital F – it might surprise readers to know it is tedious thinking up puns for the topic and yes, I use a Thesaurus sometimes. Please don’t burn me at the stake.

Another time I researched herons when I wrote a poem on them. I didn’t need the research for the poem or story, I was just curious and figured what the heck, I’ll add it.

The nightmare research is where I’m looking for dry, boring facts, quotations if I want several. Quotes are tricky because the majority of quote sites are notorious for faulty attributions. So it’s tedious to find credible sources.

Research is to make things authentic, accurate, and context. I don’t want someone to read something I’ve written and say, that’s not plausible, that is not how it is or is done, this woman is a lazy writer. Research is unpleasant when it is time consuming and difficult to find the facts. Conflicting information is maddening. But the results are rewarding.

I encourage people to do their research, even for fiction if it will make the story authentic. Although you use more of your imagination for fiction and poetry, you want your story to be credible, unless you are a fantasy writer.

As I’m writing this, it just struck me that reading in general is research on life. It also teaches us to write. Had I not been an avid reader in my childhood, I don’t think I’d have the interest in writing, or that I could do a halfway decent job. It was reading about famous baseball players as a child that I fell in love with the game. Reading the Little House on the Prairie books taught me about survival and working hard during difficulty. Reading Flannery O’Connor taught me to love and learn to write about quirky people and weird situations. I realize she had some racism and other prejudices in her characterizations, which I despise now. But nonetheless, I was often intrigued by her characters. To Kill a Mockingbird, oh my, can’t put what I learned there in a nutshell, but I learned a lot.

Since my childhood, Erma Bombeck has been my favorite humor writer. I devoured every Erma Bombeck book several times over, read a gazillion of her columns, and her TV ditties, and I can’t deny the tremendous influence she had on me. I remember laughing until I cried while reading her books. My mom would feed off of my hysteria and laugh along with me.

If I hadn’t read my history, science, and literature books in school I’d never care about those things. I fell in love with Shakespeare and poetry in high school and had the most amazing teachers.

Love Shakespeare.

In closing I thought I’d share some quotes on research and a few other things from writers. Some really hit home. Please share your experiences with research in the comments.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” ~ Wernher von Braun

“It has recently been discovered that research causes cancer in rats.” ~ Anonymous

If you do need to do research because parts of your story deal with things about which you know little or nothing, remember that word back. That’s where research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.
You may be entranced with what you’re learning about the flesh-eating bacteria, the sewer system of New York, or the I.Q. potential of collie pups, but your readers are probably going to care a lot more about your characters and your story. ~Stephen King

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your terms.”
~ Angela Carter

“When humor goes, there goes civilization.” ~ Erma Bombeck

My favorite Erma Book. https://www.amazon.com/Life-Bowl-Cherries-What-Doing/dp/0449208397/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Erma+Bombeck&qid=1598677362&s=books&sr=1-2

Making My Own Lyrics to a Familiar Song

Today I am writing in large print because of my poor vision. I have not been able to read my posts lately and I just figures out how to enlarge the letters. Hope you don’t mind

Susan Boyle is my favorite singer. She is soulful and so stunning in her recordings. I confess I cry often when I listen to her. She moves my heart like no one else. Today I was listening to her singing Always on My Mind by good old Willie Nelson. Who doesn’t love that song? The lyrics are so tender. You can feel the regret the man has for not loving his woman they way he should have. He asks for another chance. To be honest, no one sings it like Willie, but I love Susan’s cover also.

Why would I mess with such perfect lyrics? I don’t know, but I was feeling close to God and thought it would make a great song with a spiritual lyrics. I wrote it as a love song from God to me. It’s not perfect, I need to tweak it because the syllables and meter get tricky in certain parts. Below are the lyrics.

You Are Always On My Mind

Child I have always loved you

Since before the world began

It was My hands that formed you

With love and fear and with joy

And I felt the blessedness

Of your wonderful design

I’m so glad that you are Mine

You are always on My mind

I’ve kept track of all your sorrows

Stored you tears in your bottle

In my heart sacred treasures

Written each one in your book

All the comfort I have given you

I have done with love O sublime

I’m so glad that you are Mine

You are always on my mind

Trust Me

Trust Me with all your heart and all your soul

Look to Me

Look to Me for your redemption draweth nigh

Your redemption draweth nigh

One day I’ll come for all of you

My Church, My precious Bride

I’m so glad that you are Mine

You are always on my Mind

 

The Meaning Behind “Pen of a Ready Writer”

The name of my blog, Pen of a Ready Writer, comes from Psalm 45. It just popped into my head the day I was trying to think of a name. When I first saw it described for me the feeling of passion for writing. I’m always ready to write something, at least most days. I’m talking inspiration. However, the psalm is not talking about a novelist or poet being inspired. It’s deeper and related to spiritual matters. Today, I happened across the psalm and read it. The psalm was written by the sons of Korah. These men were leaders in orchestral and choral music at the temple. Worship leaders, as they’d be called today. They wrote several psalms, which are basically poetry put to music, as are all psalms.

The psalm starts out this way in verse 1 in the New King James Version:

My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

Isn’t that great? Did you ever get flooded with a good theme for a story, like overflowing and you can’t wait to sit down and start oozing onto paper? Remembering the psalm is not about an every day writer being inspired, it still resonates that way. But the beauty and meaning of this psalm is far more wonderful. Actually, the psalmist says his tongue is the pen of a ready writer. It seems to he is feeling inspiration with which to write a poem, a song and sing it.

This psalm is titled:

The Glories of the Messiah and His Bride To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Lilies.” A contemplation of the sons of Korah. A song of love.

Some Bible commentators say the song is being written to an unamed prominent king while also reflecting Christ, the King of Kings, the Messiah, and His Bride the Church.

Listen to it in the New Living Translation:

Beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem about the king,
for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet.

Eloquence.

I looked into this psalm to see what it was actually about. What follows is a joyful song for a royal wedding, many people believe it is for King Jesus and His Bride.

You are the most handsome of all.
    Gracious words stream from your lips.
    God himself has blessed you forever.
Put on your sword, O mighty warrior!
    You are so glorious, so majestic!
In your majesty, ride out to victory,
    defending truth, humility, and justice.
    Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!
Your arrows are sharp, piercing your enemies’ hearts.
    The nations fall beneath your feet.

Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
    You rule with a scepter of justice.
You love justice and hate evil.
    Therefore God, your God, has anointed you,
    pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.
Myrrh, aloes, and cassia perfume your robes.
    In ivory palaces the music of strings entertains you.
Kings’ daughters are among your noble women.
    At your right side stands the queen,
    wearing jewelry of finest gold from Ophir!

10 Listen to me, O royal daughter; take to heart what I say.
    Forget your people and your family far away.
11 For your royal husband delights in your beauty;
    honor him, for he is your lord.
12 The princess of Tyre will shower you with gifts.
    The wealthy will beg your favor.
13 The bride, a princess, looks glorious
    in her golden gown.
14 In her beautiful robes, she is led to the king,
    accompanied by her bridesmaids.
15 What a joyful and enthusiastic procession
    as they enter the king’s palace!

16 Your sons will become kings like their father.
    You will make them rulers over many lands.
17 I will bring honor to your name in every generation.
    Therefore, the nations will praise you forever and ever.

I’m not going to spend time dissecting the passage, I just thought it was beautiful. It’s not talking about your garden variety writer feeling inspired. to write a joyful poem or work of prose. But it sure is something that resonates.

I love the psalms for so many reasons. First, the psalms cover every human emotion that exists. Secondly, they present many life situations we find ourselves in, good and bad. Thirdly, they are poetry. Ancient Middle Eastern poetry was quite different than our poetry today and it can be breathtaking.

I’m about to nod off so I better scoot off to bed. Just thought I’d share.

Sunday Musings Of A Moron

This is not a post on writing per se, but about things people write in the media, social media and all other online venues regarding politics and hot button issues. I will being with this:

My Hubpages friend Bill Holland shared in a Facebook post today that a friend called democrats stupid, which implies he is stupid. He doesn’t need me to defend him. And really that’s not my purpose. I know Bill will not lose any sleep over being called stupid. But still, I will be making a point here. I think he shared it to show how immature and unkind people can be. I expect he’ll make a comment on this post, so I will leave it to him to fill in any blanks.

I complained on Facebook last month that two people in my “friends list” called Republicans, and more specifically, Trump supporters Morons and other colorful words I can’t share. I will admit, I was upset because it was all they would post, day after day, All CAPS name-calling. I knew it wasn’t personal, but I was sick of the non-stop assault on people who think differently than they do. If they said it to my democrat friends I’d be ticked. I unfriended them both because I don’t know them very well anyway (nor do I want to now) and I do not thrive on or strive for toxicity.

Listen, if I had known Bill was so stupid I wouldn’t give him the time of day (hear tongue in cheek). If Bill had known that I am such a moron, he wouldn’t give me the time of day. Fortunately, we were not aware of it and are friends because we are adults, respectful of differences in ideologies, and because we could care less what party or candidate the other supports. We don’t consider people with a differing viewpoint stupid idiots and morons in and of themselves. The ones who get ugly openly reveal those traits. Their words speak for themselves.

Bill is a great guy because he’s SMART, kind, a deep-thinking philosopher, an encourager, a good writer, and a good mentor to our writing community on Hubpages. He tells a good story and it’s always nice to hear about his growing up years and life experiences and what he’s learned. He does not look at people through the eyes of political stances. I can see Bill sitting at Starbucks with 5 republicans and nary an unkind word if they are likewise kind. I’m guessing politics would not even be on his radar. He’d probably rather shoot the bull on baseball scores, the antics of dogs, and urban gardening. If the subject came up, I know he would be mature and have a respectful exchange with those people, if he even wanted to talk politics. Bill loves simple pleasures, walking in the country with his dogs, writing, projects at home, and his greatest pleasure is his wonderful wife Bev. He crowns her with wisdom, virtue, and beauty inside and out. It touches my heart to hear him praise her.

I don’t have to second guess whether Bill thinks I’m a moron. He knows my twisted sense of humor, my thoughts on a variety of subjects based on my writing, and discussion via comments and emails. He is an honest man and I count on that when I ask his feedback on something, whether my writing or other things. And you know what? Bill and I have never met each other in-person. Actually, there is a slight possibility we met like thirty years ago when he lived in my community and ran a convenience store I occasionally frequented.

I have so many cherished friends on Hubpages and never met one of them, but we know one another’s hearts. There is an unspoken love and respect within the community. That is because writers communicate best on paper and pen or keyboard and screen. We writers ooze our thoughts and feelings in that venue. I have been on HP for ten years, and I know Bill has been there probably as many. I know Bill doesn’t agree with everything I say, and vice versa. But he never squashes or assaults people or tries to shut them down if their being respectful. Rather, he either finds common ground or is able to state his point of view thoughtfully and respectfully. I can say this for many of my HP friends. The ones that are rude, unfollow they will go.

What I want to really discuss, is why people call names and insult people who believe differently, especially in online communication. They say never talk about religion and politics because people get their hackles up and lose their senses and manners. Other than being garden variety sinners as we all are, I think it is indicative of immaturity, unbridled temper, and resistance to other people’s freedom to believe differently or wanting to get to the facts And I often say, “Thank the Lord we live in a country where we are free to choose different political and religious beliefs and vote for them (although I see this freedom on the road to ruin with all the censoring and demands for political correctness). They can’t and won’t look for common ground. The subjects of religion and politics bring out the worst in people. In this day of social media, blogs, forums, and comments sections, people hide behind their screens and feel safer, more protected from personal accountability. I am not sure why these two are such hot topics. One can make a case that people who get rude and angry over these topics usually care more about being right and winning the argument than they do about relationships. There is also no denying that this culture is driven by political correctness and emotions which cloud the lens of facts, truth, common ground, and finding answers and change. “Facts don’t have feelings” is now a common buzz phrase. People who say this are called hateful and mean. I think it’s true. Not all things are relative and up for interpretation. That would be another post for another day, but not likely that I’ll write on it.

“If they attack you personally, it means they have not a single political argument left. ” ~ Margaret Thatcher

“Political correctness is tyranny with manners… It’s a cultural cancer that’s eating away at our society.”   ~ Charlton Heston

HERE’s A NEWSFLASH: You cannot insult or argue someone to your way of thinking. It NEVER works. NEVER EVER, even if you are right. However, people have been known to be influential with the others holding an opposing view when they listen, ask thoughtful questions, and speak respectfully. And if an agreement still isn’t reached, despite chicken little’s cries that the sky is falling, the world does not end in cataclysmic nuclear destruction (at least not yet). AND you can still remain, friends, if you value the relationship. I read the following quote but could not find the author. I found it on Pinterest under the user named Tiny Buddha. Regardless it says it all:

“Discussions are better than arguments, because an argument is to find out who’s right, and a discussion is to find out what is right.”

The discussion should be about finding what is right, a solution, a new perspective, finding common ground.

I don’t talk to people about politics when they get so heated and want to argue. Not because I refuse to talk to people with an opposing view, but because I hate arguing. And to be honest, I can get to feeling hot too. So I cut it off because when I get together with friends, I want to have an enjoyable time. I will tell people, “Take it to the ballot box, work toward change, write to legislators, or talk to people who agree with you only. I’d rather hear about what’s going on in their lives, how the Cubs are doing, and what is God teaching you lately. I’d rather act wild and crazy and laugh until my sides ache. I’d rather pray with a hurting friend rather than hurt them with ridiculous arguments. I’d rather celebrate our joys, play with their pets, walk on the beach and share confidences.

If I sound holier-than-thou, my mistake. I have had my moments, believe me. I’ve posted things and made comments that could have been less angry. I did not name call or bully anyone, however. I made a decision tonight to resist posting anything political because it’s already been said on FB and it only stirs things up, even if I do not make a comment. On the other hand, there will be a few exceptions to things I feel strongly about. Sometimes there is a time to make a public stance. But it will not be attacking anyone with vitriol and name-calling.

Here’s another thing I wish people would learn: Just because someone supports a politician and party that you think is hideous and evil, that does not mean that someone is all of those things. Let’s take Trump for example, because who else is more hated and maligned than him. People say he is a racist, misogynist, this “ist” and that “ist,” therefore, everyone who supports Trump is a racist, etc. etc. Just because someone supports his agenda and the things he is doing for the country, doesn’t mean they support his brash behavior. I’m sorry to say it is true for some, but I know many who don’t. Some of the ways he talks are more than cringe-worthy or even shudder-worthy. A liberal friend desperately wanted to know why it was okay for Trump to say this and that or to behave badly in such and such situation. My answer was “It’s not okay with me.” She also wanted to know why people would support Trump. Again, I answered only for me, which was while I strongly disapprove of his bad manners, I can separate that from his agenda. He works for and against things I feel strongly about. I don’t even care if he’s sincere, although I hope he is. My biggest concern is that is doing the thing I am for. Also, the opposing agenda and direction toward socialism is something I so strongly disagree with. She thanked me. It was painless and respectful.

One last thing, speaking only for myself, I do not believe in blind allegiance to any party or politician. If they do something wrong, or something I am not in agreement with, I will say so. I don’t make excuses for them and I don’t look at it as being a turncoat. There is no one on earth who never makes a bad call, poor judgment, or willful act of wrong.

So okay, this has turned out to be an editorial piece. I hope you won’t sue me. But I am a no-name, who according to my sons, is elderly and should be commended for still having my mental faculties (the latter I question often). I am thinking of dying my hair black and getting a face lift to squelch this blaspheme.

As I write all of this, I think Christ should get the last word lest I forget where kindness came from:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” ~ Jesus Christ, Luke 6:27-31.

Now I ask you, do I look like a moron? DON’T answer that!

Progress No Perfection

A view of Mount Rainier from Fox Island.

This is a term we hear a lot in AA. We will never reach perfection because humans were made imperfect. But I steal this little phrase and put it into the context of writing. I am writing this book that means so very much to me. I want it to be perfect. I don’t care about awards, accolades, money, or fame. I just want it to be read and enjoyed and for people to walk away and say “That book reached my heart.” “That story resonated with me.” “It taught me lessons.” “It helped me through a dark period.” It was the perfect get away while life churns in turmoil.” I want it to be the kind of book that will be read and reread and passed on. That is not likely to happen. However, I am seeing great progress. I have to be honest and tell you during this past six months, I’ve not written much. I got stuck on two scenes that wrote and rewrote and rewrote again.

A while back, I wrote about my friends, Cindy and Joe Dille who live on Fox Island. Before this pandemic, they invited me to come and use their home as a writing retreat as often as possible. I took them up on it several times. It’s an inspiration to sit in the little breakfast nook, just feet from the water if the tide is up, and watch all the water fowl and porpoises popping up and down. I managed to write despite this beauty. In fact, it inspired me. When I paused to think about what I would write next, I’d gaze out into the water and the sky. What a thrill to see a majestic bald eagle soar over the bay, and the lone heron wade in the shallows for hours with a stillness and serenity that can’t be put into words.

Lately I’ve been craving a visit to camp Dille. Then Cindy invited me over for a chat. We were careful to distance and sat on the deck watching all of the wonders of nature, discussing writing and art (she is the artist, I am the writer). We talked about the process. She asked lots of questions. She’s been stuck and asked if that ever happens to me. Of course I told her never (wink wink). I said I have been stuck many times. She asked what I do in those times. I said I stop and wait. That is not necessarily the MO for every writer, but it’s mine. I leave it and forget about it for a while. Then it reenters the inner workings of my brain and I mull over what should come next or how I can rewrite this next scene or the last scene I’m not happy with. Sometimes I will run into some inspiration, or I’ll have a sudden brain burst of an idea and begin again. But it seems my pauses can be too lengthy simple because I’m unsure of myself.

Then she asked if I ever overthink things. Not often, but my first chapter I’ve tweaked so many times it’s ridiculous. A few others as well. I do however overthink life. Cindy and I walked the beach, caught up on our lives and watched God’s handiwork. Then we went back to the deck and talked some more. I went home and felt that blissful inspiration I always get at camp Dille.

This morning I went to Bible study. When I got home my book was calling: Come hither,” or is it “thither?” Who cares. The point is my book called and said write me or I’ll die. I wrote like a fiend and polished off three chapters. I wept and thrilled as the story unfolded. I will start chapter 18 tomorrow. It looks like it will be a longer book than the original rough draft. They say you should scale your rough draft down. And so I may but not until this second round is finished. I am not going to spend months and months on the third draft. I will proof read if I can’t find anyone else to do it, and try to tighten it up. I hope to have it done by Christmas. Who knows, maybe sooner. I know what your thinking, those of you who know me well. Man, Lori, you’ve been writing that book forever.

It doesn’t matter. The point is, it’s going to get finished.

Since I am not at the level of Haper Lee, Hemmingway, or Flannery O’Connor (three of my favorite writers of the 20th century) I must be content to know I did my best, and hopefully, the few people who buy it and read it will like it. I can die knowing I bared my soul to reach others with the message of healing and redemption. I will feel blessed if at least one person who reads it can say they got it.

Camp Dillle at sunset.

Writing and Performing Stand Up Comedy Jokes

A while back I wrote a post about the healing and challenge of doing stand up comedy. I called it part one, but I decided today to focus on writing stand up comedy jokes. I don’t profess to be an expert, but I do have a tiny bit of experience, but I also took a class as I shared before, and  I took a Master Class with Steve Martin online.

The first thing you have to have is a sense of humor, obviously.  I’ve learned though, that not everyone has the same kind of sense of humor. There are some people that just don’t find much funny. They tense up when you say “Did you hear the one about…” They’ll look at you blankly after the punch line. Some people are sensitive and a little teasing just doesn’t go over, so we all need to be understanding about that, and no one has the right to be unkind.

I have made a commitment not to insult my audience or malign someone, and I like to work clean. There is no reason to fill my routine with filth when everyday stuff is funny without all that. It’s the same with writers of novels, poetry, etc. Fill it with filth and you reveal you have no talent, don’t want to work at your craft, or are still insecure about your ability of being authentic. It’s also cultural. We live in a potty-mouthed culture and vulgar is pretty standard for some. 

Where to get material: I don’t have to look far for material.  My life is a joke and I mean that in a positive way. The situations I run into and the stupid ways I react to them provide me with volumes of material. All I have to do is exaggerate a bit, add a few extras here and there (then again sometimes it’s not necessary) and I’ve got a joke. Once in a while, I bring into the joke another person, but I always keep them anonymous or generic, and I don’t degrade them. 

Anecdotal storytelling jokes: Most of my jokes are Ancecotal. Here is one that actually is a true story with a few liberties taken:

I am dealing with age-related hearing loss. My primary care doctor sent me to this poker-faced ear, nose, and throat doctor. While he was looking in my ears he was asking me lots of questions, which I could hear because he was speaking near my ear.

All of a sudden he stood back and said, “Have you had a urine test lately?” 

And I’m thinking ‘What the heck does that have to do with my hearing?’ But I answered and said, “Well, actually I have.”

And he says, “And what did it show?”

A little embarrassed I said, “If you must know, I had a urinary tract infection.”

He looked at me as if I’d grown four new eyeballs and goes, “I asked if you’d had a HEARING test.”

I went into absolute hysterics. Before I knew it I was doubled over, kicking my feet, howling. The whole time I’m laughing he’s reading my chart and shaking his head. (Here I act out him looking at the chart. Then with his forefinger points in one point and stops). “Bipolar, that explains everything.”  In the delivery, I drag out the word “everything.” It’s one of those things of, “You had to be there.”

I can’t be objective enough to know if on paper it is funny, certainly not as much as if you heard it being told because body language, tone, etc add to it. But when I did it on stage it was a big hit. I think it went over so well because I wrote about something that really happened to me and when it happened it was absolutely hysterical.  To make it funnier, I also exaggerated the laughing part of it and made up the part about him reading my chart and noting bipolar. So I think when writing comedy for stand up, I need to look at my own life, my own predicaments, and draw from those.

Me, storytelling. To the left of me on the table is a bucket of those hand squeeze doodads to strengthen your hands. They are brains. Later on we threw them out to the audience.

Keeping the audience interested: If you’re a storyteller (which I am) you have to keep the interest of the audience because stories take time to tell. Humor needs to run through the whole story. If you spend five minutes telling a story but don’t have a punchline until the end your audience is going to be bored. And let me tell you, it is extremely uncomfortable to watch the audience’s faces staring at you while you’re telling a story. I cannot stand to do stand up where I have to be close to the audience and look into their faces. I would rather have a stage and lights. Not so I can look like a star, but so I don’t have to see the audience. When you’re on a stage, you are far away from your audience. The lights shine in your face and all you can see are shadows of the audience except for the first few front rows. I am more terrified before a performance when I have to be three feet from the audience looking right into their faces. These are usually gigs doing comedy at a workplace function, or a ladies tea, or something of that nature.

Themes from my life: I like doing jokes with themes in my own life. Though the actual joke is completely fictitious, I am knowledgable about them.

One time on the psych ward we decided to play volleyball for recreation. The therapist thought it would be really fun to team us up by diagnosis (this sometimes gets a laugh, depending on my delivery). She started with the multiple personality team… they only needed one guy for that…actually, he was both teams.

I used specific timing on the punchlines of that joke. I paused after “only needed one guy for that,”  to let the audience get the laugh out, then I delivered the second punchline. One important thing a comedian should not do in delivery is to rush the joke. If you have two or more punchlines in one joke, give them time to finish laughing before the next punchline, otherwise, you talk over the laugh and they might miss the rest of it. Let them have their fun.

Physical comedy:  Physically acting out parts of a joke can really add to the humor of the situation. Sound effects and different voices add to it too. Another form of physical comedy is slapstick, which I can only take in moderation as an audience member. Jim Carey is probably one of the greatest slapstick, physical comedians of all time. I have tried physicality in a couple of jokes. I wouldn’t categorize it as slapstick, but I imitate what I am saying in the joke. Physicality can be very challenging.

Deadpan and facial expressions: Ellen’s standup to me is brilliant. She has the gift of implementing many forms of jokes in one routine. One thing I love about her as that she can tell a joke but the only thing that really makes it funny is a simple facial expression and it will have you rolling on the floor. She is also good at deadpan, and physicality. I literally passed out laughing at a bit about going to the movies. She acts out ordering massive amounts of junk food at the snack counter. Her facial expressions and voice modulation are perfect. When she is done ordering the food, she pauses ever so slightly and adds, “And a diet coke.” That’s funny. But What made me pass out was imitating how we eat popcorn. She’s cramming it into her mouth with ridiculous exaggeration, then she starts picking pieces off her clothes. The way she did it had me in hysterics. It can’t be funny telling you about it. You have to see it. I am laughing this very minute.

One-two-three jokes (sometimes one-two). You start with a scenario, you give a punchline, then one that’s funnier, then one that’s ludicrous. You save the best for last. They’re not always easy to write, at least not for me. I have had to hone and practice some of these. It might require rearranging the order. The last punchline has to be the most ridiculous. Sometimes I just take one out and stick to two punchlines.

Here’s one I do:

I’ve been struggling with hearing loss for quite a while now. It’s been growing worse. But I knew my hearing issues were really serious when I had to ask my voices to speak up (pause and let the laughter have its way) “But it really hurt my feelings when the voices screamed back “WE WEREN’T TALKING TO YOU!”

This is the joke that gets the best response of all I do.

One-liners: I am a one-liner person in real life. And I love a good spar with another one-liner person (as long as it isn’t demeaning). A lot of the old-time comics were one-liners. They are tight and succinct and pack a punch. Vaudville was a one-liner style of comedy. Bob Hope, George Burns, Milton Berle, and others, started in Vaudville. But they aren’t the only ones. Here are some I found:

“Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair.” George Burns

“[Dan] Quayle thinks Roe vs. Wade are two ways to cross the Potomac.” Bob Hope

“Do you know what I love most about baseball? The pine tar, the resin, the grass, the dirt. And that’s just in the hot dogs. – David Letterman

“I’m sure wherever my dad is he’s looking down on us. He’s not dead, just condescending.” Jack Whitehall

Characters: My comedian friend D’Arcy Figuracion is good at characters. She tells a story and uses funny voices and idiosyncrasies. I asked her where she got the voices from and she said, “Oh this one was uncle so-and-so, and that one was my brother-in-law. I don’t see a lot of character jokes in standup, but you sure see them in movies and television.

I think my all-time favorite comedian is Carol Burnette because she can do it all. On her show, it was almost all characters. She, Harvey, Tim, and Vicky doubled over their audiences acting out characters. In those skits, you got lots of other forms of joke-telling. One-liners especially. Tim Conway, probably the funniest skit man on the planet (so sad he’s gone now), was quite a character. When they had rehearsal every week, he did the bit strictly by script. But when the live performance came, he tossed the script out the window and came up with some wild stuff and caught the others off guard, thus their laughing it on stage. Dang, those were the good old days.

Comedy Skits: I have done a few of these. I joined with my comedy friend D’Arcy and we formed a two-woman comedy team called Skit Chicks. We did our first skit at a local fundraiser for a new youth center that was opening up in our rural area. We also did a Christmas skit at a bluegrass show. We played Walmart employees who were going to have a Walmart Christmas wear modeling show. Well, you know how people dress at Walmart. So we wore ridiculous outfits and had a ball. 

D’Arcy and I waiting in the green room in our Walmart Christmas apparel.

Bombing: The worse thing that can happen to a comedian is silence. Many times if your joke isn’t that great, you’ll still get a polite laugh. But silence is crushing to a novice like me, but as they say, failure is the greater teacher. The last gig I had a new joke that totally bombed. I mean you could hear a pin drop. It was humiliating for a few seconds, but I didn’t have the time to wallow. The show must go on so I just went into the next joke and it was all good. It was afterward that I kicked myself all over the place. Because I’ve only done stand up around ten or so times, I have fortunately never had a whole set bomb. I take that back, there was one performance that sort of bombed in the beginning, but it was a peculiar situation.

I was invited to do comedy at an art show at a local community center for people with disabilities. The theme was recovery. I had no idea who my audience would be, but I was a nervous wreck. Two friends came with me for support. I practiced with them in a back room and felt a little better, but still nervous. We walked into the art show and it was set up really weird.  They had partition walls set up at an odd angle with all the artwork on it. There was a refreshment table in the back but to get to it was like walking through a maze. The crowd was mostly mentally challenged, young adults. Very high functioning and beautiful souls. It was a joy talking with them and I have worked in that field a number of years before. But it relaxed me a bit because I knew they didn’t have as many expectations as the usual audience.

Well, the MC (who invited me) called everyone forward for a sing-along. Not everyone came but about ten came up. The partitions were placed in such a way that people on the other side of the room couldn’t see very well. Someone played the guitar and we had a blast singing songs. At the end, the MC said rather matter of factly, and quietly, “And Lori is going to tells us some jokes.” I don’t think many heard what he said. They looked at me blankly, and some walked off. They were expecting more music or games. They didn’t get at first why I was up there. I didn’t let it deter me but the jokes weren’t going over well. It’s not that they were unable to understand them, they were just a little confused at what I was doing. After two or three tepid reactions I decided to switch it up. Off the cuff I started yelling into the mic:

“Give me an R!”

“R” said a few.

“Give me an E!”

“E!” A few more chimed in.

“Give me a C!” (I was spelling recovery).

Pretty soon everyone in the room was involved.

“What’s that spell?”

“Recovery.”

“What’s that spell?”

“Recovery!”

And one more time.

Suddenly I had everyone’s attention and I told the rest of my jokes. I got some laughs. It wasn’t ideal, but you know, I had a heck of a good time. The interactive part of my time was thrilling because they were in in 110%. They had a ball saying that cheer.

I had one joke bomb at my last gig (not the one I just shared about). It was a  high falootin fund raiser dinner and with about 450 people. My name was on the screen, along with my other comedy chorts) in huge letters on the screen. The mic was so loud it was nearly ear splitting. For some reason, I was fully confident. I was first up to bat. As I was stepping up to the mic, our comedy teacher (he got the gig for us) whispered, “eat the mic.” So I told the crowd, “He just told me to eat the mic.” They laughed, it eased me into opening up. The first joke went fantastic. Then I went blank. I had memorized the jokes in order. Due to my inexperience, I didn’t think to go on to the next one because I needed the order. Instead of outwardly panicking I quipped, “Oh, I just forgot the next joke? Hold on a second.” I guess I said it funny because they cracked up. I turned around and my notes (professionals don’t have notes) were on a table behind me. I glanced at it, turned around and said, “Oh goody, this is my favorite joke.” They laughed at that and laughed at the joke.

At some point in the routine, I told a new, untried joke. Dead silence. Swallow me whole. I didn’t have time to wallow in humiliation, I went on to the next joke and the next and did great. I allowed myself one day to feel the embarrassment but then was thankful that I learned something. 

There are many factors why a joke or whole routine can bomb. Nervousness, overconfidence, poor delivery, bad material, weird crowd, not practiced. I believe in practice. I need it because it is easy for me to get up there and go blank, as you just heard. But of course, practice is helpful to learn timing, body language, make adjustments to the jokes, like take something out, tweak something, or add something. I like to practice in front of someone but it is very hard to find people to practice in front of. Your friends and family don’t think you’re funny because they see you every day and know your fallibilities. I am blessed to have two amazing friends who are good at coaching. My comedy friend D’Arcy and my friend Susan. They don’t just sit there and laugh, or stare at me, they will interject with suggestions and coach me and l I thank God after the performance they did so. 

I think comedians should have a few comebacks prepared for those times when they have a joke that bombs. But there are other ways to handle it.

  • You can poke fun at yourself.
  • Blame it on the audience without insulting them, like “I see you’re way past your bedtime.”
  • Change course and do something else.
  • Talk with the audience. Lots of comedians say, “So sir, where are you from? What do you do?” I personally don’t care much for that but I’ve seen it work well for some comedians. And let’s face it, people like to talk about themselves. The key is, in my opinion, don’t insult the audience. Tease them gently, sure, but don’t get mean. 
  • Tell yourself, “I’ll check that one-off. And now, onward…”

I haven’t had a gig in a few years. I don’t want to do comedy clubs. It’s a bit intimidating. If my friend and fellow comic D’Arcy could be there, and Susan and another friend or two I might do it. I may not ever have another opportunity, who knows. I have no desire to become a pro. But it can be a lot of fun. 

So, there’s my inexperienced, novice experiences and observations about stand up comedy. 

To wrap it up, I heard a funny joke the other day from a pastor. Here goes:

Four men were in the waiting room while their wives were in the delivery room. The nurse came out to the first man “Congratulations, you are the father of twins.”

“What a coincidence,” said the man, “I work for the Minnesota Twins baseball team.”

Soon the nurse returned and told the second man, “Congratulations, You are now the father of triplets.”

“What a coincidence,” he said, “I work for the 3M corporation.”

A while later, the nurse came in and told the third man, “Congratulations, Your wife just gave birth to quadruplets.”

“That’s amazing,” he said, “I work for the Four Seasons hotel.”

Suddenly the fourth man passes out. When the finally revived him they asked him, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine, it’s just that I work for 7/11.”

Comedy Girls

The debut of the Skit Chicks at a local youth center fundraiser about 5 or 6 years ago. 

D’arcy, me, and Laurel (a fellow comedian there for support).

Observations of To Kill a Mockingbird

To_Kill_a_Mockingbird_(first_edition_cover)To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time. Harper Lee, in my humble opinion (for whatever it’s worth), is hands down the most brilliant storyteller there ever was. There are a gazillion messages in the story, about the time and place, a culture, and a people in a dark time. Racism, poverty, hate, injustice, honor, honesty, character, seeing people below the surface.

Harper Lee has stunning skill at describing through word pictures and that’s the part I want to focus on here. Drink in these two paragraphs in the first chapter where she establishes artfully, the setting of the story. It’s familiar to any fan of the book or movie.

“I have read this book and watched the movie several times (the movie was just as good as the book in my opinion). I read it first in elementary school and remember being riveted and totally enraptured by the story. It influenced me to write. It made me fall in love with storytelling. Harper Lee, the author, is one of those writers that make you say to yourself, “Man, I wish I could write like that.” The marvel is that this was her first book and she won the Pulitzer Prize. Dang. Interestingly, it took her two years to write. Now I don’t feel so guilty for taking so long to get my first novel written (please don’t ask me how soon it will be ready or expect it to win a Pulitzer).

This first page description of the town of Maycomb and its people is an important backdrop to the story. Scout, the young girl who is the protagonist of the story, is the narrator. She is an adult reflecting back on her childhood during a very difficult time in American history. One thing to note that I don’t think was directly mentioned is that the time was during the Great Depression. Small town life in the south during the depression sets up the story of why people thought and behaved as they did. People were tired, living slow because there seemed to be no purpose in life, nothing ever changed nor did they seem to think it ever would. They were poor. Her description of the heat adds to the atmosphere of tiredness and agedness. The courthouse is sagging. The animals suffered in the heat, people had to bathe two or three times in a day and napped more. If you’ve ever been in a hot humid climate, you know how that kind of heat can suck the life out of you physically and mentally. The lethargy of spirit comes through loud and clear. You can see why they were stagnant in their beliefs and resisted change and truth.

I could go on and on breaking this story down. But this opening is one of my favorite passages because I can see, taste, feel, and smell the town and the stifling heaviness the people carry around. 

My book in progress has a lot of emotion in it. It’s been a challenge to describe them in creative ways. I don’t want to use “emotion words” as much as I’d like to show them by their actions or the atmosphere. I’m doing the best I can but not meeting my own expectations. I like reading this story or excerpts to learn from another writer, an excellent writer, who can show (and not tell)  the way of the world in the time and setting. The novelist Allan Gurganu had this observation about Lee’s storytelling:

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flied in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum. People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County. But it was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself.”
 

BINGO!!! She trusts the visual and the sensory to lead her. That’s what I want to do more of in my writing.

It is a hellish time for many people these days, what with all things COVID permeating the air we breathe, the constant buffeting by the media, politics, and riots. For others, it’s an old, tired, heavy existence. A time of isolation and loneliness, anxiety, depression, confusion and rage.

Okay, those are emotion words. How do I show that in word pictures like Harper Lee? I’ll have to get back to you on that. It is a good writing exercise. I am not trying to be a Harper Lee copy cat. I simply want to employ her method in my own style. Maybe I will finish this on Hubpages. I’m not sure but stay tuned.

Be Anxious For Nothing

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

For the last week or so I have woken up feeling very anxious. I haven’t had anxiety too much the last year or two. It once was a huge problem. But I finally obtained a strategy and learned some tools and it’s not been too much of a problem. But it’s wormed its way back into my psyche, and no wonder with all the mayhem going on right now in our country.

I feel confused, angry, helpless, and burdened like so many others. I’m sick of the Black Live Matter vs Don’t All Lives Matter debate on social media. I’m tired of my feed showing photos of fires and looters, although that seems to be calming down. Then there is the COVID thing, which is dimming. I suspect it will surge back upon us before too long what with the states opening. I have found myself worried once in a while about people I love and are vulnerable to getting it. I have some friends who have been very sick with lingering illnesses, one of them COVID. I have a dear friend whose son has had it for 2 1/2 months. I got tested last Monday in order to get a procedure done and am happy to report I am clean.

The Bible tells me to be anxious for nothing, but to pray about what’s on my mind and to do it with thanksgiving. That’s the part I forget often. When you are anxious, worried, or hurting, thanksgiving is not the first thing that pops into my mind, but it is necessary. When we practice thanksgiving in hard times, it lifts the load because you remember what a merciful and great Father we have. When I wake up anxious the very first thing I do, before getting out of my bed, is to pray and thank God for having it all under control and being here for me, for all of us if we think to speak to Him, and more importantly, listen to Him. There are so many voices shouting out there. It’s hard to hear anything else. But God can speak to us if we turn to Him and listen.

I have a favorite little gospel chorus that I turn to often:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

So true. There is a gospel radio program that starts every time it airs with the words, “God is still on the throne and prayer changes things.” God never steps off His throne. His sovereignty is from everlasting to everlasting. While the world is in chaos, He is not up in heaven wringing His hands or at a loss. In Proverbs 3:5-6, He tells us to trust in Him with all our hearts and not to lean on our own understanding. In all our ways we are to acknowledge Him and He will make our paths straight. I sure can’t lean on my own understanding because nothing makes sense.

It may well be we are experiencing all these things as a judgment. I don’t know for sure, but the Bible warns us about an increase in violence, pestilence, and troubles of every kind in the last days. We shall see. In the meantime, this is the time for us to turn to God and to tell others about Him, to spread hope.

I keep hearing people saying, “You need to start listening and gain understanding about all these issues we’re facing.” So I have been and am only further confused. I am not going to make this an in-depth piece on racism because I am still listening and trying to understand more. One thing I can say is what happened to George Floyd was heinous. Yes, he was a hardened criminal, but that does not mean that the way he died was okay. He was not fighting against the police. They had him cuffed, there was no reason to use such force. We have a legal system to determine someone’s guilt and allow them to go through due process and let a judge and jury mete out whatever punishment is due if found guilty. Police don’t get to murder people who are not a threat. It is said the cop that did it was in trouble many times for his brutality, as were some of the others. I hope the guy gets the maximum sentence. And instead of dismantling the police department, they need to get rid of all the bully, racist cops, and begging a system of reform.

The world is so full of hate and madness. The prophet Isaiah said: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Yep, that is our world today. And yet some things are evil and some things are good and there is no discrepancy. I have had to watch my own heart to keep it from jumping into the fray and finding myself with a hateful heart. Hate is bitter misery. Jesus said the world hates Him, thus the world would hate those that follow Him. But there is also the struggle of keeping my own heart pure. I want to honor God and hate, anger, and mouthing off is not the way. This has nothing to do with writing, I realize, but it’s a way to speak what’s on my heart without getting any toxic haters commenting on my words. I leave you with this blessing.

May the Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace. through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Quarantine Musings by an “Elderly” Woman

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The beauty of spring on one of my walks.

Over the winter I went through a depressive episode. About February it’s started to lift. February’s are often mild in the weather. So I was humming along through life, feeling human again, then WHAM! Apocalypse, pandemic, toilet paper famine, hand sanitizer is more valuable than a brick of gold. People are cutting up their clothing to make masks and for the opportunists, making a few bucks on them. That’s fine except I think they shouldn’t charge people who have lost their jobs. I found an acquaintance who makes them and she gave me two. All she asked was that I make any size donation to her church HELP fund. And so I did. I live on Social Security so even though I live with very little, nothing has changed for me so I was happy to do it. Besides, I only bought one tank of gas in April. All that saved gas money can go for other things.

People are saying they’re bored or family is getting on each other’s nerves or they are living in great fear and anxiety. I live alone so I’m not bored. Most get-togethers I did previously are now meeting via Zoom.  Businesses meetings, small groups like AA, Bible studies, family and friends are still going strong. The world has turned into one big Brady Bunch. Churches are live stream. All I really miss are the hugs, human touch. I will say, I will not feel comfortable for a long while holding hands at the end of AA meetings. Never liked it before. I’ve been a public germ-a-phobe (according to some people’s standards) for several years now. I started when I was taking care of a couple in their 90s. It became instinctual. I open public doors with my coat or shirt sleeve. I take hand sanitizer with me at all times. I have so much of it that I don’t have to hunt it down or make my own. So my precautions are the same as always.

The worse thing I can say about quarantine is that I became a little too sedentary. So now, I have found some YouTube exercise videos. I work out for 45 minutes, at least three days a week and walk my neighborhood when weather permits. Today, I stumbled upon 81-year-old Jane Fonda still doing aerobic exercise routines out of her apartment. Man, I actually kept up with her. Now listen, trying to exercise in a 400 sq. ft. trailer is no easy feat. It entails moving furniture and angling my body in a way so that I don’t accidentally kick my sliding glass door, oven, or stereo cabinet. I fail sometimes and things get knocked to the floor, but I feel like a million bucks. All this to say, if you’re feeling sluggish, don’t complain. Get on YouTube and enjoy all the free exercise videos.  Don’t tell me you’re tool old. You may have some infirmities, I get that, but depending on what your issues are, it’s pretty easy to find something for everyone. I start with a senior stretching video that takes about 15 – 20 minutes. Some young buff guy telling us seniors things like “As “we” age, this and that happens.” Yeah, you’re like thirty and have biceps the size of Maine. I think it’s cool he does stuff for seniors though. Most of his routine is done with a chair nearby. Then I also do his balance video because I have terrible balance problems. Now I’m following it all up with ol’ aerobic Jane Fonda. She confessed that her new titanium ceramic hip and new knees struggle a bit with certain moves, but the woman has the body of a twenty-year-old model. She’s actually way too thin, but she appears to be healthy.

I’ve also been out walking and enjoying all the spring beauty. My allergies are in a full-on rebellion but that’s another thing I can’t change. Oh well. Life goes on.

Happy at this time starts with attitude. You can live in grave fear or boredom, or you can use your heart and your head to find new ways to make life not only better for yourself, but for others. The wave of the generosity of Spirit is wonderful and inspiring. If you are healthy and not vulnerable, you can do all kinds of volunteer things with social distancing and all the hygienic precautions. There’s a lot you can do from home to reach out to people also. Making phone calls to check in with people and see how they are doing. Write and send cards to people. If you have a hobby talent, use it to bless others.

Get out of your pajamas and bathrobe. I get it, I’ve spent a few days in my bathrobe. I skipped showers an extra day once in a while. But, I’m working on it. Sometimes I put makeup on just because it makes me feel human again. I exercised today, watched church live stream, did our home fellowship meeting on Zoom, talked with a friend for a while on the phone, solving all the world’s problems. I worked on my book, had light meals, drank water, and spent very little time on social media. I had a fabulous day.

I got my stimulus payment last Monday. I really need it, so I’m saving most of it but I did buy a lawnmower online from Home Depot. $100. You get what you pay for. It’s going back tomorrow. It’s made of cheap, flimsy plastic. The wheels are worse than the wheels you see on toddler riding toys. I have a very lumpy yard and I need something better. So I’m online today scouring Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware and all the mowers are made of plastic. They don’t tell you that, but now that I’ve been alerted to it, I could tell in the photos. The sturdier models cost a small fortune. I am not going to pay $300+ for a lawnmower so I will just keep using my weed eater and spend the extra time.

Here’s another cool blessing. I ran across something online that says if you are on Medicaid or using an EBT card you can get Amazon Prime for half off. So now I’ve got movies to watch without waiting for the library to open up in three years.

Another thing I’m doing is skipping all news with the words COVID or Corona in the headlines. By word of mouth, I hear about Insleee’s extreme, and even ridiculous plans to hunt us down with National Guard, but it will be what it will be. I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

One last thing. I did experience one very unhappy thing this past month. I was talking to my 45-year-old son. I had him when I was barely 18. He said, “Mom, you are a vulnerable one for this virus.” I asked why and get this: He said “Because you’re “elderly.” Ahem, 63 is not elderly and I’m in good health. Yes, I’m aging, I’m a senior, but with all his military injuries I can outdo him on exercise by far. I smiled the other day realizing that according to his calculations, in ten years he will be elderly. Bwahaha.

George Orwell Speaks My Language: Why I Write

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”—George Orwell

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I have something to say!

I love this quote because it is exactly how I felt when I wrote my first draft of my first book (which is still in 2nd draft). The rough draft was written and published on my Hubpages. The year was 2016, I was going through a terrible suicidal depression. I’ve had many bouts but this was the first time I ever felt so alone and lonely. I didn’t share it this time with many people. People judge. They think they know what your REAL problem is. Or, they simply don’t know what to do with the information, or what to do to help. Or, they can’t cope with it. I’d been at this depression thing a long time, and I’ve learned to pick carefully who I share with and how much I share. Anyway, that year a voice deep inside of me was crying “Let me out! I need to speak, to show (not just tell) people what  it’s like, to advocate, to educate, to liberate, to teach people compassion and empathy.”

It came out in story form. I could have written a non-fiction book on mental illness or mental health, but there are thousands and thousands of those kinds of books, and I am not a doctor or mental health clinician or researcher. The most impactful books I’ve read on this topic are stories, either biographical, autobiographical, or fiction. My voice said fiction. Although the plot has far more in it than just mental health issues, it is the core story and the two main characters have parts of me in them. Ivy tends to ruminate on morbid things, has great difficulty seeing hope, struggles with faith issues, has lived trauma experience, and has trouble reaching out to others because she is stuck in her own stuff.

Cloe, the friend she makes on the psych ward, is a whole different species. Like me, Cloe has a humorous side. She is curious, intuitive, empathetic, and a cheerleader to other sufferers. Cloe does not waste her pain. She’s had a  lot of trauma in her life, she’s got the dark side with very serious symptoms. Like me, she’s been hospitalized many times. So where does this funny, empathetic, intuitive, encouragement side come from? And how can Lori have both? Beats me, it’s just who I am. At this point in time, I am more like Cloe, but when I was writing my first draft for Hubpages, I was more Ivy. I have not had the same kind of trauma they have, but the battles they fight emotionally and spiritually are very real to me.

I think Orwell speaks for most writers. Writer’s minds are always full of questions and curiosity, seeking answers to life’s riddles. They ask “Why?” “What if?”Their brains are catalogs of life experiences (of themselves and others), discoveries, and nuggets of wisdom. Their minds create based on all of those factors. You can be a physicist and write a book on scientific findings; a poet or novelist who opens up the gates of images, musings, people places and things that want to come out; a journalist, writing fake or real news. They all have in them that innate need to be heard and to inform, to seek, discover, and share. Although my mind can be a morbid place when I’m depressed, I love having the mind of a fiction writer and poet. Writing fiction is like the opening of the starting gate and the horses burst through; like an Olympic athlete who sprints when he gun goes off; like a parachuter jumping out of the plane; like stepping from a black and white movie of a tornado into the verdant colors of Oz. A fiction writer and poet’s mind is full of color, even if they are writing something dark. Black and white with Dorothy, Toto, Auntie Em, Almira Gulch (aka the wicked witch of the west) and a tornado are as brilliant creatively as the yellow brick road, poppy fields, and Oz.

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Both are brilliantly creative written or in cinematography.

I’ve also written tons of non-fiction articles based on information, personal philosophy and faith, and it takes just as much creativity to express myself in those kinds of writing. I am not the caliber of writer as say Harper Lee, Sue Monk Kidd (who both wrote classic first novels) or Maya Angelou, but if I keep at it and grow and improve that’s all that matters, to be the best me writer there is.

One last thing: there is something uniquely wonderful about having writer friends or being a part of a writing community. I feel like I know some of my fellow hubpages writers better than people I’ve met face to face. There is a marvelous connection. I will talk to a friend and say “My writer friend so and so…” and yet we’ve never met face to face. But I feel like they are just as much of a friend as the ones I see every day. And I would not be writing this book to publish if it weren’t for the strong encouragement of some of those writer friends. We know about one another’s lives. Bill Holland was adopted by a loving family, has a wife named Bev whom he adores, lives in the same state as me and in fact, used to live and work in my neck of the woods. He has written many books and recently published his memoir. You can find his books on Amazon here. I know Bill Kovacic is pastor of Lifegate Baptist Church in Pennsylvania with a lovely wife, adult children and grandchildren (his wife is the dearest poet for Jesus). He used to be a rock-n-roller back in the day. He loves the mountains and the woods. He has a heart for spiritual truth, the integrity and truth of the Holy Scriptures (King James only), he loves and honors Jesus, he has a heart for revival, and is a great mystery thriller writer. You can find his books on Amazon here. and writing is for both Bill’s is in their DNA. I feel like Dora Weither’s, all the way in St. Kitts in the Caribbean, is a dear friend, with the same heart for God. She’s as wise as a sage and has helped many people in a Christian counseling setting and inspirational writings. She’s all about womanly virtue, motherhood, and family in general.  You can read her inspirational writings here. I can go on and on. I highlighted these because they have done a lot to encourage me and others, and been blessed by their work. The best thing about writing for Hubpages besides being a venue for creative expression in the written word is being a part of the writing community.

And in the inimitable words of Forrest Gump:

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