Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Lyrics

Yesterday Dick and I attended a choral performance by the Spirit of Phoenix (male) Chorus. I've always thought I preferred the more traditional Christmas carols until the group sang "Mary, Did You Know." Being out of the loop when it comes to contemporary music, I'd never heard it before. Mark Lowry wrote the lyrics. Adding music makes his words even more impactful.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you
.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am


 Merry Christmas, everybody.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dead Beetle On the Path



I noticed two wasps circling the carcass of a shiny black beetle that was lying on its back in the middle of a path, its legs curled inward as if protecting its heart. 

First I wondered if a beetle has a heart. Then I wondered if the beetle on the path died naturally or came into contact with some perverted substance brought to this far-flung place by humans. 

I wish everyone walking along this river would observe and respect the flora and fauna that rightfully occupy its  banks.  I regret it, when wrapped in my own thoughts or engaged in conversation, I fail to observe how barren my experience would be if the sounds and sightings of creatures, even bugs, were to vanish.

This much I know, as stewards of the land we must not enhance our quality of life at the expense of the living things that drink from these waters, nest in these bushes, or scurry along these paths.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Critique Groups

I love, and that is not an exaggeration, my critique group. Having a group of people to read what I write and then help me make it better is almost as important to me as my thesaurus. I have no idea who is following my blog at this point, but if you are a writer, I highly recommend you either join an existing critique group or create one of your own.

If you haven't been in a critique group before, my writing group, Central Oregon Writer's Guild, has developed the following guidelines.

HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM CRITIQUE GROUPS

Asking for Feedback
  • Identify your needs clearly: "Do you feel my character's emotion?" "Is my dialogue realistic?" "I'm sending this to an agent. Please review line by line for a final polish."
  • Ask open-ended questions: "What do you think of the ending?" "What is confusing?"
  • Listen to the entire critique without interrupting: If you've heard the same feedback before, be patient. If you disagree, make notes to reflect upon later. Refrain from defending or explaining what you meant. Remain as objective as possible; try not to take comments personally. Be discerning about conflicting advice. Learn to take the best and leave the rest.
  • Ask for clarification if you don't understand a comment.
  • Remember that all work can be improved; all art is unfinished.
Critiquing the work of others: critique the work, never the writer
  • Use the session for content and story development. Note mechanical issues (grammar, punctuation, spelling) for later review/editing.
  • Respect other styles of writing; refrain from rewriting something the way you would.
  • Give praise first.
  • Give specific examples of both what works and what doesn't.
  • Present feedback as part of a continuing process. "Working, almost working" is better than "good, bad."
  • Phrase suggestions as what ifs: "What if you added some dialogue to that scene?" "What if you showed your character is angry instead of saying he's angry?"
  • Offer comments objectively, not personally: Rather than, "I don't like this scene," say, "This scene stopped the momentum."
  • Refrain from comparing work to other stories or poems you've read.
  • Remember that you may only be reading part of the story and comment accordingly.
  • Let the writer reveal if the manuscript is based on his own life story.
  • Is there a hook that pulls the reader in?
  • How are character motivations revealed? Do the characters have distinctive voices?
  • Does the dialogue sound natural? Is there a difference between narrative and dialogue?
  • Is there continuity in the story line?
  • Does the story keep readers' attention? Is there tension? Successful transitions?
  • Are internal and external conflicts developed?
  • Is point of view clearly established and maintained?
  • What themes are emerging?
  • Are plot and subplots clear, and is there a satisfying conclusion?
  • Is the backstory woven in or is there an information dump?
  • When does the real story begin?
  • Is present tense or past tense consistently maintained?
  • If there is a real problem with the manuscript, offer to meet privately.
  • Give others a chance to comment.
  • After receiving feedback, remember to say thank you.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

For the Love of Critters

My husband and I enjoy feeding wildlife. We always feed them what's good for them--no potato chips or bread--fake foods that deteriorate over the winter. It is a joy to watch them; although the critters soon expect to be fed. Here's a poem I wrote about what happened this summer when we forgot to close the door.

Open House

Door open wide,
a place to abide
with a banquet for all
who venture inside.

Donald and kin,
still wet from a swim,
trooped up the steps,
the first to drop in.

Never one to be shy,
Jay stopped by,
ate all the nuts,
and then had to fly.

Peter came, too,
Alvin and crew,
stuffing their cheeks,
the place was a zoo!

It went on for days
this party-like graze,
'til the tall ones returned,
shocked and amazed.

The floor was a fright,
no crashers in sight,
so they cleaned up the mess
and shut the door tight.

Ginger Dehlinger
August 2014

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Annie Proulx's Song

"You fill up my senses," wrote John Denver in "Annie's Song." It was a song meant for another Annie, yet his words could be my words when it comes to how I feel about Annie Proulx's stories. I haven't read everything she's written, notably her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Shipping News; however her short stories blow me away.

I began reading her work in earnest after I found out she'd written the short story, "Brokeback Mountain," and that was after I'd seen the movie. I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about life in the West while doing research for my novel-in-progress, a story set in Colorado that's inspired by the life of my great-grandmother.

Topping my list of writers of the West is Annie Proulx followed by Louis L'amour (he's not as hokey as you might think), and Wallace Stegner. Annie Proulx has the courage to write about life in the West as it was and is. No sugar-coating from this author. Louis L'amour was guilty of including a lot of stereotypes, but he was a great story teller. Wallace Stegner, another Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote about relationships and how living in the West changed people. My favorite piece, out of everything I've read by these authors, is Annie Proulx's short story, "Them Old Cowboy Songs." It staggers me every time I read it.

I don't have Annie Proulx's courage, but I've learned from her to avoid stereotypes--no Indians attacking isolated settlers, no gunfights in my novel. Instead I'm writing about a young woman who leaves a privileged upbringing in Philadelphia for a hard but satisfying life in the Rockies. When finished, my novel won't be as gut-level real as if Annie Proulx had written it; however it may move some of my readers to kiss their modern appliances.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What's It About?

Whenever I tell someone I've written a novel, their first response is almost always, "What's it about?" Most authors are ready with a simple answer to this question; however when I tell people Brute Heart is about a young veterinarian who's deciding whether to euthanize her terminally ill father, I can't seem to stop with that. I think it's because I'm afraid of horrifying potential readers, notably those who love their fathers. 

So I yammer away, adding details such as:
  • Her father is an alcoholic. (He's not the perfect father.)
  • He's been mentally and physically abusive to her and her family. (far from perfect)
  • I usually add, "not sexually abusive." (No salacious details in this story.)
 If what I've said so far still produces a blank expression, I might add:
  • The father can't understand why his daughter won't do for him what she does for an old or wounded animal.
  • Then I feel compelled to mention the young woman had to work her way through college and veterinary school, and if she were caught she would lose her hard-won license and end up in prison.
Soon whatever interest this person may have had is replaced by a polite nod once in a while followed by a reason they have to leave. As usual, I've said too much, and it still wasn't enough.

If you've read Brute Heart, what would you say if a person asked you, "What's it about?"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Bit of Humor

Most of my posts are rather serious, so this month I'm sharing a bit of humor.

Gender Poetry from Slice of Life

(first from the woman)

Before I lay me down to sleep
I pray for a man who's not a creep.
One who's handsome, smart and strong,
one who loves to listen long.
One who thinks before he speaks,
one who calls, not waits for weeks.
Oh send me a king to make me a queen,
a man who loves to cook and clean.

(next from the man)

I pray for a deaf-mute gymnast nymphomaniac
with big boobs who owns a bar on a
golf course and loves to send me
out to go fishing and drinking.
This doesn't rhyme,
and I don't give a shit.