Forest at twilightI want to share a poem by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver.

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Standing at the Edge of the Woods
By Mary Oliver

You are standing at the edge of the woods
at twilight
when something begins
to sing, like a waterfall

pouring down
through the leaves.  It is
the thrush.
And you are just

sinking down into your thoughts,
taking in
the sweetness of it—those chords,
those pursed twirls—when you hear

out of the same twilight
the wildest red outcry. It pitches itself
forward, it flails and scabs
all the surrounding space with such authority

you can’t tell
whether it is crying out on the
scarp of victory, with its hooked foot
dabbed into some creature that now
with snapped spine
lies on the earth—or whether
it is such a struck body itself, saying
goodbye.

The thrush
is silent then, or perhaps
has flown away.
The dark grows darker.

The moon,
in its shining white blouse,
rises.
And whatever that wild cry was

it will always remain a mystery
you have to go home now and live with,
sometimes with the ease of music, and sometimes in silence,
for the rest of your life.

 

******************

I once had the experience of hearing a “wildest red outcry”, but I think of it as a blackest blue outcry.  I was standing on the back porch in the middle of the night (which means I’d already gone to bed and got up later to let the dog out) when I heard the incredible, awful sound come out of the dark.  I’m sure it was the sound of death.  I hope it was one animal killing another because that is the most humane event I can think of to accompany the noise.  And I felt peaceful enough to sleep the rest of the night.  I don’t remember it with dread, just awe or something like reverence–music and silence.

Every year or so I add new habits to my list of things to do every day.

Carrots with topses

Carrots with topses

My latest is “eat carrots with every meal.”  The simpler the activity, the more likely it will outlive my laziness.

 

LDS Hymnbook (1985)

LDS Hymnbook (1985)

Another of my daily activities is singing hymns.  I try to sing two from the hymnbook daily, but I don’t always manage it.  Sometimes, when I’m sick I sing hymns and it helps me feel a lot better.

 

 

Scriptures

Scriptures

The most important daily habit is my scripture study.  I read The Book of Mormon for a half hour every day (and write notes about my thoughts).  Sometimes I listen to it on iTunes, but reading is better.  When I have any kind of difficulty, this sees me through.  I often start my study time with a question, but today I started with a statement:

“Today I need peace in a troubled world.”

I happen to be reading 1 Nephi chapter 17.  I’ve been on this chapter for a few days while I’ve struggled with a couple of troubling matters.  I guess both are related to my own weakness, but one is my own defect, the other is an outside irritant.

These are some of the ideas that came to me while I pondered this morning.

I think that initially we all–Heavenly Father’s spirit children, in heaven–had an equal chance.  We created our own differences by our choices.  When we came to earth we were all clean, but some people had advantages because of their choices and their experiences.

When I was in high school, for a couple of days in my social studies class we had a really fun activity.  We got to play the board game Careers.  My family played this at home, so I already knew the strategy.  I won.  The next day, the people who won the games the day before were given extra advantages, so they totally skunked the other players.  They couldn’t lose unless they CHOSE to lose.

The difference between the game and reality is that ANYONE can choose to have all the advantages at any time.  I’m not talking about education, health, wealth–I’m talking about the advantages of the Spirit.  It all depends on our choices. I’m always reminding myself that life isn’t about success.  It’s about making choices.  I don’t have to do great things.  I only have to do good things, and then the great advantages of the spiritual life are mine.

Then I started thinking about weaknesses.  And I asked myself, did God allow us to choose our weaknesses?  Was it like school–required classes and electives?  Then why would we choose certain ones?  Maybe for ourselves, but also for others?  One person healing a great weakness might benefit others.  What might be the subsidiary strengths to complement one’s weaknesses?  There’s good old General Ed. Desire to Obey.  That one has carried me through many a dark night of the soul.  And really, that’s sufficient.  There are more, but that’s all I want to think about at this time.

 

I think every author has their favorites and I figure they’re their favorites because they’re the ones they’ve read.  Here are the ones I’ve read (most or all of):

Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb

Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb

This is probably my favorite because Nancy Lamb did a lot of the work for me.  She read some of the best books about writing, then summarized them and applied them to writing for children (which most writers of books about writing don’t do). Every time I get in a jam, I go to this book first.

James Frey Darn Good Novel

I’m not typing the title of this book. But the author is James Frey

Self Editing for Fiction Writers

Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

I had a hard time buying this book.  It goes against my personal standards to buy things that have swearing in them or on them.  Movies can’t be helped and, nowadays, books can’t be helped.  Anyway, I finally talked myself into this book after much research and pondering.  I’m glad I did even though I will never say the title.  (I don’t care if people think I’m a prude.)  The second one in the series has a Roman numeral II after the title and it is also good.  James Frey will teach you about Premise.  Nancy Lamb also talks about him and this book in her book, but you’ll want to go to the horse’s mouth for the in-depth coverage.

OK, this third one (Browne and King) is the only non-fiction book I’ve read all the way through (though I may have read all of Frey’s book too, just not all at once).  It’s the most helpful on how to clean up your writing.  I’m not sure that every single thing applies to writing for children though, so I wish they’d write one tailored for that arena.  Nevertheless, in general an excellent and much-recommended book.

Wow, what a bummer of a day.  I was so depressed I cried tears THROUGH my yoga mat.

Then I couldn’t get into writing.  In a way that was a blessing because I did some clean-up work on the entire manuscript.  Stuff like fixing headers and capitalizing chapter titles, making it all the same font again.  (The diary entries were orignally written in a different font.)

Hopefully the housework is all done.

I also did a fair amount of reading over some printed pages of the manuscript.  I hit a snag spot though.  It’s a place I keep running up against and it’s a stubborn problem.  I knew it needed individual attention and I wasn’t up to it today.  So I skipped those chapters and read ahead.

Eventually the much-needed nap came on.  After two hours of freedom, I woke up and faced the music again.

I felt able to take it on.  I fiddled with my library of writing books, tried looking for answers in other children’s books.  It wasn’t till I sat down and started writing about it that I came up with two good old standby pieces of advice:

STICK WITH THE PREMISE

and

THE SOLUTION IS USUALLY SIMPLE

As I wrote about the problem (I love it how writing problems are often best dealt with in writing–although talking them out is also helpful) it became clear to me that this problem would be solved by addressing earlier issues in the manuscript.  It’s like, I had my kids accept their situation too readily.  I had to sow seeds of doubt in their minds in order to keep the action moving forward at this perennial snag point.

That means I’ve got some serious rewriting, but it can be done.  What a relief.  The other beauty of it is that it can come back up again at the end of the book for a nice little twist and resolution.

Ah.