Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Popsicle Lady

In case you haven't found my new blog location.... please follow me over there and read my latest post:

"The Popsicle Lady."

My new website link is simply:


While you're there, you can subscribe to posts from the new site one of two ways:

Upper Right Hand corner: click on the orange square and it will ask for your email. (see screen shot at right)

Or . . .

At the end of the last post on the left there's a place that says "Subscribe".

Either way, please follow me over there, and check out the other pages on my new web site simply by clicking the tabs across the top.

Oh, and while I'm doing a "new blog tutorial,"... to leave a comment, click on the number next to the comment "cloud" at the upper right of the post. (see screen shot at left)


Friday, June 15, 2012

Pen & Palette has MOVED!

Pen & Palette has moved to:


Please click on the link and read today's post there:


AND PLEASE take a moment to enter your email address on the BOTTOM OF THE POSTS (you have to scroll all the way down) to receive updates each time I post.
(Even if you've done this previously... since this is a new site.)

My new web site is still under construction, but getting better every day:


Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: WEB SITE UP and NEW BLOG SITE!

I have exciting news: My WEB SITE is under construction, but you are welcome to take a sneak preview:


Pen & Palette is moving over to the web site, so please keep following the blog at:


While all this busy stuff is going on, just relax and enjoy the wit and wisdom of Baby Blues:-)


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Sucker, the Situation and the Shit

During his craft talk on PLOT during the 2012 Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers Workshop in Oxford (Mississippi) this past weekend, author Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) gave us a great visual for remembering the three things all stories need. He started out with the 3 Ps (augmented by the 3 Cs):

People (Characters)

Place (Context)

Problem (Conflict)

And then to make it even clearer, he added the 3 Ss that every good story has:

the SUCKER, the SITUATION, and the SHIT.

How the person/character/sucker in the place/context/situation negotiates the problem/conflict/shit = the PLOT.

Of course Tom’s talk was peppered with great illustrations, from his own work and others’ writing.

Creative nonfiction author, Sonja Livingston (Ghostbread) talked to us about “Writing Your Life One Snapshot at a Time.” Her wisdom can also apply to fiction writing, although the samples she shared with us were mostly memoir and essay. She talked about structure—writing little pieces that are like tiles in a mosaic—and then tying them together to form the essay or book. And about SEEDS—moments that are broken open so you can get to the heart of the matter. Good stuff.

Scott Morris (Waiting For April, The Total View of Taftly) deviated a bit from his usual philosophical address to give a practical talk on the CRAFT of writing. Perfect timing for me, since I had my second meeting with my freelance editor that same day. Between the two of them I think there’s hope for my novel! This seemed to be the year for lists. Scott explored 5 basic elements of writing and how to use them (or not) in our writing:

1. Dialogue (including interior monologue)

2. Descriptive Writing (relating things in terms of the 5 senses)

3. Expository (explaining)

4. Commentary (opinion—the author’s or a character’s)

5. Action (what’s happening)

Modern American realists use only 1, 2, and 5, leaving expository and commentary out of their work. Lots of editors in New York City don’t want 3 or 4. But Scott points out that’s not how the real world is. I was so glad to hear him talk about how to use expository and commentary WELL in our writing, especially since my editor was telling me to quit using dialogue to explain things. Like Scott said, we talk in code. It’s unnatural to have our characters explain things through dialogue. Are there exceptions? Sure. One of my main characters is a teacher, so she sometimes explains things in dialogue in my novel. It was good to be reminded that the rules are just a starting place. We need to know them—just like a good jazz master who bends those rules and creates improvisational music.

It seems that every writing workshop eventually gets around to a discussion on this whole “show, don’t tell” mantra. Workshop Director, M. O. “Neal” Walsh (The Prospect of Magic) (left, sporting his YOK tattoo) reminded us of something he learned from Richard Bausch: “It’s not show OR tell, it’s show AND tell.” Neal did a fabulous job coordinating the weekend, hosting the Open Mic events, and even took time to do written critiques of our work.

The bottom line? Scott said it well, “Tell a story that creates a level of excitement in yourself and don’t worry about the rules.”

What a great weekend. One of my personal highlights was Saturday night. Tom Franklin gave a reading for the workshop participants at Off Square Books. When we arrived there was a table set up with books by the workshop faculty. And right there at the end—rubbing elbows with one of Scott’s books, was Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality.

Since I contributed an essay, a number of folks (about eight, but who’s counting, right?) purchased the book and asked me to sign it for them. Thanks so much, everyone! (That's Vaughan Dickson and me at left.) I was very humbled and gratified by their support. I loved signing the books during the workshop weekend, since the faculty and participants at the past six years of Yoknapatawpha helped shape the words in that essay, just as they did the novel I'm trying to finish now. I can't wait to buy your books and have you inscribe them for me!

And kudos to third-time YOK participant, Michael Risely, for the success of his self-published crime drama, Through These Eyes. I enjoyed reading it on Kindle a few months ago and appreciate the paperback Michael gave me as a gift this weekend. (Michael and me, on the square, right.)

Enjoy these parting shots... all taken with my cell phone. Watch for some better quality photos from Doug McLain on Facebook! Hugs out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Silence in the Workshop, Please!

This Friday I'm headed back to Oxford (Mississippi) for the 2012 Yoknapatawpha Summer Writer's Workshop. The workshop organizer, Neal (M.O.) Walsh, sent out an email to all the participants yesterday. He mentioned that you can either bring a (physical) notebook for taking notes during the workshop, or you can bring your laptop... but not if you type too loudly.

I hadn't considered that some people might type more loudly than others, but I guess it depends upon your intensity. And maybe your keyboard.

So I Googled it and discovered this convenient Soundproof Keyboard Cover Silencer, which you can purchase for only $36.

Being a polite, Southern Lady, I always use an old-fashioned notebook and pen for taking notes during the workshop. But I thought I'd share my find with all the LOUD typists out there. You know who you are.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Spirit of Truth

Today is Holy Spirit Day… the day following the Feast of Pentecost in the Orthodox Church. I wrote about this day back in 2008:

“The Church Goes Green.”

(photo is from 2008)

Father Stephen Freeman wrote about “The Trees of Pentecost” in his blog a few days ago:

The Jewish feast of Pentecost (fifty days after the Passover) marks the beginning of the harvest feast. The first-fruits of the harvest are brought to the temple to be blessed of God. For Christians the harvest that is sought is the harvest of a renewed humanity and the renewal of creation. Thus the trees are a representation of the created order, assembled together with the people of God, awaiting and receiving the gift of the Spirit through whom everything is made new.”

The Church is decorated with greenery to remind us of everything being made new. As I look out my windows today, I see GREEN everywhere. This wondrous rain we’ve received the past few days (it’s raining as I write these words) feeds that new life and adds to the beauty of creation around me.

Our pastor gave a wonderful homily at St. John Orthodox Church yesterday morning during the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost. There was much to take in, but the main thing for me (and this probably wasn’t even one of his main points) was the reminder that I have two spirits. Why does that matter so much?

My own spirit—given to me at conception—is important to who I am as a person.

God’s Holy Spirit—given to the Church at Pentecost, and to me at Baptism—enables me to heal the injuries that happen to my person because of my sin.

The following is a prayer to the Holy Spirit, which is part of my regular Morning Prayers, when I’m not too lazy to pray them:

O Heavenly King, O Comforter,
The Spirit of Truth,
Who art in all
places and fillest all things;
The treasury of good things and giver of life,
Come and abide in us,
Cleanse us from every stain
And save our souls, O Good One.

As I prayed this prayer this morning, I thought about how rarely I ask the Spirit of Truth to abide in me when I’m writing. I just finished writing a guest editorial for the religion column in the Commercial Appeal (Memphis’s paper) that will be out later this month. It’s about my spiritual journey. As I did final edits on the piece yesterday afternoon, I finally remembered to ask the Holy Spirit to help me.

I’m also in the middle of heavy revisions on my novel, with help from a gifted editor. It’s harder work than I anticipated, and sometimes my spirit gets weary. Today I will try to remember to ask God’s Spirit to abide in me as I’m working.

The difference, I think, is that when we ask the Holy Spirit’s help, our own spirit quits warring with Him so much.

I’m tired of fighting.

O Heavenly King.

O Comforter.

Come and abide in me...

Friday, June 1, 2012

June is Bustin' Out All Over...

June is bustin' out all over! (that's Brigitte Bardot, right, photographed by Phillipe Halsman, 1951.)

A preview of coming attractions for the month:


June 7: My friend, Sue Brownlow, has a painting in the Artists’ Link Exhibit at Botanic Gardens. There’s a reception on June 7.

Here’s more info:

JUNE 6-30
Artists’ Link Exhibit on display and available for purchase in the Visitors Center Gallery. Opening reception June 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m. A portion of proceeds benefits Memphis Botanic Garden’s education and horticulture programs. Open to public, free admission. Monday through Saturday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m./Sunday: 11a.m.-6 p.m. Memphis Botanic Garden, 750 Cherry Road, Memphis, TN 38117. Call (901) 636-4100 for information.

June 7: Cooper Young Night Out readings at Burke’s Books:

Burke’s Book Store
936 South Cooper
$1 Book Sidewalk Sale
Memphis writers, Tom Carlson and Gordon Osing reading at 6:00 pm
Book signing of La Belle Dame from 5:30 – 7:00 pm


June 8-10: 2012 Yoknapatawpha Summer Writer’s Workshop in Oxford, Mississippi.

This will be my sixth year at this terrific writing workshop, led by some of the best writers and teachers in the country, including Scott Morris, M.O. “Neal” White, Tom Franklin, Sonja Livingston and others. Check out last year’s post for more information: “Writers Are Haunted Creatures: Making Sense of the World.”


June 15-17: Murrah High School mega reunion for the classes of 1968, 69 and 70.

(I’m in the class of 1969.) We’ll be headed to Jackson, Mississippi for a weekend of fun with old friends, many of whom my husband knows, since we started dating while I was still in high school.


June 22-30: Cushman-Wright Family Reunion at Club Med, Columbus Isle, Bahamas! Our last reunion with these branches of my husband’s family was a cruise to Alaska, about 6 or 7 years ago. That group included over 70 people from about 5 generations. These fabulous reunions are paid for by one of my husband’s cousins, Dave Wright—a wonderful and generous soul. I’m only sad that my two younger children and their families can’t go beca

use Club Med doesn’t allow children under age 2. It will be great to share this fabulous week with our oldest son, Jon, and over fifty cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews from all over the country.

I’m loving this coolweather on the first day of June, (looking forward to cheering on the runners going through our neighborhood during the Harbor Town 5K later today) but I’m sure the heat will be coming back soon. So thankful for all these special events. It’s gonna be a hot time in the summer time. (I photographed these water lilies by a pond near our house on a walk just before the storm on Thursday.)