Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hazards vs risks

Over the last year and half, I've been involved in a community project to build a new playground in Factoryville. The completed structure is awesome - including that central tower which stands probably 12 feet off the ground.

So as we worked with Steve Hemmler, a playground designer from Landscape Structures, our concerns about safety and potential risk were paramount. His answer has stuck with me. In effect he said that our job (and his) were to design and build a playground with virtually no potential hazards. But to eliminate risk from the playground design would have meant sacrificing the potential for fun. 

The more I thought about that statement, the more it rang with truth. We all want to participate in activities that are as safe as we can make them. Reducing potential hazards to a bare minimum makes absolute sense.

But virtually any activity which is ultimately fun involves some risk - that's what makes it fun. If an activity is too easy or the outcome is guaranteed simple success every single time, the risk is gone - and so is the joy.

I can apply that same hazard vs risk principle to writing. By never sharing my written work, by hiding it away on my computer, I could have played it safe and completely eliminated the risk of rejection. It would have been completely safe, completely free of the hazard of potential hurt or disappointment.

But it also would have prevented me from experiencing the joy of connecting with readers, of getting unsolicited compliments via email or positive reviews posted by complete strangers.
I'm glad I took the risk and put my work 'out there.' I wouldn't miss this fun for the world.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Six-word memoir

On Facebook, one of the writer-support sites I follow is holding a 'six-word memoir' contest. I've seen these before - the objective is to actually summarize your life, your philosophy, lessons learned, whatever, in just six words. I've also seen contests for 'six-word stories.' Probably the most famous of these stories is by Ernest Hemingway. "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." Tells the whole, horrible story, right?
As a writer, capturing a story or a memoir in a measly six words is an interesting exercise in being concise. To say the least.

I enjoyed reading some of the submissions. Some evoke a clear mood:

- I do not belong here people!
- I left a million dollars in...
- I told you I was ill!

Others were clever:
- Your memoir using only six words.

And still others took the philosophical approach:
- I am a child of God.
- Evolving, one word at a time.

Here's mine:
- Support laughter, challenge growth, create faith

What's yours?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Goodreads giveaway!

Monday, June 16, 2014

A book club, a recipe, and Skype (or Facetime)

Now that my schedule is easing up, I've had time to think about the ways I connect with book clubs. Each time I've met with book club members, it was over food. So that begs the question - if I meet a book club via Skype or Facetime, how can we share food?
So here on my blog, I decided to share a recipe for my favorite German dish, KaeseSpaetzle.
It's homemade noodles cooked with onions and melted cheese, so in a way it's Germany's mac-and-cheese. But much better, trust me. My mother and grandmother made variations of this without measuring a thing, just throwing handfuls of ingredients into a bowl and mixing until it 'feels right.' I haven't got that touch - bummer. 

KaeseSpaetzle Recipe
3 eggs     1 3/4 c. flour     1/2 t. salt       1T. vegetable oil      1/2 c. water

1/4 c. butter     2 onions, halved and sliced     3 c. shredded Swiss or Emmentaler cheese

In a large bowl, combine eggs, flour, salt, oil, and water. Mix until smooth, then let rest for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, melt the butter in a saute pan, and saute the onion until golden brown. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 300 F. Lightly grease a 9" casserole dish.
Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to a boil. Place 1/3 of the dough into a spaetzle maker or a collander with large holes. Let the dough drop into the boiling water, urging it out by pressing with a spoon if needed. Boil until the noodles rise to the top, the transfer them to the casserole dish with a slotted spoon. Cover them with 1 c. of the cheese. Repeat the process with remaining dough and cheese, creating two more layers of spaetzle and cheese. Spoon the sauteed onions over the top.
Bake at 300 for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted. Or instead of baking, you can do what my mother and grandmother did - saute the whole shebang in another 1/4 c. butter, turning frequently until the cheese is melted. Before serving, sprinkle with 1 or 2 T of white vinegar and 1T chopped parsley if desired.

Now if your book club reads Risking Exposure, invite me via Skype or Facetime and we can still share a meal!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

So many stories

 Yesterday, I had the opportunity to take part in a commemoration of D-Day at the Everhart Museum in Scranton. As reported in the Scranton Times, the museum housed a display of photographs and personal items from late in WWII, focusing of course on France in 1944-45. As is usually the case when touring exhibits from horribly difficult times and places, I found myself looking for street scenes, small clips of the lives of ordinary people. What would it have been like to live there then, to be going to work or raising a family while tanks rolled down the streets of your town?

How did it affect your ability to get to the store, check on elderly family members, or walk the children to school? I find it fascinating to put on someone else's skin so to speak, to learn about an era and think, "What would I do if..."
I guess that explains why I write historical fiction.
Browsing through the D-Day exhibit, one thing struck me over and over - there are so many stories yet to be told, real and fictionalized.