My mother, who graduated from high school, could read music and sing the alto part on her own. I’m basically an alto, too, but even though I learned to play the violin, which required reading music, I usually haven’t been able to know what key my voice might land on when I start to sing, and I definitely can only sing the part when next to a good, confident alto. Even with the soprano part, if two notes are far apart on the sheet music, I’m never sure I will hit the second one right.
Mom complained frequently that I was playing the violin out of tune, and my dad scolded me for singing too timidly when at church. So even though I had a good experience in seventh grade chorus, I definitely had no confidence as a musician or singer. I quit the violin after eighth grade since my double joints wouldn’t let me play vibrato.
I liked to sing, though. We did sing songs in the car as a family, like “A Bicycle Built for Two,” “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” and I loved the Christmas carols we sang in the auditorium at my elementary school in Wheaton, Illinois.
The matter became serious when we had our first child. My husband bought a guitar and began practicing songs, especially, “Here Comes the Sun.” I bought the music and lyrics for Beatles’ songs. (Now where did I put those?) I also got the music for the Doxology and discovered I’d been singing one or two notes wrong all these years.
I sang lullabies to both sons, and Beatles’ songs, and sang Christmas carols with them (now carols were no longer allowed in the schools). I learned from Mr. Harleston, a vocal instructor at the college where I worked, that I could sing soprano better if I used my nose more instead of my throat. This was handy when encouraging my sons to sing hymns in church before their voices changed.
One day our church's choir director, Mr. William Mathis, asked if I would consider joining the choir as a soprano. I didn’t do it, but the very fact that he would ask made an impression on me. So when our little church got a new choir director with the hope of improving our services and he asked for more members to join the choir, I considered it. As soon as I retired, I did it. I started out timid, but soon, unless my voice was not so good that day, I tried to sing heartily since we are such a small choir.
When my first grandchild was born and a bit colicky, I was back to singing lullabies again, and “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” and many more songs since, including “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
Then at my church, we had morning prayer, with no choir director or musician present, and I ventured to lead the few church members present by singing acapella. I did it with no embarrassing wrong notes! Now our musician has been out sick, and last Sunday I was the only one who knew how to start off one of the hymns (“Lead on, oh King, eternal”). I did it again!
I love singing traditional hymns with our choir, both from the Episcopal hymnal and from the African American Heritage hymnal. It seems to exercise my heart and clear out my emotions.
Isn’t it amazing that through a life’s journey of sixty to seventy years, an insecure singer can become confident enough to sing out loud?
I'm entering the HGTV Dream Home contest every day. And why not? It's true that I don't believe in gambling. I firmly believe that, when possible, we should work for the money we get because the value to self of doing the work is worth as much as, if not more than, the value of the money.
But this dream home is in St. Simon's Island, Georgia! I live in Georgia. And I wrote a whole romance novel once--and even found an agent to read it--all because I dreamed of a home on the next island, Jekyl, for our family. I'm from the Midwest, so I've been awed by and in love with the ocean since I got here in 1968.
I've also dreamed of being published as a writer. My successes at that have been minor. But back then, in the early 80s, I decided that being a success as a romance writer could get us that ocean-side house. I had a plot and characters in mind already, so I read a bunch of romance novels and went to work. The agent said it didn't quite fit the genre since it was set in 1948 and the hero was paralyzed. So it was a no go.
Since that time, I've completed a career as an English professor, learned a bit about editing and publishing, gotten a few poems published, and completed the second draft of a memoir. I got closer to my ocean-side house by helping one of my sons and his wife as they purchased a house near the coast in Panama City Beach. I have a novel started that I will work on in earnest once the memoir is completed.
But it sure wouldn't hurt if I won that beautiful waterside house in St. Simon's, Georgia.
At our Writers Meetup in December (https://www.meetup.com/Fort-Valley-Writers-Meetup-St-Lukes/), we talked about publishing and marketing.
The Literary Marketplace is the gold standard for finding out about publishing one’s work, but we focused on the more accessible Writers Market, published by Writers Digest. One of the many useful features of Writers Market is the description of what each publisher wants to receive from submitters, whether it be queries, sample chapters, outlines, or complete works. Generally, those who publish novels or poetry want to see the finished work (unless you’re a highly published novelist already). Those who publish non-fiction, self-help, etc., want to see queries, plans or samples. Memoirs seem to be in the middle. I suspect that memoirs that are like how-to’s would be more like non-fiction, so you could submit a prospectus or a sample. Memoirs that are real life stories would be more like novels, so you should wait until your book is completed. Again, the publishers will specify what they will accept.
I have submitted poetry to magazines and journals in the past with a little success. But now I am seriously writing a memoir and playing with a possible novel. The others in our Writers Meetup are doing memoir, fantasy, drama, historical fiction, science fiction, poetry and even blogs. I have a friend who is on a very disciplined schedule writing mysteries and publishing them through Amazon. She makes a small income. I have a former student (from the seventies!) who has kept up his writing on African themes, including fantasy, action novels and other approaches to fiction. He self-publishes and has done marketing at book stores. My Twitter feed includes many book marketers and publishing opportunities. Today, many kinds of writing, writers, and publication venues exist.
In addition to knowing what the various publishers, magazines and other publishing venues will accept, we should decide on our priorities when it comes to publishing. Some of our Writers Meetup members prize getting published and making money as their goal. Of course I would be elated to become a best-selling author in hard copies or online! And I should not be ignorant about the process of being published. But at my age, and with my sensibilities, I plan to concentrate on the writing first. I want what I put out to be as good as I can make it, so I will write and revise my memoir and my novel, then look to publication for each of them.
Jena’s small office was in the back room, and the secretary’s desk was in the room in front with the windows to the hall on one side, and beige filing cabinets on the other. Jena had been working, but she stepped out from her desk and into Ms Grace’s office when she heard some of the students talking—they were getting a bit lively. It was fall at last, and a football game was coming up between their college and St. Georges, which was over a hundred miles away.
“You all ain’t gonna beat the Georges Knights!” said Keesha, who was being loud, as usual. “They bigger.” St. Georges just happened to be located in Keesha’s hometown.
Chinememne, a Nigerian-American student, was at Oconee State on an athletic scholarship and was very loyal to its sports teams. Her eyes flashed as she took Keesha on. “Then why don’t you just go to school at St. George’s?"
Keesha’s voice took on a meaner tone. “Why you don’t just go back to Africa?”
Without giving Chinememne a chance to respond, Jena said, “That’s enough, Keesha! You’re not supposed to say things like that to people!” Mistreatment of outsiders was something Jena absolutely could not tolerate.
Ms Grace, Chinememne, and especially Keesha were stunned into silence for a second. Jena was their program coordinator, and she was low-key and business-like most of the time.
“I don’t have to listen to you!” snapped Keesha, and she left, heading to the office of a staff member she was friendly with—unfortunately it was a staff member who resisted Jena’s policies and talked against her to the students.
Chinememne left, too, and Ms Grace stayed quiet and got back to work. Jena continued to feel righteous indignation. But after a while, she began to realize that Chinememne actually had advantages over Keesha and may not have been so much the underdog. Her parents were medical professionals, from Nigeria originally but now naturalized and working in Kansas. She had a good high school education. Keesha probably had a single parent, or at least Jena had only met her mother and brother, no father. Her grades were mediocre, probably due to schools not being that great down there in St. Georges. And her attachment to the female staff member in the next office, though highly irritating, probably came out of her need for someone to guide her and for someone to follow.
Keesha should not have insulted Chinememne by accusing her of being an unwanted foreigner. But Jena realized she herself should have been big enough to keep from administering a put down. By this time, the building was quiet. She couldn’t see or hear anyone on the other side of those windows facing the hallway. She knew she got along well with the faculty she worked with in this building and most of the students, but not so well with the staff and any students who happened to be allied with them. Being righteous was fine, but Jena wished she could have a do-over sometimes when it came to getting along with people.
My sister Nancy suggested that I write a blog on the difficulty of selecting the right vocabulary when addressing an audience that’s mixed in terms of their understanding of words.
My first reaction is, “Well that depends!” To be specific, it depends on the scenario.
Scenario 1 is editing or writing a book or long document to be read by experts and aficionados but also by the uninitiated and managers who have only a general knowledge of the subject.
Organization is our secret weapon here. The text can begin with a general introduction that all can understand to establish the subject at hand, the purpose, and the tone. It could be about how to start a business at home and keep proper records, and it could have either a serious accounting tone or a humorous how-to-make-your-taxes-easier-to-file tone. (The manager in this case might be the publisher who will decide whether to publish the book.)
In this introduction or immediately after, sections can be listed and even linked to so users can find what they need. Each section can begin with a general explanation, but this can be followed with details and can use vocabulary necessary to be specific. The supervisor and the uninitiated may not be familiar with the specialized vocabulary or follow all the details, but they may be skimming these parts, anyway. A concluding section can be similar to the general introduction in terms of vocabulary and details. If it’s a long book, each chapter can be organized as seen above.
Scenario 2 consists of giving a semi-interactive talk or lecture to a live audience (or one online with chat allowed) that includes very literate people and experts on one end of the spectrum and, on the other end, novices and people with limited vocabularies.
I became good at this as a college professor. My own professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 60s were like stars of greater or lesser repute. Professors Whitley, Kroeber, and Mosse were famous on campus and beyond, and students who were not even enrolled in their classes came to listen to them. We increased our vocabularies by listening to them. They, and nearly all of our professors, stood in front, even on the stage in many cases, and held our attention by lecturing.
When I became a college instructor at a small college, however, it took very little time for me to realize, as I tried to make eye-contact with my students, that some were with me, and some clearly were not. Lecturing as my professors had done was not working. So I began saying things in several different ways and asking questions. How is the Golden Chain of Being they believed in during the early Renaissance different from the later idea that governments rule by consent of the governed? Why is it a pun when Hamlet says to his uncle, who married his mother, 'Not so, my lord; I am too much in the sun'? (Hint: son/sun.)
I tried to get discussions going. Although our texts used fairly high-level vocabularies, I concentrated on breaking the subjects down so they would be understood by the majority of my students. I couldn’t actually teach if I wasn’t making myself understood.
Scenario 3 is giving a sermon (or maybe a TED Talk?) to a congregation or group whose members have various levels of expertise and verbal proficiency when interaction is not allowed or not customary.
This is the most challenging scenario to be discussed here. The study of audience and purpose can’t be dispensed with, and attention-getting devices must be considered as well. What is the main objective of the talk? What details and examples are crucial for the audience to understand? How can repetition, touching or memorable examples, and a structure that culminates in the main idea be used to facilitate understanding? Are there certain words or phrases that are essential to understanding the main idea and supporting points? In that case, how can these words be defined and redefined so that they become part of everyone’s tool box?
To my mind, Arthur Brooks’s TED Talk on work and happiness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDH4mzsQP0w&t=74s is an excellent example of a lecture that can be appreciated by nearly everyone, although some may miss his man on the motorcycle on a dirt road metaphor.
Come to think of it, perhaps Alvin Whitley, Karl Kroeber, and George L. Mosse knew how to include us all when they lectured, whether they did so instinctively or as a result of years of practice.
I wrote the following editorial, published by TheModCon http://themodcon.com/blog/2016/10/25/how-the-media-created-trump-opinion-article/
I believe Evan McMullin and his supporters – of which I am one – are the antithesis of the new media-churned extreme progressive and alt-right status quo. May the new synthesis be one that lets our nation, our people, and the world’s people be free and prosper. – Anna Holloway
In “Business Insider,” Oliver Darcy and Pamela Engel write that, as their title says, the GOP “must do something about the conservative media complex if it wants to survive.” Although this article helps explain why I am voting for Evan McMullin today, I have a different, more personal recollection of how we got here with Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.
Hegel’s theory of history applies. The thesis (or prevailing climate), around 1963, was that the major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC could be trusted to bring us all the news. The antithesis was that these news sources were biased towards liberals, and conservatives needed to be heard, which began to happen. The synthesis, unfortunately, is a mainstream/social media world where biased liberal (progressive) and biased conservative (even alt-right) voices all have many outlets and where viewers or readers rarely take the time or have the information to determine which outlets are to be believed.
In the early 90s, I attended a seminar on media bias at Hillsdale College. This was pre-Fox, but Brit Hume, and Fred Barnes were there with an up-and-coming female conservative media-person, possibly Laura Ingraham.
Rush Limbaugh came on TV, and for a while, I watched, excited that finally there was a conservative on TV. The Fox News Channel debuted, and I was even more thrilled. I revered Tony Snow, Brit Hume, Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, and Bill Kristol. Fox also featured Mara Liasson, Mort Kondrake, and later Juan Willliams, who were principled liberals.
But soon, O’Reilly came on, and Sean Hannity. For a little while, I watched. But soon enough, they began to make me sick because of their visible egotism and extreme statements, backed up anecdotally, at best.
The thesis, a liberal-dominated media, was counteracted by the antithesis, a coming to the foreground of conservative commentators. The synthesis is what we have today – snarky liberal and conservative media personalities and a public, a sizeable portion of which supports Donald Trump, that comments and trolls viciously online, emulating their media heroes.
I don't know if it's because I'm working on a memoir or if it's because I've reached the age of looking back over my life. I read a book by Amy Tan (Opposite of Fate) lately, too, and that has been coloring my thoughts and perceptions. But, whatever the reason, I've been experiencing things from another dimension lately.
The memoir started it. I was recalling and writing about my days as an English major and honors student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison when I unexpectedly got a Facebook notice from Peter Hawkins, my classmate in the Honors English seminar. To add to the coincidence, his notice was quoting Ann Lamott, whose book Travelling Mercies I had just finished reading. Peter was one of the best students in our seminar and a truly decent person. He had attended Wheaton College--another link, because I grew up in Wheaton and even took violin lessons on its campus. He went on to teach at Yale. I hadn't heard from him in years, and even then it was perfunctory. So I was startled when I saw his Facebook post exactly at the same time as I was writing about our mutual experience.
That was a pleasant coincidence, I told my writing partner Luanna, who also graduated from UW Madison.
A few days later, I was writing about examples of racial prejudice I observed back in the sixties in the small southern town where I came to teach college English. I was revising, to say that one of the people involved turned out to be a friend to the black college in the town many years later. Guess who suddenly mentioned me in Facebook! He wrote to say he thought I had been a good professor, adding that his friend had said he enjoyed my class. Well, guess who the friend was—he once was co-owner of the store where the racial incident I was talking about had taken place. The store is long gone.
To get a notice in Facebook from Peter was a coincidence. Was this another? Or had the one townsperson I had told about my memoir started warning people? That person had told me recently that people in town still remembered how I’d tried to submit a letter to the editor of the local paper on the subject of this very incident. Maybe I was getting paranoid.
I’m now engaged in a slow motion coincidence (or paranormal event) in the form of my recent involvement in presidential politics. I’ve been working on a novel for years that’s been going nowhere. Last spring, I took a creative writing continuing education class, and the teacher asked us to write something quickly where there was chaos and something completely unrelated was added to the mix. I took the confusion of the character in my novel and randomly (I thought) got her engaged as a writer in a political campaign that created new avenues for her life. After that, just for the experience, I did a few things for a local campaign in Georgia during the primaries. Well, guess what. About a month ago, I was invited via social media to join a grassroots campaign for a candidate (not Trump!); then I was asked to be the manager of a group related to the campaign; then I was asked to manage certain aspects (grassroots) in Georgia; and now, tonight, I’ve been asked to manage the grassroots writers group, temporarily, at least. I strongly support the candidate (Evan McMullin), but I’m also thinking, “When this is over, I can finish my novel!” And I'm marveling a bit at the fact that my creative writing class idea is actually coming to life.
Now I am lost in thought about a vision I have had.
I’ve been writing my memoir, I just finished reading Amy Tan, and I am looking back over my seventy years of life.
My granddaughter, who is not quite three, is the oldest grandchild, like me. She has blonde hair and blue eyes like me, although her hair is curly, and she also has Jewish, Irish, and African genes, which I don’t. She is an independent person, like me.
My vision is that in her person, I will live a whole new life. Who is to say that is not possible?