Monday, February 4, 2008

Friday, August 17, 2007

Cell Phones... Blessing and Curse

How often have you been out in public, whether at a doctor's office, shopping for groceries or perhaps trying to decide what special gift to buy for a loved one's celebration, only to be distracted by a loud-mouthed person speaking their mind into your airspace (if they have a bluetooth) or yammering into their cellphone?

I don't want to know about some stranger's personal life, finances or misdeeds. I don't want to know who's going to pick her kids up from soccer practice, or their best score. Do you?

Are those folks so desperate to be seen and heard that they need to broadcast their concerns for the entire world to hear? Have they no sense of privacy... either yours or theirs? And while we're at it, whatever happened to simple courtesy?

It's bad enough that many folks think that driving the expressway is a great time to chat up their friends. Paying close attention to the driving patterns that surround us can certainly save our lives, or someone else's life, and being involved in a juicy tidbit of gossip isn't a recommended way to remain alert to those patterns.

The other day I was driving on the expressway and a woman in the lane next to me turned on her signal and swerved into my lane, nearly bumping me into the next lane and other traffic. She was on her cell phone and not looking to see if her move was clear. Perhaps she thought that her signal meant, "get the h--- out of my way." rather than a courteous, "this is my intention." If I hadn't been watching traffic I might have been "dead meat."

There are so many indications that courtesy is no longer important in our society and as I wondered why I developed a theory. It all points to the dumbing down of our American schools, the working family, the sense of entitlement that has pervaded our society and people viewing good manners as out of date.

The cell phone is only one more indication of how far we've come into the "new age" of technology, and how far we've come from genuine respect.

Just tooting my personal horn.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Random Observations

I’ve always wondered why we women make such a fuss about consideration and bathroom manners regarding the toilet seat not being put back down after our menfolk have relieved themselves. Yet, when some women go into a public facility to relieve themselves, if they choose not to be seated, do they follow the lines of courtesy they expect? Do they lift the seat in consideration of the women who come after them and who want or need to sit down?

Nope.

How many times have you unwittingly sat down on the wet residue of whomever was there before you? Yuch!

I remember, years ago, when I worked in corporate America, there was a woman who had it right. In each stall in the ladies’ room she put up signs that said, “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie, lift the seatie!” And it worked, too.

________________

This past Sunday I went to the IHOP for breakfast. It was crowded, as it usually is on a late Sunday morning, but we were seated quickly. IHOP is a family restaurant, and that means children, of all ages. Seated at a table near us was a family with a couple of small children. One of them was a little boy about a year old apparently just learning to use his voice, to the chagrin of everyone in the restaurant. I have never heard so piercing and high pitched a sound coming from a human mouth.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

THE SYMPOSIUM and THE ASSOCIATES PROGRAM... New Ideas in Webinars

THE SYMPOSIUM

Join us at In The Company Of Writers from wherever you are as we schedule and present gatherings of authors, journalists, poets, and others to discuss writing, the world, relationships, spirituality... all manner of things from the point of view of the creative person.

Each colloquium will be moderated. Our changing ensemble will be made up of invitees chosen from among your suggested panelists or from our own network.

Panelists' views may often be outside the pale of everyday attitudes. They may be deeply serious and reflective, they might not always agree. They'll sometimes be zany and might go from the sublime to the ridiculous. But they'll never, ever, be boring.

Some of us, no matter how mature, are still trying to make sense of this Life we own so fleetingly. Others of us have a solid handle on who we are, where we going and why. Once we get rolling we hope you'll become addicted to listening to our experts' opinions and conjectures about who, what, where, and when, and everything else, too.

Questions? Email us at info@inthecompanyofwriters.com. Please put SYMPOSIUM in the subject line.

THE ASSOCIATES PROGRAM

In The Company of Writers is seeking a limited number of top level professionals in the writing field to become our associates.

Wanted are: Editors, Agents, Publishers, Ghost Writers, Indexers, Graphics Designers and others.

We want to partner with those whose skills, expertise, reputation and reliability we can comfortably recommend. We have an increasing number of writers asking us for referrals to quality providers of the services they need for their writing and/or publishing goals.

If you have (or know of someone who has) an established reputation in any of the writers' support skills listed above, or in some other related skill set we have not listed, please contact us immediately to discuss our Associate Program.

Questions? Email us at info@inthecompanyofwriters.com. Please put ASSOCIATES PROGRAM in the subject line.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

OBITUARY

This morning, as I sat with a second cup of coffee and the newspaper, expecting a quiet half hour before resuming my morning tasks, my telephone rang. It was Mary Purcell, a former member of Georgia Writers Association and a long time friend of Jeannie Sutton Hogue. She called to tell me that Jeannie has passed away.

Following is a combination of her official obituary interspersed with some personal comments from me.

Jeannie Sutton Hogue, 55, of Gordon, Georgia passed away early Wednesday morning in a Milledgeville, Georgia hospital. Daughter of the late James Thomas & Geneva Reynolds Sutton, she was a native of Albany but had made her home in Wilkinson County most of her adult life.

She was a writer of mystery novels and had two published books to her credit; One Hell of a Mystery and Kudzu Murders: A Jesse Statham Mystery. She was a past President of the Georgia Writer's Association.

Jeannie was an unusual, even remarkable woman. Unique in attitude, bearing and speech, her comments were frequently surprising and most often quite funny. She had many health problems which caused her to curtail her activites but nothing stopped her pen. Plus, Jeannie was an avid reader and a lover of animals.

A number of years ago when I went to visit her, she had a surprise waiting for me... a nearly wild but loving "snowshoe" (part Siamese) kitten who I named Miss YumYum. As I prepared to leave, we put the kitten into a large box so that I could comfortably make the drive back to Atlanta.

As fate would have it, driving the country roads from Gordon on my way home, there in the road I saw a small black puppy which I rescued from certain death. Before I resumed my drive I stopped at a couple of the rural houses, inquiring if anyone knew who owned this round and wiggling black ball of tongue and fur. No one claimed her and so, christening her "Road Kill", "Rodi" for short, I went home.

As Rodi grew my husband, who did not want a dog in the first place, became unhappy. She would scratch at the door of the deck trying to get into the house and eventually her claws damaged the door. Finally, he put his foot down and asked me to find Rodi a new home.

I called Jeannie, whose amenable husband and country residence offered ample room and safety for what was becoming a big dog. So, Jeannie gave me Miss YumYum (who passed away last September) and I gave her Rodi, who I believe is still a happy country dog.

Jeannie is survived by her loving husband, to whom she was deeply devoted: John E. Hogue, III of Gordon, Georgia and her brothers: James R. (Judy) Sutton and Scott Anthony (Cathy) Sutton of Macon; her sister: Brenda (Wayne) Bishop of Macon, and her Mother-in-law: Mrs. Wally Hogue of Gordon. Jeannie also left ten Nieces & Nephews and many saddened friends. You'll be missed, Jeannie. We all loved you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Poets, Witches and Writers

As it might be imagined from the title of this blog, some of my favorite people are Poets. Among those favorite souls are also Witches and other Writers.

Last weekend I was an invited guest at the Harriette Austin Writers Conference, at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Held in the Georgia Center and sponsored by the Continuing Education Department, after a one year hiatus, it was the 14th year of this remarkably successful conference. There were eager writers and poets everywhere!

I had the great pleasure of greeting old friends and making some new ones. In the old friends department was, of course, the lovely and gracious Harriette, herself I was sorry to see that in the announcements there was no mention of the fact that she was the Lifetime Achievement Award winner at the 39th Annual Georgia author of the Year Awards. I believe the page is still up regardless of the fact that the website is undergoing radical changes.

Then there was the talented author of diverse genres and most excellent Southern gentleman, Hawk McKinney, who I hope will join us by presenting a Webinar some time soon; the prodigious and marvelous Terry Kay; the often controversial Bill Bray and his friend (and mine) Bowen Craig, who helps me move plants twice each year at the change of the seasons and who likes to tell people that he's my sometime houseboy; Chris Roerden, author of Don't Murder Your Mystery with whom I exchanged the "I'm older than you are" conversation (I won) as we sat together at lunch one day. My dear friend and "blood buddy" (we donate blood together), author of the Biscuit McKee cozy mystery series, Fran Stewart participated in an Author/Agent panel, after which I fled for home, being too exhausted to stay for the big dinner.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Lydia Crabtree, a real live Witch who is very unwitchlike. An author and teacher of pagan ways, I look forward to getting to know her better. See her own blog report on the conference.

I sat in on several of the workshops, mostly looking for future Webinar presenters and have two that I'm sure I'll be announcing soon: Bobby Nash on Graphic Novels and Peter Reinhart on Writing Cookbooks.

More later...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Today I celebrate seventy three years of life on earth. I had a quiet awakening and decided to make myself a big breakfast, which I neither needed nor could finish.

While I was sipping my coffee I received a telephone call from a colleague that made me really excited about ITCW’s future. We talked and agreed to a partnership in a twelve-week series of Webinars that I believe will offer writers real value. So far I have been really pleased about everything offered and I hope this will only serve to increase the numbers of writers who hear about us and take the courses.

A bit later an email from another colleague offered me even more good news. I had been wanting to interview him for an in-depth article as he is not only already interesting but he’s doing something new that I find intriguing. (I wish I could tell you more but that would spoil the surprise… and my possible sale of the article.)

I spent an hour or so looking for some things I want to use at my party this weekend (my annual Summer Barbecue Bash) and just as I was finishing my granddaughter called to tell me she had paid off the loan I co-signed for her.

All these good things, however, are still surface matters, and while I am appreciative, I know that much deeper concerns are in my heart today.

More later...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Watering the Family Tree

Most of us know something about our family tree, our genealogy. Many of us are proud of our antecedents and some have spent considerable time and money researching our roots. But what of the future?

In these early years of the twenty-first century, with the increasing concern over climate changes, dying polar bears, diminishing species, what is our individual responsibility to be good stewards of the earth? Will our actions make those in our families who come after us, proud? Or will we carelessly contribute to difficulties they might encounter because today’s population (that’s you and me, folks) is made up of people who are too lazy or too self-centered?

Do you tell yourself that letting the water run in the yard, the kitchen or bathroom sink doesn't matter? Or that flushing the toilet after dropping in a piece of tissue is insignificant? It most certainly is significant, and as time passes it becomes more and more so.

Some may find this graphic comment distasteful, but many years ago when I was living in Eugene, Oregon there was a water shortage in that part of the country. The motto all across the state was, "It's mellow if it's yellow, if it's brown, flush it down."

My research has informed me that the highest average water use in the world is in the US, where the average person uses 150 gallons of water per day. Do the math… multiply the number of people in your household times the average amount of water a person uses in one day and multiply that again just by the number of households in your family. If you keep on going, it becomes astronomical.

So what’s the point of my harangue? Well, here in Georgia we’re in the middle of a drought. There’s a water ban in effect (are you paying attention yet?) and like it or not every one of us is responsible for keeping our usage to a fair and reasonable level.

As water continues to become a critical concern for everyone I thought I would pass along information on the websites below. One is for the latest watering ban information in our local area, four more include water saving tips, the fifth is about water facts, and the last one is for a small but possibly important solution... information on rain barrel cisterns.

Here you will find ban information: http://www.northgeorgiawater.com/html/305.htm; here you’ll find some great downloadable tips to save water: http://www.wateruseitwisely.com/.
Want more information on water use? See: http://www.wssc.dst.md.us/INFO/tips.cfm, www.caes.uga.edu, www.watersmart.net, and
http://www.water.org/resources/waterfacts.htm
And last, to find out more about rain barrel cisterns for collecting rainwater, go to: http://www.SavingWithRain.com.

Every household, whether in a drought area or not, ought to review the information on water, water conservation, watering bans and why it is an increasing problem.

And while I’m berating you, are you recycling? (Paper, aluminum, glass...) It’s every bit as important as saving water. Please help me to help your great grandchildren and mine to a healthy planet. Let’s not have them remember us as being selfish and lazy, or worse, make it impossible for some of them to survive at all.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother’s Day Matchmaker


As we sat in IHOP laughing and talking and enjoying Miss Elsa’s antics, Michelle, Teryn and I noticed a gentleman seated at a table across the aisle from us. He was waving to Miss Elsa and laughing, too. Finally, he could contain himself no longer as she flirted in her one-year old way, and he spoke up. As he watched her nibble on the puffs her mother had supplied, while we ate crepes and other grownup foods, he assured her that he would be happy to cook just for her.

Our Mother’s Day breakfast progressed and Michelle, (more like her mother than she realizes) engaged our breakfasting neighbor in conversation. After a few pleasantries she asked him where he was from and as both Michelle and I already knew the answer due to his accent, we weren’t surprised when he said “Italy, I am from Rome.”

Encouraged, as his willingness for conversation continued, Michelle explained that we are four first (and only) daughters. The gentleman, whose name we later discovered is Romolo, told us that he has four grown daughters, all independent from his care, and that his wife passed away from breast cancer five years ago.

I’m certain it was in that moment that Michelle made her decision. Continuing in breakfast table conversation across the aisle, she managed to tell Romolo that I speak (or rather used to speak) Italian, and she also managed to pique his further interest by conveying to him in a subtle manner that I might be interested in making a new friend.

He was interested. Romolo and I discovered that we live nearby one another. He mentioned that he has a very nice home and I said, “So do I.” Michelle, now playing matchmaker to the hilt, mentioned that I prepare wonderful Italian dishes, whereupon Romolo assured her that I wouldn’t have to cook, that he’d take me out. As his enthusiasm gained momentum he mentioned that a trip to Italy for we two was possibly in the cards for next year and I decided it was time to leave the restaurant, before I found myself engaged to be married.

When we stood to leave he asked if I’d care to have him call. I asked for his card but as he had none I gave him mine. In the best tradition of the continental gentleman he took my hand and kissed it, and looked deep into my eyes.

On the way out my daughter, completely tickled with herself, told me more than once how sweet a man she thought he was, and I could tell from that sparkle in her eyes that she had visions of a happy forever after for me, in her loving heart. We are a family of romantics but from my point of view, that's a bit of a reach.

Thanks, Miss Elsa, you little flirt!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A New Writing Task

Over the past few days I've been working on what is one of the toughest writing tasks I've ever attempted. For some this might be easy but for me it is a genuine (and welcome) learning experience.

I was recently contacted by a company that prepares writing tests on fluency and comprehension for Departments of Education over elementary school children in four Southeastern states. They asked for short "stories" of from 100 to a maximum of 175 words, depending on the grade level. I was provided with an online tool to check the reading level of what I would write and I got to work. I began by rewriting a couple of stories I had written in the past just to see how to "downwrite," restructure my writing to a far lower grade level than the one the story had been written for originally. After numerous tries I finally began to get the hang of it but single syllable words don't always get the point across.

I was really surprised when pasting the stories into the program to learn which words scored as difficult. Contractions such as "can't" or "wouldn't" were highlighted for 4th and 5th grade readers. Words such as "feisty" or "territorial" received the same warning score for 6th grade readers. No wonder this country has so many literacy problems! It seems that our children aren't being taught the sort of written language skills needed to comprehend the world around them. Yet I know they hear these words and many more sophisticated ones on TV and in the movies. So what is one to think?

In the meantime I've begun writing new little stories. I think about our daily lives and about things that might interest or inform youngsters, then I craft a lttle story around these things. I'm getting better. Pretty soon I'll be churning them out so fast it might even work out to be worth my while.