The Magic Bullet and The Ant: A Brief Exposé

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By Rose Ottosen

You might be thinking to yourself as you read the title to this little essay, “What in the world does a magic bullet have in common with an ant?!

My answer: absolutely nothing. That is both the bad news and the good news. Let’s start with the bad news first, and explore the phenomenon of magic bullets. Then we will examine the ant and give ourselves the option to end on a positive note.

Magic bullets intrigue me. Though they remain illusionary, they seem real. I have been looking for them since I was a young girl. However, though my searching has not ever turned up one, some days I continue my quest, undaunted, just hoping I will be the person, at last, to discover this fast track to success. What is a magic bullet, you might ask?

For me, a “magic bullet” is the one thing that instantly will bring some longed-for reality into my life—the one thing that will usher in a sudden turn in my life’s journey that will then hand me the fulfillment of my deepest wants, needs, and greeds—my personal Aladdin’s lamp, you might say. A magic bullet is the precise incident, person or possession that will appear and guarantee me a “happily-ever-after” phenomenon and forever remove the humdrum effort required from me. 

For example, I recently was quite embarrassed to admit that I ever thought there could be a magic secret potion that would provide physical fitness. I have abandoned that unreal quest and finally started to take more responsibility for my health and to get fit to my absolute core, slowly, one grinding day at a time. Also, I have given up my search to find a formula—perchance once known and now hidden, that could make me an overnight concert pianist, or better yet—a world famous harpist. On a simpler plane, I even have wondered if, perhaps, there is some kind of magic wand that I can invent and then wave as I walk through the house and make all my dust bunnies disappear, a wand that would also do laundry and even wash windows. I have even dreamed of being a published author, just waking up one day and being on the New York Times Bestseller List. Have you had that dream, too? Wouldn’t that be amazing?!

From my experience, though, I must admit that a life of sudden and ongoing success, of effortless voila, isn’t for this world, apparently. This is especially true when it comes to becoming and remaining an accomplished writer. Here is the reality: Good writing takes consistent effort. No, Virginia, magic bullets do not exist.

However, here is the good news: ants do exist, and they will help guide our way.

Across the world, scientists have discovered ants, millions of them, in the wettest tropics, the driest deserts—and even in the arctic climes. Over five thousand different kinds of these insects have been cataloged. However, I do not want to digress and turn this commentary into a scientific analysis, but rather a word map, using ants as mentors to help point us in the direction of our goals as writers: starting, completing, and publishing our voice, ultimately adding something meaningful to life’s printed conversations. 

Ants, like committed writers, are tangible, real beings. Their lives are anything but magical. Their days are filled with tedium and routine—just boring repetition to those who watch them. Day in and day out, season after season, they are determined to fulfill their heart songs, many of them carrying a single grain of sand over hill and dale to deposit in a small heap that will one day become a big anthill. To us humans, they often look like they don’t know what they are doing or know where they are going, as they plod back and forth, back and forth. 

Unlike writers, however, ants are not tempted to ask, “How much l-o-n-g-e-r do I have to do this? I am getting bored. I am tired. I wonder what all my other friends are doing? I want to have a cup of coffee now. I want to sleep in. I have been doing this so long, and it isn’t amounting to anything significant—is it?!” 

I picture ant conversations as being very different from the way we, as writers, talk to ourselves. How do I know this is true? Simply, as stated before, ants continue their mundane tasks, century after century, across the world, working faithfully in the hidden places, to build those anthills, no matter what. No excuses. No procrastination. No compromise. Just watch them. Look at the results.

As a wanna-be published author, I suddenly “saw the light” recently while I was watching an ant tussle with a stubborn grain of sand in our yard. I followed him and discovered a monolithic ant hill, burgeoning with life, in the forest. After musing on this simple yet profound scene, I learned a great lesson. I discovered the undeniable difference between a magic bullet and an ant. I am inspired and ready to put my hand to pen and paper again, content to produce one letter at a time, like the ants’ grains of sand, which, added to over time, will become words, words that will grow into sentences. These sentences will then give birth to paragraphs. These paragraphs will evolve into chapters, and the chapters will blossom into books. 

Yes, indeed, ants are determined. In addition to their innate tenacity, all ants are also social. I look forward to seeing you at the writing conference in Kalispell in September—and also at the Montana Women Authors monthly meetings, starting again in the fall. We need each other! Write on!

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September Book News

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What does September mean to you?

 

 

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LESLIE BUDEWITZ Back to school? Corduroy pants? New plaid shirts? That’s September in Montana, along with leaf-lined drives through Glacier National Park, apples ripening, and the moon dropping a little further south in the sky as it shines on star-lit nights.

All mysteries.pngAnd the Montana Book Festival in Missoula, Sept 12-15, in a variety of locations downtown. Friday, Sept 13, at 3:00, I’ll be discussing Recipe Writing as Storytelling: Braiding Instruction and Narrative While Serving Your Audience, with moderator Sara Bir, a cookbook author, chef, and teacher, Greg Patent, a delightfully entertaining cookbook author and columnist from Missoula, and Seabring Davis of Bozeman, a magazine editor and author who writes about the Montana food scene. I’ll bring the perspective of a novelist who writes about food. Sounds delish, doesn’t it?

And there will be cookies. I promise! 

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29th Annual Flathead River Writers Conference  September 14th and 15th at FVCC

Take time out from your writing to join a lively group of writers gathering each year to learn from experts, talk about craft, publication options and how to present yourself. This year’s theme is ADVENTURES IN WRITING.

See website www.authorsoftheflathead.org for conference details where you can register and pay dues. For dues paid members of Authors of the Flathead, we offer the opportunity to show your books on a slideshow loop that runs during the conference even if you are unable to attend. We hope you can join us. Capacity is 100. There are a few seats remaining.

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Betty Kuffel

 

Announcing the publication of Fatal Feast  on August 30th, a biological thriller set in Montana. I began researching the topic 30 years ago with the outbreak of mad cow disease in Great Britain. Prion disease is an infectious protein currently epidemic in wildlife in Montana, in twenty-five U.S. states and in Canada. This book will be of particular interest to beef eaters and hunters.

Brilliant young researcher Dr. Callie Archer vows to find a cure for an aggressive prion variant of mad cow disease that killed her father. Like unstoppable super-bugs, the deadly proteins infect livestock and wild game threatening world food supplies. Unknowing humans who eat infected meat become paranoid, violent and die horrible deaths.

Federal authorities isolate Dr. Archer’s primate research project at an NIH high-risk laboratory in the mountains of Montana for protection from radical animal rights activists. While she risks her life to stop the catastrophic disease that could prove fatal to millions, a sexist director, sabotaging cohort, and a handsome rancher obstruct her progress.

Dr. Archer closes in on a cure, but murderous activists penetrate her lab, steal infected animals, and nearly kill her. As the disease spreads in ranching and hunting country, authorities suppress public information to save the country from economic disaster.

Callie’s promising treatment may be the only hope to prevent a world-wide pandemic. With forces against her mounting, can she save mankind and herself?

Fatal Feast is available as an e-book and paperback. I would love to have you write an honest review on Amazon.

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The newest novel by Karen Wills, All Too Human, will be released September 18th and will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and local book stores.

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I’m happy to announce that book two, Stalking Midas, of my romantic suspense thriller series is now available on Amazon in both Kindle format and paperback.

After book one, Instrument of the Devil, courageous heroine Tawny Lindholm is back and she’s in big trouble. Her demanding (but sexy) new boss, attorney Tillman Rosenbaum, sends her to investigate his estranged father, Moe, a victim of elder fraud. When Tawny gets in the way of a charming con woman stalking her prey, watch out. stalking midas by debbie burkeBecause this predator has killed before and each time is easier.

 

If you’d like to check out Stalking Midas, here are the links: Kindle    Paperback

 

Hope you have as much fun reading them as I do writing them!

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Greenhorns

By Diane E. Bokor

In the 1970s, something in the culture shifted.  You often heard of people going “back to the land.” Tom and I were among them.  That is how I ended up here in northwest Montana, reflecting on one of the biggest decisions of my life.  We were twenty-five-year-old city kids who married after meeting in college. We were old enough to be completely emancipated and young enough to do some pretty stupid stuff.  We were greenhorns.

We had made a life in the great white city on the hill (San Francisco) when we caught the bug.  We sold everything that would not fit in the back of our grey Dodge Ram. We quit our jobs and hit the road in search of our piece of “the land.”

We arrived in Kalispell the first week of May, 1976.  It was hot that week, 90 degrees hot. This pleased me greatly, as there were two things that gave me pause about this adventure:  cold temperatures and wild bears. I’ll work on my fear of bears, I thought, this is going to be just fine. It’s just not that cold here.  

All but our brand spanking new REI camping gear went into storage as we headed “back to the land.”  Well, not literally “back” as we had not actually been there yet. We had a plan. Tom and I would spend the summer exploring the region, campground by campground.  In the fall, we would decide where to settle, where to buy our piece of this land. Then, we would confidently figure out the rest of the story.

We had been living in our tiny two-man tent greenhorns campsite for three weeks when Memorial Day weekend rolled around.  It rained for four solid days. I now know that this is a typical Flathead weather pattern. That weekend I was traumatized for four days, peeking out of a blue nylon tent flap, cold and damp, nibbling on candy bars.  It was too wet to start a fire. It was too wet to crawl out of the tent. Forty-three years later, I can tell you that even with climate change, it will rain at some point on Memorial Day weekend in the Flathead.

Later that summer, after drying out, I awoke at dawn to a noise coming from the direction of our campsite picnic table.  Severely nearsighted without my glasses, I sat up in my cozy down sleeping bag, rubbed my eyes and opened them to make out a park ranger bending over our table.  Weird, I thought, why is he up so early?  With my glasses on, I was shocked. HOLY MOSES!  A BEAR! greenhorns bearA man-sized black bear was standing on his rear legs, rooting through the box of groceries we had covered with a plastic garbage bag, to keep it dry of course.  The bear had found our green grapes. Greenhorns with green grapes.

Due to my life long fear of bears, I was pretty sure I was going to die.  Obviously, I did not. Tom was able to find the Dodge keys. I grabbed my single-lens-reflex Minolta.  In our pajamas, like commandos who scurry along the perimeter of a battlefield, we made our way to the passenger side of the truck.  Once safely ensconced in steel and glass, I snapped evidence of our stupidity. If not for the snapshot this whole incident might be lost to the mists of time.

Back then, there were no signs instructing campers about food storage.  There was no host coming by each evening to warn/threaten campers about food storage.  There were no campground brown metal communal food lockers. You can thank me and Tom (and the rest of our ilk) for all that.  

Pick a Holiday

By Claudette Young

Everyday is a holiday. Pick one. Now, write about it.Simple task, right? Well, maybe not. Here’s a fun way, though, to pull out of a writing slump and perhaps earn some greenbacks in the process.

Many magazines need and want short pieces written about holidays. Those celebratory days don’t have to match major/national ones. Find something unique, perhaps even about your own town or state, and march words across your page.

Hop over to the Holiday Insights website. Scroll down to whatever month seems promising to you and click on it. How much easier can it get?

Find something fun. For example: Feast of Fabulous Wild Men Day—January 12.

Know any wild men? Now’s your chance to go out and interview a few. Think about it. Get their take on such a holiday (one they probably didn’t know existed).

Invite a few of these men to a pizza joint and watch them celebrate. Ask about why they might think of themselves as wild men. Hey, it’s just a suggestion.

What about April? This month has special month status, honored weekly status, and daily holidays. You could keep writing for a year on this collection if you wanted to spend the time.

Here are a few selected possibilities for April.

  • National Humor Month
  • International Guitar Month
  • National Kite Month
  • National Poetry Month
  • National Pecan Month
  • National Welding Month
  • Stress Awareness Month
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month

These give a writer both fun and serious possible subjects.

For weekly honors, we have:

  • Week 1 Read a Road Map Week.
  • Week 2 Garden Week
  • Week 3 Organize Your Files Week
  • Week 4 National Karaoke Week

There are a few others, but not nearly as fun.

Daily celebrations run a gamut of subjects and attitudes. But, you get the drift. Every month has a plethora of options fully blossomed and ready for plucking.

So, when you find yourself feeling especially stagnant as a writer or just out of sorts and stuck, pull up this holiday calendar and start arranging a bouquet of short pieces for publication. Heck, you could base an entire blog on this fanciful possibility.

And remember, new holidays are created all the time by someone and that someone could be you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season to Stock Up on Writing Supplies

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By Deborah Epperson

 

You can’t turn on the television at this time of the year without seeing a glut of advertising for back to school sales. If you’re like me and your kids are grown, you may be tempted to tune the ads out, but don’t! If you’re a writer, a crafter, an artist, or work from home in any capacity, this is the time to shop smarter for yourself.  school supplies

There’s no better time than now to restock your home office. Back to school sales provide the perfect opportunity to save money on computer paper, pens, notepads, and almost anything you need (or want) for your office. Been thinking of getting a chalkboard for the kitchen to write down those grocery items as they pop up? Hoping your laptop can last until the Black Friday sales?

Now is the time to check out prices. It’s also a great time for artist and crafters to stock up too. Scissors, glue, colored pencils, tape, and chalk are priced right.

While you’re tracking down bargains for your office and home, you might consider picking up a few extra basic school supplies like pencils, paper, and folders to donate to your local school. About 94% of teachers end up buying some classroom supplies out of their own pockets.

Call your local school and ask them what supplies their teachers need and donate a few to them in honor of that special teacher you or your children had. Mine was Miss Alice Cashen, honors English, grades 10-12. Great teacher and great humanitarian. Without her years of preaching about the power and the importance of books, I’d have never dared think I might be a writer.  

Remember Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who advocated for a girl’s right to an education and defied the Taliban who in 2012 shot her in the head for doing so? After surviving her attack, Malala continued her activism for women’s educational rights, and received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala said, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

As writers, we know the truth and the power of those words.

Thanks for stopping by,

Deborah Epperson

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