Our Blog

Please note: MWW is a diverse community of authors. We strive to maintain a professional and quality blog of interest both to readers and fellow writers. The authors are varied, write books on many topics, and come from many backgrounds. While we support and respect each others’ work and opinions, the statements expressed by individual bloggers on this site do not necessarily represent the group as a whole.

With that in mind, read on!

Montana Women Writers 009

Back row, L to R: Christine Carbo, Patti Dean, Marie Martin, Ann Minnett, Jeannie Tallman, Anne B. Howard, and Constance See

Front row: Gail Ranstrom, Kathy Dunnehoff, P.A. Moore, Marlette Bess, Leslie Budewitz, Nan McKenzie, and Betty Kuffel

Camera shy: Deborah Epperson, Angela Miller, Ina Albert, Karen Wills, and Lise McClendon

ONE PERSON’S STORY

Ann Minnett MWW photo

By Ann Minnett

“The story of one person is the story of humanity.”
~Paul Coelho

Earlier this month my husband and I walked the grounds of the American Cemetery in Normandy France where 9,387 American military dead are buried. Some sections were open to the public to stroll between the markers and perhaps find lost loved ones. Although we had no family members to locate, the memorials, the beautiful setting, and pristine white markers moved us to silence. Each headstone listed the man’s name (4 women were buried there), service rank, home state, and date of death. I lingered over a few markers, concentrating on each man’s name as I zigzagged through the maze. It felt wrong to skip even one, and that’s when the impossible task of honoring all of them overwhelmed me.

D-Day markers

D-Day single headstone

I headed toward the central path, and there was a cross bearing the name of Raymond F. Eggers, TEC 5, from Oklahoma. Both sides of my family come from Oklahoma. I was born there. The enormity of war and killing and dying settled onto the headstone of this one young man who died in France 72 years ago. The fact of his grave stone touched me far more deeply than the enormous maps depicting American and British divisions landing on the beaches or parachuting into the countryside behind German lines or even the regimented rows of gravestones stretching in all directions.

Later, on our way through pastoral Normandy toward a seaside village up the coast, it dawned on me why one stranger’s grave stood out among the enormity of the events memorialized in the vast cemetery.

I could relate to the personal story of one man. His background. The loss of him.

And isn’t this where good authors excel? For readers the grand story emerges in telling the ‘small’ moment of one individual.

Enjoy your Memorial Day. Let us be grateful for those who came before and for those we touch today.

(Originally published May 20, 2016)

Breaking Twig (excerpt)

eppersonBW

By Deborah Epperson

PROLOGUE

 I must have been about five the first time Grandpa Eli told me the story of the Pickers and the Picks. He was sitting in his rocking chair on the back porch of the modest plantation house he’d built twenty years earlier. My imaginary friend, Claudia, and I were having a tea party under the shade of the weeping willow. A clump of purple flowers plucked from the wisteria vine trailing along the back picket fence served as our grapes, while half-a-dozen emerald leaves pilfered from a hothouse geranium represented mint cookies.

  “Becky Leigh,” he called. “Did I ever tell you the story of the Pickers and the Picks?”

  “No, sir.” I headed for the porch. “What are Pickers, Grandpa?”

  “Pickers are mainly folks who are big on the outside, but small on the inside.” He gave a push and the oak rocker resumed its familiar cadence. “Not necessarily tall and heavy big. Pickers are more like puffed up big.”

  I climbed into his lap, nestled into the crook of his shoulder. “Like popcorn puffs up when you cook it?”

  “No, more like a sore that’s got infected and is puffed up with mucus and poisons.”

  “That’s yucky.”

  He laughed. “That’s a true fact, Miss Becky.”

  “What do Pickers do?” I asked.

  “Pickers hunt for someone who looks like easy pickin’s.”

  “Easy pickin’s? You mean like when Momma makes Papa and me pick dewberries along the railroad track instead of by Lost Mule Bog because she says it’s easy pickin’s along the tracks? But it’s not really. It’s just the bog is messier, and you know how she hates messes.”

  Grandpa stopped rocking. “Are you going to be quiet and let me finish my story, young’un?”

  I covered my mouth to stifle a giggle. It was the funniest thing, my grandpa pretending to be mad at me. “Yes, sir. I’ll be quiet.”

  The rocker started up again. “As I was saying, a Picker hunts for someone he thinks will be easy pickin’s. That’s usually someone smaller, younger, or weaker in some way. It can be someone whose only weakness is that he or she is a nice person.”

  I tapped Grandpa’s shoulder. “How does a Picker change nice people into Picks?”

  “Well, he screams and hollers at them. He makes them do things they know they shouldn’t do. Champion Pickers are experts at bullyin’, intimidatin’, and dominatin’ other folks.” The rocker stopped once more. “Do you understand anything I’m saying, Becky?”

  “I think so. Maybe. Will I be a Picker or a Pick when I grow up, Grandpa?”

  “Can’t say for sure. Let’s try an experiment.” He helped me down and pointed to a line of ants marching across the porch floor. “Go stand by those ants.”

  I did as I was told.

  “Now, Becky, I want you to stomp them ants as hard as you can.”

  “Why should I kill the ants, Grandpa? They’re not hurting me.”

  “Because you can, girl. Because you can.”

  I began to stomp. I stomped the ants in the middle of the line, the ants in the back of the line, and all the ants at the head of the line. I stomped so hard my cat’s dish vibrated across the floor, tumbled over the edge, and landed in the azalea bushes that circled the back porch. I didn’t stop stomping until all the ants were either dead or beyond my reach.

  Grandpa Eli motioned for me to come back. He put his hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes. “That’s what Pickers do, Becky. They hurt other living things just because they can.” Pulling me closer, he asked, “How did stomping those ants make you feel?”

  I lowered my eyes. “Bad. I felt bad, but . . .”

  “But what?”

  “But when I was stomping them I felt . . .”

  “You felt strong?”

  I nodded, too ashamed to acknowledge my Picker-like feelings in words.

  “How do you think the ants felt?”

  “Terrible,” I said. “And so will Pinecone when he sees his supper is gone.”

  “Don’t you worry about that cat. He won’t starve. But that’s what happens when a Picker gets riled up. Lots of innocent folks get hurt too.”

  “Does this mean I’m gonna be a Picker when I grow up?”

  “It’s all up to you, child. You don’t have to be a Picker or a Pick. You can choose to be nice to people and insist that they be nice to you.”

  I climbed back into his lap. “And if they’re not nice to me?”

  “If you stand up to the Pickers in this world, they’ll leave you alone. Remember, they like easy pickin’s.”

  “Have you ever been a Picker, Grandpa, or a Pick?”

  “Sure. At certain times in life, most people are either a Pick or Picker. It usually takes a lifetime for folks to figure out they don’t have to be either one.”

  “Grandpa, do you think a Picker, a champion Picker that is, can ever change?”

  “Maybe. With the passage of time and a heap of prayers, I think anyone can change.”

  I gave him a hug. “I think we should start praying for Momma right away.”

  Grandpa Eli smiled. “I think you’re right, Becky Leigh.”

       *****

I did start praying. But after both my grandfather and my beloved Papa died, and after the only noticeable change in Momma—despite eight years of fervent prayers—was her new husband, I stopped. I let the tales of Pickers and Picks slip from my mind and forgot Grandpa Eli’s warnings on the perils of becoming easy pickin’s.

  Not until one day in November of ’63 did I recall the lessons of the porch. That was the morning Momma and her new husband, Frank, went to the Miller’s house to watch President Kennedy’s funeral, and the time I got caught slipping into my new stepbrother’s room to borrow some paper. It was also the day a seventeen-year-old boy decided to teach a thirteen-year-old girl a lesson she wouldn’t forget. That was the day I knew for sure I was a Pick.

Breaking TWIG

Breaking TWIG

 

The Magic of Middle-Grade Literature

by Jenny Mattern

C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” Throughout all the years I have been reading and enjoying middle-grade literature, I have found this to be eminently true. What exactly is middle-grade literature, you ask? It’s that sweet spot between beginning chapter books with their controlled, simple language and young adult literature, which so often seems to venture into dark places. In middle-grade literature, the main character is a child on the cusp of something else–in that place between childhood and adulthood where magic can still flourish.

Not long ago, I read The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. It’s not even twenty thousand words, this little novel, but it’s powerful. I handed it to my fourteen-year-old daughter. “Just read this,” I told her, and she did, very quickly. Afterwards, our conversation went something like this:

Me: What did you think of that book?
Teenager: I really liked it.
Me: It made me cry. How about you?
Teenager: Yep.
Me: What did you like about it?
Teenager: I’m not even sure. It was just so, so beautiful.

I do read books written for actual grown-ups, but I probably read twice as much middle-grade literature as any other genre, because when it’s well-written, few things can rival it. Are there books you read as a child that you’d consider reading again? C.S. Lewis also said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” Try to remember what delighted you at age ten or eleven or twelve, and revisit it. If you spend all your time at the library searching through the shelves of the adult books, venture into the children’s section once in a while. You just might be surprised. 

Here are a few suggestions to get you started… 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Happy reading!

To Plan or Not to Plan?

Photo.cropped by M. Frances Erler

I know I’m paraphrasing Shakespeare, so I hope he doesn’t mind.  With the Shelter-at-Home orders due to COVID19, I’ve been facing a challenge I’ve never encountered before.  We all have, I know.  Over the past three weeks all the plans I had for the next five months have gone out the window.  Or into the trash.  And yes, I know I’m not alone.

My quandry is whether to have a schedule for my empty days or not.  I’ve always been a planner, with a daily schedule on my bulletin board and a well-marked calendar on the wall. Setting up a new schedule has the appeal of helping me cope with everything and giving me some stability.  And a way to make sure I don’t ‘waste’ my time.

On the other hand, now that the calendar is gone, along with the schedule, I feel a strange sense of liberation.  I can do what I feel now, go with the flow.  Though I admit I find myself playing Solitaire on my Kindle a lot.  But maybe I need this bit of down time in a stressed life.

Hmm…I’m not sure which is better.  To schedule or not to schedule, that is the question.  Any ideas out there?