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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

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I Do All My Own Stunts, But Never Intentionally*

Ann Minnett MWW photo

 

By Ann Minnett

 

The title appeared in my Facebook feed this morning, posted by an ‘old’ friend. I resonated. 

I’m recovering from knee surgery (healing nicely) and had just purchased heavy duty ice cleats for my hiking boots. Northwest Montana is famous for winter ice, but I intend to keep moving, regardless of the weather. Hikes in all seasons are not only therapeutic for the soul but counteract the physical strains of writing.

Yes, writing.

Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy, spoke at the 2019 Flathead River Writer’s Conference. She talked about the physical stress writers experience by the act of writing. She’s had Carpal Tunnel surgeries on both wrists, developed from nonstop hours of writing. My fellow writers complain of shoulder pain, circulation problems, eyestrain, lower back pain, and my favorite, numb butt. 

I get it. When I’m writing and find my creative zone, it’s hard to stop, stand up, flex, bend, or take a walk. Health breaks disrupt the creative process. 

Recovering from surgery, I walk with a cane and try not to overdo my physical activity. Yesterday, I walked a bit outside and then sat at my desk for a couple of hours, forgetting to move. Ouch! I over did sedentary

That’s why I ordered the hiking cleats this morning. And that’s why my friend’s Facebook message hit home. I don’t have to hike five miles and slip on the ice to hurt myself. Writing, one of the most pleasurable activities of my life, can sneak up and bite me if I’m not careful.

Ann Minnett

annminnett.com

Twitter.com/@ann_minnett

Instagram.com/@annminnett

Facebook.com/annminnettwriter

annminnettwriter@gmail.com

*Facebook.com/OldTimers Community

 

Writing Blind

claudette young

By Claudette Young

Writers come in all shapes and sizes. Each one’s background is different, experiences unique, and needs individualized. 

But the challenges each writer faces aren’t always obvious. For me, the challenge is doing what I do from behind eyes that are virtually blind to the outside world.  One eye contributes little and the other battles to remain a viable organ.

So, how do I produce anything in this sight and tech-driven world? I have lots of help, in several forms.

I use Dragon Naturally Speaking for dictation and command software. Coupled with MS Office, I can write, revise and edit. My dragon, Usul, allows me to take command of my computer. Usul can transcribe my spoken notes from a voice recorder into a Word document as easily as hearing it through my headset mike.

MS Word also has speech/reading capacity and a voice command capability available. Any good geek—on the Squad or not—can set up that function. A bit of practice gains mastery.

For screenwriting, I use Final Draft, which is easy to learn, reads back text for revision and editing, and has everything needed for the job.

If I’m forced to read actual text, I can set up my computer document for huge font sizes. My fallback setting is 22 pt font—Times New Roman, to be exact. And a good headset with microphone helps keep things under control most of the time. 

Good software helps. As with any disability/handicap/challenge, accepting the need to adapt is the most critical aspect of working with a vision impairment. Understanding what you need, verses what you want, is also key.

For those who are facing a similar challenge or who know someone who faces it, I give these pointers.

  • In order to get the resources–whether visual aids, training, or support—tackle the situation head-on.
  • Diagnosis from a qualified specialist gives you more pertinent information than you might think. You can’t adjust or adapt without that knowledge and support. Once the problem is defined, you can search for necessary resources.
  • Begin with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. The gal to connect in Kalispell is Melissa Leggett: 406-751-5940. She’s in charge of the Division for the Blind for the Kalispell area. She has more resources at her fingertips than you’d ever find on your own.
  • If you need specialized equipment, there are avenues to pursue. Melissa can steer you toward what you need and when/where to lean harder in that direction. Within a year or so, I’ll probably need a large auto reader for print materials. Such readers come in many forms and sizes from desktop to hand-held. I already use a camera reader to enlarge print, for instance. Oh, and plenty of strong handheld magnifiers or lighted headgear.
  • Books, magazines and periodicals are available in audio form through the public library (provided by Library of Congress), Amazon Prime and Audible, and individual publishers.
  • For those online magazines and other reading material, Dragon Naturally speaking can read them for you, if necessary. 
  • The trick is to know when your eyes are being strained too much and when to let go of the physical reading experience. 
  • Organizations, such as Lion’s Club International, are also great resources for exploration. Lions Club chapters dedicate themselves to assisting those in need of dog guides—Leader Dogs for the Blind, specialized equipment too costly for the average person to afford, and other necessities like eyeglasses.
  • Yet, the most helpful and necessary resource is an adequate support structure to help buoy up a person’s spirits or help for navigating the unfamiliar territory of adaptation and growth.

I hope I’ve given those who need it the information to help make informed decisions about dealing with dimming vision. Not all are writers, but everyone is touched by this malady. Globally, blindness is one of the fastest growing challenges today, both economically and medically. Few are left untouched by it.

If anyone needs or wants additional information or questions answered, please feel free to contact me at: ettedualc48@yahoo.com. I’ll be happy to answer what I can or send you to someone who can get the information to you.

Remember, no one is alone. As writers, we care about each other and are here to help whenever possible.

Claudette

http://www.claudettejyoung.com

Resources:

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking can be found on Amazon.com or Nuance.com—Nuance is the software provider of this product
  • Final Draft for screenwriters/playwrights can be had at both Amazon.com and FinalDraft.com
  • Tutorials for Word Speech are available in video form on YouTube or on Lynda.com tutorials
  • Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Kalispell–   

          121 Financial Drive Suite B,  Kalispell, MT 59901, (406) 751-5940                   http://dphhs.mt.gov/detd/vocrehab/mvrservices.aspx

  • Library of Congress Low Vision Reading Program—Imagine If Library – downtown Kalispell or any legitimate library in the county.

Almost Pioneers

karen in her hat small

Contributed by Karen Wills

My mother, Evelyn Wills, wrote the following true account of her family’s move from their farm in North Dakota to Montana during the Great Depression. I’m so glad she left this memory, and I’m so proud of my grandparents. They exemplified Hemingway’s definition of  courage as “grace under pressure.”  

This first appeared in The Montana Journal January-February 1997.

Almost Pioneers 

Our western North Dakota farm family was hard hit by the Great Depression. Dad could repair any kind of machinery, but neighbors who needed him couldn’t pay. When my ten-year-old sister fell ill with appendicitis, my parents sold the kitchen table and chairs to pay doctor bills.

Then, in 1928 when I was nine, my oldest uncle left Tolley, North Dakota, in desperation. Miraculously, he found work with the Big West Oil Company on the high plains near Shelby, Montana. He sent word of the oil boom, and my parents decided to follow him west.

Dad cut down the sides of our Model T so the front seat could be folded back into a bed for the four of us on the 400-mile journey. He had $11.00. Of course, this was long before credit cards, and our bank had closed its doors.

My mother suffered from a fierce migraine during every mile on the dusty, rutted road to the unknown West. But my sister and I, dressed in knickers sewn by a neighboring farm woman as a good-bye gift, loved the adventure.montana here we come  We had crayons and paper and considered signs fair game for additional coloring. At night we camped with other displaced travelers, cooking suppers over little fires whose colors matched the blazing sunsets reflected in the broad Missouri River.

Unfortunately, when the time came to sleep, the curtains lowered over the Model T’s windows did a poor job of keeping away thirsty mosquitoes.

Our faithful auto did succeed at a tortoise-and-hare act as we were passed several times on the trip by a man in a shiny new touring car. He’d race ahead, stop for unknown reasons, then hurry on, passing us again. When we arrived in time to share the same campground for the third night in a row, the frustrated driver finally walked over, kicked our tire and sputtered, “What the hell kind of car is this?”

At the Big West Camp, a line of buildings on the vast prairie, the Company provided our own place—a former cook house. I remember the big stove. 

By the time blooming cactus and other wild flowers softened the fields next spring, we had moved to a normal house, but drilling for oil was so close that my mother didn’t hang out the wash for fear it would be splattered from a gusher. kitties in a basket

On hot days, we took needlework outside to the shade of the company coal house, where a cool breeze always seemed to rise from the foundation.

The Company promoted Dad, and the strain of poverty vanished. Pictures of Mama taken then show a sort of time reversal. She appears younger in each new photograph.

By having the faith and courage to pack their children into a Model T and venture west from one sort of country to another during the drought-ridden depression, my parents achieved a secure living. However, for the rest of his life, Dad kept his savings under the mattress.

 

Ancient Feasts

Photo.cropped

By M. F. Erler

In recent years I’ve become very interested in the ancient feasts which marked the passage of the seasons, especially those of my Celtic and Scandinavian ancestors.  My geographer son has even helped me build a small and accurate replica of Stonehenge in our backyard. He used a compass and calculations of latitude, longitude, and altitude to mark the position of the sunrises and sunsets on the Equinoxes and Solstices.

But what has really caught my attention are the celebrations, or feasts, which mark the mid-points between the Equinoxes and Solstices.  It’s especially interesting to see that many of them are still observed in some form in our own times, though most people have no idea where they originated.

To the ancients, all these dates were known as times when the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds was thinnest.  The best example is probably Halloween, Oct. 31, which marks the halfway point between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice.  Ever since ancient times, this has been observed as a time when the dead were said to walk the earth for one night.  Now, of course, we have costumes, Jack-o-lanterns, and trick or treat. The Catholic Church in Medieval times made it the eve of All Saints Day, a day to honor the saints who had died.  Our word “Halloween” comes from the words “All Hallows Eve” or “Hallows E’en.”

Next we have Feb. 2, which marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  We call it Groundhog Day.  In Medieval times it was taken by the Church as Candlemas, a service when all the candles made to be used in the coming year were consecrated.  I’m not sure what the rodent has to do with candles, but there is a slim connection—candles were the main source of light and the groundhog needed light to see his shadow.

The midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice is May 1, which some of us still celebrate as May Day.  This was a festival of fertility in ancient times, which appealed to the gods to provide good crops.  In many climates, this was the time of year that most of the crops were being planted and domestic animals were giving birth.  The ideas of flower baskets and Maypoles have probably come down to us from ancient fertility rites.

It’s taken me much longer to find information on Aug. 1 or Lammas, which is midway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox.  I finally got information in a book on Druids that I ran across at a workshop of Celtic Heritage in America.  I learned, as I suspected, that Lammas is a feast of harvest. In northern climates, it would be just the early first-fruits.  The word Lammas in Irish is Lughnasadh, and in Scottish Gaelic it’s Lunasad. Lunasa is Irish for August, too.

The ancient god Lugh, in Irish myth, is god of all arts and crafts.  He is also considered to be the greatest of the gods, and the name implies he has a large head. Lugh is found beyond the British Isles, too, being depicted in early art from Sweden to the Punjab.  Of course, the Irish added their own twist, weaving the story that Lugh has now become “Lugh-chromain” which is the Irish word we pronounce as “leprechaun,” certainly a crafty character if ever there was one.

So whatever time of year it happens to be, there’s something to celebrate.  To me, the passage of the seasons is a reassuring reminder that whatever Fate or Mother Nature brings, life goes on.  And if we don’t like the current season, another one will arrive soon enough.