Montana Women Write Blogs

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By Janice McCaffrey

Authors of the Flathead will host their 30th annual Writers Conference September 2020. This group was established by local authors to support and encourage one another and anyone interested in writing. In 2013 a few women in the group wanted to learn more about self-publishing and promoting their work. Thus began Montana Women Writers.

The founders set up a website: www.montanawomenwriters.com with four pages. Home explaining the groups’ mission, The Women with member’s pictures and bios, The Words which highlights the author’s books with links to purchase them, and The View, a blog which promotes members’ work the first of every month through Book News and mww bloggers 4features individual members’ posts the other weeks of each month.mww bloggers 6

According to an online dictionary the word ‘blog’ can be a noun: a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, which is written in an informal or conversational style. Or a verb: to add new material to or regularly update a blog.

mww bloggersA description of blogs I discovered online says that some blogs are categorized by genres that focus on a particular subject—writing. It also says that collaborative or group blogs are written by more than one author and are usually based around a single uniting theme–Montana women who write.

I’ve looked over The View’s archives and see that originally each month had a theme. May was mothers, June, weddings, and each of the four seasons had a month to themselves. mww bloggers 5Also published were excerpts from member’s published books or works in progress, thoughts members had from their personal reading like a characters’ specific strengths and weaknesses, their circumstances, actions, emotions, or motivations and how each may have influenced readers. mww bloggers 7Other topics have included personal and/or writing goals or resolutions, life in Montana, lessons learned from the writing and promoting experience, inspiration, creativity, memories associated with holidays, seasons, family, and friendship.

With you I look forward to the original blogs that will be published in 2020. And I’ll watch for some flash backs that were posted over the years. And like you I’ll contemplate, learn from, and enjoy the thoughts my fellow Montana Women Writers share.

Let’s enjoy the adventure together.

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!

‘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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A Necessary Inspiration

By Marsha Nash Sultz

Sometimes inspiration sneaks up behind you and whispers in your ear. Sometimes it knocks you over the head with great vigor. In my case, frustration once drove me to create a solution for the unknowable.

Years ago, I was interested in family genealogy to the point of obsession. Where did I come from? Whose genetic oomph propelled me to become me? I was hip-deep in Ancestry.com when I discovered that my great-grandfather’s information ended abruptly. He was born during the Civil War in a small town in Tennessee and raised as an orphan. The courthouse records, and the courthouse, were destroyed by the townspeople to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Yankees. 

What? Who destroys their own records? 

After searching to no avail for another month I sat back, dumbfounded and upset. I wanted to know the beginning of Great-Grandpa Sam’s life. The only thing I knew from my Aunt Margie was that he was a sweet man, an orphan who was raised by neighbors. That wasn’t enough for me.

What does a writer do when confronted with a bad ending? She writes a new one.

I took the bare bones of setting, time period and characters and created my own small town, Benson’s Furnace, Tennessee. I led with a skirmish set during the Civil War in which a wounded Confederate captain is forced to remain behind, in secret. What ensues is forbidden love, betrayal and misunderstanding between certain female citizens of the town and our Captain. Twenty-five years later, he decides to return to Benson’s Furnace to atone for his past behavior.

My story becomes a saga of Southern post-war life in a small town where no one wants to talk about the past. Unfortunately, the captain’s appearance brings up memories of southern defeat and shame and the unthought-of parentage of Sam, an unintended result of the captain’s liaison with the wrong woman.

This story is wildly different from Sam’s real life. He married a local girl, fathered three children and moved to West Tennessee to become a cotton farmer. 

Do I owe Sam the truth? Did my imagination bend reality to the point of denying the existence of an authentic life? 

I can’t help but think that I’ve improved the story while paying tribute to a relative whose history remains a blank in the record book. As they say in bad detective movies, names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Besides, everyone needs a satisfying ending – to a story, to a novel or to a life.

The Year I Turned Pro

By Kathy Dunnehoff

2018 is the year that I turned pro.

For those of you who know me, that might sound strange. I’ve been a writer and a writing teacher for more than 25 years, and I’ve got four novels published and lots more written. Hadn’t I already “turned pro?”

No, I had not.

Let me explain by telling you about a small book I read in 2017. “Turning Pro” by Stephen Pressfield (the author of several books on writing and the novel/film “The Legend of Bagger Vance”) is about the professional habits of a writer. He says it’s not what you’ve done or not done. It’s not whether or not you’re published or making any money or any other measurement you may use. Being professional is approaching your work with solid habits and a commitment to yourself to produce.

I think I’m a pretty fast writer, so I’ve been able to produce despite being a bit sporadic about it, but in 2018 I wanted to put my head down and treat my writing with the same level of professionalism I approach my teaching.

I started by setting a work schedule. I would write Monday through Friday every morning until I hit my word count for new writing or page count for revising. And I would not put other things ahead of it (with the exception of a fairly short meditation and a stout cup of tea). There would be no, “I need to grade these essays first, and I can easily write this afternoon.” Also forbidden before the work is done? Laundry, the internet, errands, a shower, or other writing related things like outlining etc…

What happened? LOTS MORE WRITING! And even more importantly, the emergence of a professional habit I feel good about every day.

2018 was the year I really turned pro.