I have spent a lot of energy encouraging people to be positive. In fact, I created a Facebook group that I named “An Encouraging Word” to help people do just that. But as I posted today about thinking happy thoughts, I realized, it’s not always possible. We are in the midst of a pandemic. People around us are suffering. Our lives have indelibly changed, and so has the society we live in. People we love have contracted COVID-19 and have faced tremendous health challenges. Some have lost the battle. Children are being raised in bubbles, bereft of the benefits of both socialization and extracurricular activities that stimulate the mind and body. Essential workers risk themselves daily. The divisiveness in our country has plagued our news and social media for months. The list goes on and on. We may not even realize it, but in the depths of our psyche we are feeling an unbearable sadness for some or all of these things.
Crying is a powerful way to relieve stress. Allowing our tears to flow can be a cleansing act that leaves us reinvigorated to face the world. The trigger that turns on the faucet may seem completely random or even unidentifiable, but it is a response to the pain or stress we are feeling, even if it’s on a subconscious level and we can’t readily identify it. Watching a television show, reading a Facebook post, talking to a friend on the phone, have all been triggers for deep-seated emotions I wasn’t aware of, to surface unexpectedly. An emotional response has also happened when I was in the midst of a holiday celebration at work, suddenly filling my eyes with tears. The dam can threaten to burst at the most awkward times, but don’t let that stop you from recognizing your need to cry even if you feel compelled to delay your response until you get to a more private place.
I think my biggest takeaway when I reflect on all this is, that it is okay to have those moments when you sit down and just bawl. A real tear gushing, chest heaving, gasping for air, soak your shirt, cry session. God gave us tears for a purpose. It is a cleansing, like when rain refreshes the earth. But like rain, we don’t want it to turn into a destructive force and flood us, so we are unable to function. Release those pent-up emotions, then focus on healthy ways to cope with what brought them on. Find balance in your life – think happy thoughts and find ways to encourage yourself and others, but don’t deny yourself the opportunities to release the stress you are feeling, even if you don’t quite know why. A good cry can be a very good thing.
We are living in extraordinary times. The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. But while that is certainly true, living through a pandemic is new for most of us. It has been a challenging time as we receive changing information daily and must navigate our relationships, how we conduct business, make tough decisions regarding our children’s education, and what we should or shouldn’t do based on something we can’t even see. I know for myself, I sometimes wake up and everything feels so surreal – I never imagined living through this type of situation.
But on the flip side, I never would have imagined being invited to attend a software boot camp at 57 years of age, staying up until 2:00 in the morning for three months straight, learning completely new technologies with young adults less than half my age. Yet, here I am, job offer in hand and I start on Monday. That also feels surreal. But it also shows that God has never stopped working in our lives for our good.
We do have much to celebrate even in the midst of pandemics and hurricanes. Some of our members have been battling health issues and we have seen rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds as they report improvements. Others are in the midst of various battles, but have their fellow Carrollton League of Writers praying for them and cheering them on. And it’s important to note that as a group, we have accomplished so much this year, despite having to forego meeting in person.
Our Accomplishments over the last year have been many. In no particular order:
Three day writing retreat at Lake Texoma
Started Tuesday Night Hangouts
Halloween potluck costume party
Valentine’s Day party/contest – Ed is our winner!
Our newest member, Ellie Crippen, made her grand entrance into the world on July 27 – Congratulations to Will and Jennifer for the birth of their beautiful baby muggle!
Monthly member spotlights
Monthly presentations by industry professionals, free to the public
Write-Ins at Café Brazil and Kimzey’s Coffee
Our Facebook Group increased to 193 members
New website (Thanks Jackie!)
Director took a three month sabbatical to attend a software boot camp – board members stepped in and CLW ran smoothly – which speaks to the leadership of the board and the solidarity of our group!
Many of our members attended WORDFest virtually – We are thankful for W.O.R.D. and the creativity that allowed them to offer a weekend of great writing-related programming online!
Dallas Story Teller’s Guild presented Ghost Tales, a two-day spook-tacular event. CLW’s very own Steve was one of the storytellers.
In October, CLW participated in Writers in the Field and had a great time! Scott presented on ham radios and Phil on renewable energy.
Our first short story contest happened in 2020 with the following winners:
Author: Sandra Payton
Title: Leaves Are People, Too
Author: Ed Wooten
Title: Defining Moments
Author: Steve McCluer
Title: The Vampire Interviews
An anthology committee was formed and is working hard on the logistics of our 2nd anthology.
Second Annual Arianne “TEX” Thompson Flash Fiction Contest (Judge Amber Royer) Winners – Artis, Scott, and Jennifer
Amazingly FUN Christmas party
Peggy launched “The Little Ladybug”
Andrea was published in an anthology “The Day We Came Back: Future Reports After the Pandemic” in April.
Andrea is also up for awards in the 22nd International Latino Book Awards in two categories: the Rudolfo Anaya Latino Fiction Book and Best novel – historical fiction, for her novel Las Mujeres de la Guerra (The Women of the War).
Scott’s brainchild, the Carrollton League of Writers blog, has been launched.
Monthly birthday celebrations
Phil and Nancy renewed their wedding vows on horseback and shared their joy with CLW.
Ross was published in the “The California Numismatist” and won two awards: the Virginia Hall Literary Award for medals (1st place) and the Charles Kappan Literary Award for articles on Exonumia (2nd place). The article was “The Perilous Pigeon Post” in the Fall 2019 issue.
Board of Directors elections were held.
Bylaws have been completed, voted upon, and are now official.
Breakfast outing to Mom’s Café to celebrate Sandy’s birthday
CLW “Writers Health Month” with speakers on mental health, nutrition and ergonomics
Our second anthology (professionally edited) will launch in time for Christmas giving.
Supported Amber Royer’s book launch: Fake Chocolate
Nancy had two full manuscript requests for Alien Neighbors.
WORD Historian – Jennifer did a presentation for Granbury Writers’ Bloc on “Using Archives to Build a Better Story.”
Nancy did a presentation for TEKsystems software bootcamp on Copyright and Fair Use for SW Developers.
First Anniversary Bash with a western theme was a great success!
We always want to give back to our community, and during our second year we found several ways to do so:
Food pantry donations
Donations to the Rwandan orphans – educational fundraising went instead to basic survival needs because of the pandemic
Participated in our host church’s school supply drive
Member support: meals provided for Will and Jennifer
But out of all of our accomplishments, I am most proud of our unity. It saddens me to see so much divisiveness in our country right now. Our writers group is a microcosm of our country, and we have chosen to come together to love, support, and encourage one another, despite our differences. I can’t help but think that if our behavior was duplicated in the real world, what a wonderful world it would be!
I want to leave you with this…while there are real concerns for each one of us that we are struggling to address during this difficult time, there is also hope and responsibility. We have the hope of a better day, and I believe that is in the not too distant future. We will come out the other side and we will have a strength of spirit that we are cultivating during this time of national crisis, that we will possess the rest of our lives. Our parents and grandparents experienced this during World War Two. I can hear my mother’s words in times of trouble, “We are survivors…” and “It’s not a forever thing.” We will get through this, and it won’t last forever.
And we as writers also have a responsibility. When I have my engineering hat on, I am seeking effective and efficient solutions to problems. But I have found that writing is an effective and efficient solution as well – to the problems brought about through our humanity. It may not fix the problems, but it helps them to be easier to endure while we work through them. I want to challenge each of you to a renewed spirit in your writing. Rather than allowing our external circumstances quench our spirit, let’s rise above it and use our writing gifts to bless others. Let’s look back at this year in our writing group’s history and remember it as the time we all continued to “fight the good fight and write the good write.”
A special thanks to the folks at Carrollton Church of the Nazarene for allowing us to use their fellowship hall – they have blessed us beyond measure with their generosity.
It’s been a challenging year but I’m looking forward to another one as we travel this writing journey together – I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else than with the Carrollton League of Writers!
I have been thinking about the pandemic and how it has affected not just our family, or even our country, but the entire world. I am very blessed to have a friend named Ingrid. She lives in China. In fact, she lives in the epicenter of the coronavirus, Wuhan. I met Ingrid through my husband Phil’s work. She works for a supplier for his company. During the pandemic, Ingrid and I started exchanging emails. We have never met in person and we come from two very different cultures, but we share a common humanity. I want to tell you about the friendship we found. I decided to let excerpts from our emails tell our story.
Our first emails began on February 29, 2020. Ingrid and her husband and her son, Sam, were under lockdown in Wuhan and the first death attributed to the coronavirus in the United States was announced in Washington State, about 40 miles from where our son Josh had started his internship in January with World Vision. In my first email I greeted Ingrid and her family, and did my best to encourage her:
I hope you and your beautiful family are doing well. It must be very hard to be restricted to your home all of these weeks. I am so sorry you are all having to experience this hardship. I just wanted to write to tell you that you and your family and everyone affected by the corona virus are all in our prayers. We are praying for safety for you, your family, all of the communities affected, and the health care workers. We are also praying for healing for those who have contracted the virus.
Ingrid responded on March 4th with a lovely email in return, but one that also spoke of the hardship they were experiencing:
Yes, we have been restricted at home for quite some time, today is the 42nd day. Life was difficult but is getting better and better now.
We used to be panic, not sure if we would have enough food; we used to be scared, so many people got affected but no bed for them in hospital; we used to be so sad, so many cries for help on internet, yet so many people died every day; we used to be inspired, so many doctors, nurses, came bravely to our city to help. Since it is not so difficult for us to buy food (although we are still not allowed to go out of the community, we can order online and collect at the door gate), we are more and more get used to this life now.
What makes me happy is that none of my family members, relatives, friends, in Wuhan have got affected. I hope we can keep this record. 🙂
All your family members are good looking. I love your smile. I can tell you are a nice, kind-hearted lady from your face. 🙂 Your son is so handsome, I love his beard, so cool~~~I can tell he is a sunshine boy with good temper. Phil is always so lovely! I found out he loves plaid shirt deeply. Am I right?
Yes! Ingrid you are right! LOL
Ingrid also shared about cutting her husband and son’s hair, since it was getting so long during their lock down. She ended her email with:
Don’t worry dear Nancy, we will get through this hard time soon.
I hope you and your lovely family members always happy and healthy.
My husband and my son Sam, ask me to say thanks to you. Your letter also warms and encourages them. They appreciate it. We are now looking forward to spring. When spring comes, maybe we can step outside…
On March 8th I wrote in return:
Our hearts are breaking for all of those affected around the world. We must all stand together and love and support one another! I saw a wonderful video on youtube – I wish you could see it. It shows people from countries around the world all giving the same message – Stay Strong, Wuhan! Stay Strong, China! China Strong! Wuhan Strong! We are all in this together! If we all work together we can overcome these challenges! Be courageous – We stand by you! We are with you!
Dear Ingrid, I hope you and your family find it encouraging to know that 🙂
Sprinkled throughout these emails are pictures we shared of what we have each been cooking during lockdown.
Ingrid’s next email on March 10th, she wrote:
I still would like to remind you to wear mask when go to public places like supermarket if possible, wash your hands whenever you take food. Do not touch your mouth, nose, and eyes with your hands. I can understand Josh will think we such mothers are “making a storm in a teacup,” but please also try to remind him. We also hope your family stay healthy.
Part of my response on March 14th:
You write excellent English! I am also an ESL teacher and have taught English to my students from around the world, including China. I am very impressed with your command of the English language!
Regarding your question about the outbreak, yes, I am referring to the corona virus. The first case in the United States was in Washington state, in the same county where our son is working for World Vision. We wanted him to fly home to be with us, but we decided it was too dangerous, since there have been over 450 cases. We are afraid he has a greater chance of being exposed if he goes to an airport or gets in an airplane. Washington has had the most infections. Very sadly, they began in a nursing home and several of the residents have died. The corona virus has also spread to California and New York with large numbers of cases. As you know, we live in Texas. It has also arrived here. Because Phil has asthma and is 65 years old, we are staying home. He will not be going into work next week and UPG will reevaluate how to proceed at the end of next week. Fortunately, we have lots to do at our house so hopefully we will keep busy and safe.
Thank you so much for your advice and concern, dear Ingrid. I love the idiom you shared, “making a storm in a teacup.” An English equivalent would be “making a mountain out of a molehill.” And yes, our sons often think that way because of their youth, but rest assured Joshua understands the gravity of the situation and is anxious to protect not only himself, but also our more vulnerable population. He is staying in his host family’s house and working from there. The schools have all been shut down. It is a scary time for all of us but we have faith in God that He will provide for us and for the world, which keeps us from worrying too much. We are praying for you and your family and for everyone affected by the pandemic.
And part of Ingrid’s next response on March 17th:
You are right to not let Josh come back at this time. The most dangerous thing is to go to public places with many people. Airport is surely a very dangerous place. Even in Wuhan, since we stayed at home, my family and all of my 36 relatives in this city are ok. Most of the people who got infected are those who have been to hospital or supermarket. You and Phil please also stay at home. I have been stayed at home for 54 days. Based on my experience, I have to say we human beings are good at getting used to suit any environment. We all feel quite ok at home now. The best things is that we can have enough sleep, which is good for our health but we never have chance to fulfill if not because of the virus. 🙂
In Ingrid’s next email on March 26th:
Haven’t heard from you for so many days, how are you doing?
After 64 days’ stay at home, finally I stepped out of my house yesterday. I was so excited for that. I have been to a grocery store near my house. Haven’t shopped for more than 2 months, even the snacks there made me more excited. I bought so much snacks, some of which I did not like to take in the past. We need a good chance to vent. 🙂
The good news is although our city is still locked down, our plant is re-opened. Not all the workers are able to be back at present but it is still a good sign that our life will slowly back to normal. But experts said the virus may return after our city unblocks, so we must be very very careful when back to work.
Based on our experience, we all think only if we do not go to public places, wear mask, wash our hands carefully, do not touch our eyes, nose and mouth with our hands, the virus can be not so terrible.
I wish you and your family members take good care of yourselves and get through this hard time soon~~~
And on March 27th from me:
Thank you so much for writing! You have been on my heart to respond to your last email every day, but things have gotten pretty crazy around here. I am sorry if I worried you. We are well and safe,
I am sooooo happy you got to go outside yesterday – that is wonderful news!!! I understand about the shopping – I was so excited two days ago when I managed to buy some toilet paper on Amazon 🙂
I am so happy to hear that life is slowly starting to get back to normal. Our challenges began over a week ago which is why I have not returned your other email yet.
Ingrid’s response, also on March 27th:
I am happy to see your email, which tells me you are all ok. In fact I was a little worried about you since you seldom don’t reply for so long time. Now I am released.
I guess the crazy you mentioned should be people are trying to store toilet paper and food? When the virus comes, all the people are doing these, so you do not need to worry too much, just also store enough at home and try to lessen your chances to go out, I believe you will be safe.
I responded on March 29th:
Thank you for your advice regarding the protocol for staying safe and preventing infection. I told Josh and he says he understands what to do. He still goes to the grocery store but only once every two weeks and very early before it gets busy. I worry sometimes, but I also trust God to take care of my son.
It is hard to keep Phil home. He is used to being very active, so I have to be creative in finding things to keep him busy. You are right, we human beings can adapt, but I think it’s harder for some people than others to be stuck home. I am glad he likes to cook!
I enjoy our chats – it is very relaxing and peaceful to visit with a sweet friend! Please tell your husband and Sam hello for us – you and your family are in our prayers for safety, peace, and provision.
I sent this one on April 3rd:
I hope you and your family are all safe and doing well. I am a little bit worried because you have not responded yet – I am hoping to hear from you soon, so I can know you are okay.
Please answer as soon as you are able – I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Please give my greetings to your husband and Sam. Phil says hello also.
Take care dear friend,
And received this from Ingrid in reply on April 3rd:
I am so sorry for my late reply. And I am sorry to make you worried.
I resumed to work in office this Monday. So many emails and so much work, my brains are so so so full .
After my first working day, when I went home, I saw Sam was playing basketball downstairs with mask. I was a little sad at that time, because after 71 days’ staying at home, this is the first time he stepped out of the house, but still with mask on; I was also a little touched seeing him so energetic under the beautiful flower tree. No matter how hard life is, it can still be beautiful and full of hope, isn’t it?
On April 4th I responded:
I am so glad to receive your email! Now I also am released from worry 🙂 When I didn’t get the auto-reply I thought you might have returned to work – you must be so busy catching up!
I can tell you are a tender loving mother also, and that you worry about your son like all good mothers do. The picture of Sam brought tears to my eyes. Yes, my dear Ingrid, no matter how hard life is, it can still be beautiful and full of hope! I also feel very blessed that even in terrible times we can find some good. I have found a lovely new friend in an amazing and sweet lady named Ingrid, and I am thankful for that 🙂
We found in our emails that we not only have a common humanity, but also a common hope. We both see that hope in our children and in the beauty of life, even when it is hard. We also found hope in our friendship.
From Ingrid on April 7th:
About our friendship, it is really a great gift to me. It lighted my dark days.
From me on April 9th:
I treasure your friendship, dear Ingrid. It reminds me that we are all the same in our hearts no matter where we live or what country we are from. Thank you so much for your love and encouragement – they are precious to me.
If two women who have never met can form a caring friendship and encourage and inspire each other from opposite sides of the world, just imagine what is possible for all of us! Ingrid and I invite you to join us in finding a common hope in the beauty of life even in these difficult times and to recognize our common humanity with the people of all nations – we will all get through this together!
Valentine’s Day seems like a good time to recognize those folks around us who have had a hand in our success. Certain elements are required in order to be successful in any endeavor. In engineering, a strong foundation in your chosen area is essential. This may be acquired through education and experience. A desire and ability to learn continually (our field changes so rapidly that this is not a luxury but a necessity) is also required. Being able to work well with others is always important, even if the job is mostly solitary. There are still times when you have to interact with internal and external customers. But when I reflect on my own career, I can truly say that my success was in large part due to the folks around me that were willing to invest in me.
It all started with my first job out of school. I worked my way through college, and upon graduation I embarked on my career in electronics. I was hired to work for a major semiconductor company. When I look back at the uncertain young woman I was in 1990, entering a mostly male field and armed with an electronics foundation that was mostly theory but with no real world experience, I can see how those first months were pivotal for me. I was incredibly blessed to have an amazing co-worker named Curtis who took me under his wing. When I look back at how many times I asked him for help in that first year and his always patient and cheerful response that enabled me to complete the task I had been assigned, I can see how I became much more confident in myself and my ability to utilize my electronics knowledge because of his tutelage. His love of Calvin and Hobbes and his willingness to forgive me when I shot him in the eye with a rubber band are fond memories I carry to this day. I was only at that job one year, but it was my important first one out of school and Curtis’ mentoring made a huge difference in shaping my future and helping me to be successful.
My next job was for another semiconductor company, where I would spend the next twelve years. During that time I was surrounded by incredible people who were willing to help a still fairly new employee learn the ropes and make her feel welcome. It was an amazing experience because those folks were truly a family and they welcomed me into the fold without reservation. One engineer in particular, Norris, is one of those few people that are incredibly intuitive in electronics. They don’t have to labor through understanding like I do. Sometimes it takes awhile for the light bulb to turn on over my head – Norris was born with the light already on. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard, he does. In fact, he works harder because he also takes the time to mentor those that he works with. I could bring any electronics problem, large or small, and know that Norris would provide the guidance I needed to work through it. I learned so much from him and the other folks in our test engineering group that were always ready to lend a hand. I also learned to have a great work ethic that has served me well over the years.
Another group of people that are often unheralded are the sales people that I worked with. These could be parts sales, equipment sales, or salespeople that represented several different manufacturers. Typically engineers and salespeople seem to be diametrically opposed in how they think and what their goals are. But the salespeople that were constants for me during my career have been phenomenal in providing support when I needed it. While there are too many to mention, I would like to share with you about one sales rep named Jay. Whenever I needed test equipment for one of my test racks, chances were, Jay was representing that particular manufacturer and I called on him often. He was the kind of guy that would do whatever it took to get you the product you needed on time. He was also a very smart guy and would share his knowledge to help solve problems, even if it wasn’t related to the sale. He was generous with his time and he celebrated with us when we did well and when we weren’t doing so good, he did everything that he could from his end to help things improve. He was supportive in all of my engineering endeavors, even those that didn’t bring him income. When I started teaching software seminars and needed an extra computer for a client to use – he loaned me one of his. When I created a web page for test engineering and the table I was creating was giving me problems, he came over and showed me the html code that would solve the issue. Beyond that, he helped me when my life took an unexpected hard turn. He was there to provide wisdom and tangible assistance during a very difficult time.
I met Jay in the mid-90s and although we both took different career paths since then, we always managed to keep in touch, even if it was just a phone call months or a year or two apart, until recently. The last year and a half my husband and I stayed in much more frequent touch, walking alongside Jay and his lovely wife as he battled with pancreatic cancer. Being able to laugh with him, cry with him, and pray with him, was a privilege of our friendship that started so many years ago, when he was a salesman and I was a test engineer. Jay is with the Lord now and isn’t suffering any more. The last time I saw Jay, I told him that I was really glad that God had brought us together. I would not have traded our friendship for anything. I miss him a lot and in times of trouble I can still hear him say as he frequently did, “It’s gonna be okay.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of work and the responsibilities we have, but ultimately what really matters is the people doing the work. I am grateful for all of the individuals, too numerous to mention, that gave of their time and talent to help me to succeed. The folks at Design News are also in that category, providing many opportunities for me to grow as a writer. You may want to pause and reflect on the people who played a role like that for you, or commit to be that person for someone else. If you would like to honor anyone that played a role in your success, please feel free to share.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Jay. Thanks for being my friend. I miss you.
I saw a pretty thorough rant as a blog post, regarding the superiority of the author’s work in comparison with other novels. This person pretty much lambasted the quality of other novels that were successful in getting published via the traditional route. Due to their inability to get published by a traditional publishing house, this person went the self-published route. According to the blog, due to their lack of expertise in marketing, this person was unable to market their book well, which resulted in poor sales.
I am being gender neutral to protect the identity of this person, because I believe they are writing purely out of bottled up emotion. Which is okay as a cathartic exercise, but not really appropriate on a public forum, especially when it criticizes an entire industry. While I felt this person’s angst, I think this kind of attitude is very dangerous. I can truly empathize with their frustration over the hard road it often takes to traditional publication, a journey I have only recently begun as I search for representation. However, one thing I have learned in both my academic and professional careers, is that writing is very subjective. What one person embraces as wonderful literature, another person may have absolutely no interest in. That to me, while frustrating at times, is actually one of the beautiful things about storytelling. It is about knowing your audience because you are also your audience, and then writing in such a way that you touch their hearts and if you are really good – stir their souls too. This is not something you can contrive, because as soon as you try, it will sound artificial. You must write what you are passionate to write about.
One of the best things you can do when traveling the road of traditional publishing, is to know your audience. This applies to both your targeted readership and to the professionals you are seeking to partner with as part of your publication journey. If your passion is their passion, you have found the right audience to present your work. For the person who posted their rant, I would respond by saying I feel your pain. But celebrating the successes of other authors rather than denigrating their work, is the better road. There is no need to insult other audiences, just because they are not your own. Nobody, and I mean nobody, ever claimed being a writer is easy. There are lots of times we are assaulted by self-doubt and frustration at rejection. In our chosen field, working hard does not guarantee success. But by working hard, we will grow. By being able to accept constructive criticism and apply it, we will grow. The road to publication may be long and difficult. We may receive multiple rejections. But that doesn’t mean we set aside our writing aspirations. We simply work harder to improve our work. Having people around that will pick us up when we are feeling down is always a good thing too.
I love the quote by Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Most importantly, if you are getting a lot of rejections, you shouldn’t be so inflexible that you can’t rethink your project. A definition of insanity that is often quoted is “Doing the same thing over and over, each time expecting different results.” A few rejections may simply be a matter of taste, but being rejected over and over by industry professionals is probably a sign that you are either submitting to the wrong audience or that some major revision is needed. Think of revision not as a negative activity – but as an opportunity to make your work even better. Don’t stop writing, revise that project. You can also start another project, being assured that you have grown in your craft through your previous labor. A writer must write, after all. But when it comes time to submit, know your audience.
[image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]