Tag Archives: 2016

The Dust Bowl

IMG_1041What does this luscious cake photo have to do with the devastating period in American history know as the Dust Bowl?  Nothing, and that’s the point.

If you want to get a kid interested in history, introduce them to a subject they can really chow down on…like the Dust Bowl.  What child can’t wrap their imagination around:

  • Adults who did dumb things and ruined millions of acres of the most fertile lane on earth.
  • The idea of living in a one-room “soddie” with all your family, stuck half in the earth and topped by the very grass that could have saved your life, dust seeping in at every crack and crevice.
  • Ma going out to the barn in a dust storm so bad that Pa can’t see her after she closes the kitchen door. Pa not finding Ma till spring…where she blew away and finally came to rest up against a barbed wire fence a mile away, now nestled among the tumbleweeds.

 And kids think history is boring?  My beloved Chapter III book club just read The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.  Winner of a National Book Award, this story of those who trekked West in good faith, only to become embroiled in a Titanic-sized effort to survive, is riveting.  If I wrote a book for kids on this subject, I would call it Death by Dust.  Some families left; others stayed.  Imagine kids going to school in a cloud of dust, wet handkerchiefs tied over their faces to try to avoid “dust pneumonia,” which many children did die of eventually.

And the cake?  Well, of all the cookbook and recipe research that I have done over the years, when I Googled “What did they eat during the Dust Bowl?” I pretty much came up with…nothing.  I know they had to eat something?  Maybe a stray potato, some beans?  Dust soup?  I think this cake would have lived in my imagination as what I sacrificed for the errors of my ways.  Or, perhaps, what I hoped to chow down on in my future, should I liveto tell the tale.

Also worthy:  Ken Burn’s outstanding PBS series on the Dust Bowl; watch it with a kid.  Have some cake.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace Image IIThis lovely yacht harks from the golden age of the Golden Age, when the ultra-wealthy purchased Southern plantations the size of small states and built gorgeous “cottages” the size of French chateaus.  They knew how to live the good life, a life that did not last, alas, due to the Civil War.

However, this nautical relic has survived for more than 100 years, and with a new major face lift from the inside out, she may thrive for another 100?  The Grace fetches us from a landing on the May River, usually at sunset, to take us on a ride into the past.  Not literally, of course, but with a glass of wine and the breeze in your bonnet (of course I wear a bonnet!), it sure seems so.

If you’re a parent or teacher, grandma or anything close to that for a child, print this out or show them on your computer screen.  Tell them that the Grace is on a journey.  Perhaps to the depths in a hurricane!  (Only in fiction, folks!)  Maybe to a sandbar awash in prehistoric megalodon teeth, shed from the monster sharks that once roamed these water?  Or is it the Golden Age of Piracy?  Perhaps Blackbeard is about to attack!  And, your young readers/writers can always imagine a 1940s soiree of the rich and famous of the day?

It’s not hard to get kids to unleash their mighty imaginations!  Just give them a photograph, and a hint or two, and turn them loose.  Ah!  There’s the fiercest pirate of them all stomping ashore, right now!  Uh, no, that’s just Papa wanting his lunch.  Oh, well, I can write about anything.

A Book as Quilt

Some of my favorite things are beautiful quilts!Quilts

Once, I even packed up husband Bob and then twelve-year-old granddaughter Christina and we headed to Lincoln, Nebraska for the grand opening of the International Quilt Museum. Lest you imagine that meant only old-fashioned frontier- and colonial-era quilts, envision a much broader spectrum of craft.

This impressive collection included fantastic white on white quilts from France, with teeny-tiny stitches only a fair hand of yore could have produced. Yes, the range of quilts included historical log cabin quilts, but zoomed on into the future with amazing three-dimensional quilts in brilliant jewel-tone colors, suitable for the multi-million dollar loft apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City.

In addition to quilts hung on the museum walls or stretched over quilting frames, a high tech multimedia studio let you look up any quilt and enlarge any area to see the magic of a single stitch.

Once, I admired a really old cigar wrapper quilt, and before I could quite think, “Hmm, that could be a collector’s item and worthy investment,” the quilt was snatched from the window in the heart of Buckhead in Atlanta, and traded to a smiling young man in exchange for a gold American Express card. Darn!

I have often compared writing a book to quilting. The covers are the front and back of the book quilt. In between, you must tuck a thick layer of wonderful story. Overall, you must stitch the story into a whole with clever stitches, intricate design, and the occasional surprise—a secret pocket, perhaps, in which to hide the missing wedding ring?

Quilting is metaphor for many a thing. When I quilt a good book, I feel I can wrap myself in it forever. I can’t do a good stitch at all with needle and thread—but I can cobble together some worthy words on occasion.

We are all quilters—in some fashion or the other—if we think about it, aren’t we?

 

Quilts created by Dyani White Hawk, of Lakota/European ancestry

Are You A Designing Woman?

Blog_2-DesigningWomanI’m a designing woman!

People often ask me (as a writer), “Where do you get your ideas”

Where does anyone get ideas? Most just come to me, often at the most inconvenient times, such as when I have no paper or pencil or digital doodah on which to record them…my memory is not that good!

But ideas come to be because I seek them out. How? By inhaling, exhaling, looking, listening—so many ideas. I do not try to curate them at the time. How could I?! What, indeed, could the following have in common?:

  • A robin’s egg blue and dull brass French cooking range
  • A picture of a new navy blue and chrome Lexus Rx Hybrid car
  • A fire engine red and chrome ultra-chic door handle
  • A sea glass green and mosque blue invitation to a Casablanca Ball
  • A sailboat, listing to port, red sails billowing, and a woman at the helm

Now all these “ideas” came in the last 20 minutes. I put them in my brain crockpot to let them stew awhile, knowing full well that one day (sooner or later), I will write a novel, decorate a room, buy an outfit, design a logo or a catalog, etc. with some, if not all, of these components. It will not be a surprise to me at all. I will not have to struggle over “what to do.”

When I teach kids (who always say, “But I don’t have any ideas!”) to write, I say, “STOP! LOOK! LISTEN!” In a classroom setting, they are so startled that they do just that.

“Don’t you see,” I say, “that there is a secret panel up there on the ceiling?” “Can’t you tell?” I urge, “that your teacher used to be a spy?” “And can’t you hear,” I reprimand, “that haunting tune coming from the graveyard that used to be in the courtyard of your school?”

Inevitably, all eyes zip and dart from one thing to the other. Eyes go wide. Grins begin. And one pencil, then another, begin to audibly scratch on some form of paper.

It has begun. The magic of imagination. It is there everyday, all the time. Even when your eyes are closed. Even as you sleep.

What are YOU looking at right now?

Excuse me, please: I have a story to write!

CM

Welcome!

Author writing children's mystery books blog middle gradesI’ve been a writer for more than 30 years—time flies when you’re working your fingers across the keyboard to the bone!

Today I write from my laundry room perch in Palmetto Bluff.

I’m seeking conversation with others who love books, reading, writing, kids, food and such. Of course I’m trying to sell books—I have at least 6,000 in print, ya’ll! But more so, I love to share what I’m working on, what I know about writing and publishing—in real time, as if we were having coffee together. You know who you are: moms, grammies, teachers, everyone with a book hidden in them, and all who love to help children navigate today’s world.   Tune in! Stay in touch! Let’s talk!

—Carole Marsh Longmeyer