Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Awards Ceremony (with NFPW President)





This photo was takn by our local IWPA president, Marianne Wolf Astrauskas. My comments: I look old and fat, and I'm wearing the same outfit I wore for the ceremony two years ago in Richmond, Virginia. It's time for a complete makeover!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Conference Inspires Me to Write Here Again!

The National Federation of Press Women held its 2009 conference in San Antonio, Texas, September 10-12. Desspite a few difficulties (see "Never too Late!"), I enjoyed many aspects of the trip. What inspired me to resurrect this blog, at least for a while, was the fact that I received two national writing awards, and the First Place award was for two posts to this blog: "In Defense of Self-Publishing, Parts I and II" (August 12,16 2008). You may read them below in the archives.

The judge commented, "Writer provides clear advice without preaching or ego. Offers something for every level of self-publisher, from the wannabe to those looking for new options."

Since the idea of self-publishing is scoffed at by many professional writers, I was elated to win first place and such a positive comment.

My little book of poetry, Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters, won second place. Of my three books, this is the least-read, yet everyone who has read it has praised it. Doesn't anyone read poetry any more?

Anyway, I liked the judge's comment: "I really enjoyed the use of the rictameter. Its use to describe the different parts of a life was really unique. A very good piece of work!"

If anyone is interested, Elder Expectations costs about $10 and can be ordered from Amazon.com.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rictameter from a Morning Person

Mornings

Mornings:
"Time to rise and
Shine," they say. I do that,
Facing each new day with courage,
Anticipating challenges, new joys.
Why do some despise alarm clocks,
Resist the call of day?
Time to embrace
Mornings.


Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Goodbye for a While

To the few followers of this blog:

Because of its low readership, I have decided to semi-retire this blog in favor of my other, more popular one, "Never too Late!" I'll still come back when I'm inspired to write a rictameter or two, but don't expect much new content.

You can find my writing assignments and other material on writing here in the archives, and the site will remain live, at least in the near future. Your comments are still welcome.

You can also find my thoughts on writing in my eGenerations columns, now approximately monthly, at http://egenerations.com/write-articles

Meanwhile, if you want to know what I'm up to, read "Never too Late!" at http://www.seniorwriter.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cultural Center Information Desk Routine: A Rictameter


Routine:
Comforting, not
Dull or dreary. Getting
Out to meet and greet the world of
Eager visitors who want to share the
Beauty of Chicago and its
Arts and culture. Here I'll
Sit, enjoy my
Routine.


Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Flowers in a Seniors' Dining Room: a Rictameter


Flowers
Bloom in little
Vases, bringing cheer to
Diners, veterans of many
Winters turning into spring. The colors
Make white tablecloths less boring.
They bring us hope that soon
Parks will blaze with
Flowers.


Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Guest Post: A Rictameter about Winter

Many thanks to Pat Murphy, an old friend and former neighbor (not the Pat from "Pat's Place") for today's guest rictameter. Pat is a fellow northerner who appreciates the season.



Winter
Is a respite
Under a white blanket.
We warm ourselves and we get strong.
There is a season when we can reach out
To meet the world with new vigor.
Everything will be fresh,
Until the next
Winter.


By Pat Murphy. 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Snow Again: A Rictameter

Snow Again


Again.
Snow fell last night
As spring hopes retreated.
It's hard to see snow's beauty as
February fades toward dreary March, with
Early flowers still far away.
It's time to write more poems
As winter speaks
Again.


Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Writing Challenge!

As winter slowly winds down, most of us reflect on its beauties and challenges as we eagerly wait for spring. Where you live undoubtedly makes a difference, but most of us have some winter thoughts to express.

How about writing a rictameter (or more than one) about winter? If you will submit them to my email address (there's a link in my complete profile here), I'll put them together for a mid-March collection. I'll consider other poetic forms as well. Let's celebrate the coming end of winter, share our winter disasters and/or our winter joys.

Thanks to Pat of "Pat's Place" for this idea! (http://atpatsplace.blogspot.com/)

Early Morning Musings: A Rictameter

Early Morning Musings

Morning.
Time to rise and
Shine, the cliche has it.
Tired? Perhaps, but life starts now.
New day, new challenges, new things to do.
A cup of coffee starts the day.
Who knows what adventure
Looms ahead this
Morning?


Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy? A Rictameter

I have had a bad case of the winter doldrums, among other problems. If winter is getting to you too, why not join me in a poetry-writing project (choose your own form)? Guest contributions are welcome!


Happy?


Happy?
Yes, I will be.
Time to shed sad thoughts, to
Begin anew, awaiting spring.
Sun shines brightly, lake turns blue, buds appear
To bring renewal, brighter days.
These poems will ease winter's
Grip to make me
Happy.


Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Monday, January 26, 2009

Old and New Realities: Self-Publishing Gets a Nod From the Media

"Saying you were a self-published author used to be like saying you were a self-taught brain surgeon." Lev Grossman, in "Books Unbound: The Forces of a New Century are Shaping a New Kind of Literature. It's Fast, Cheap and Out of Control," in the February 2 issue of Time, reminds us, and he gives some grudging respect to beleagured self-published authors. Some of their books have gone on to best-seller status.

I've written before about the agonies and perils of the traditional publishing process: the long and often futile search for agent and publisher, the shrinking advance, the slight chance of seeing a book actually published, the quick trip to the remainder bin if a book doesn't sell well.

The traditional publishing industry is suffering, but people are still reading. What's happening? "Old publishing is stately, quality-controlled and relatively expensive. New publishing is cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money or institutional taste." Publishing as a whole is expanding in new forms.

According to Grossman, this is "neither good nor bad; it just is." Once, novels were considered vulgar and immoral, but "they shocked and seduced people into new ways of thinking." The very idea of self-publishing anything, fiction or non-fiction, still seems undignified or contemptible to many. Still, self-published books give everyone a chance at self-expression and are likely to seduce us into new ways of thinking. This is, indeed, a brave new literary world.

Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Casual Musings from a Non-Bestselling Author

Occasionally I consult my Amazon.com profile, looking for news on my book sales there. To say that they are disappointing is to understate the case. It's a good thing I don't depend on book sales for a living.

Anyway, this morning (at 6:25 a.m., to be exact), I discovered that my little $9.95 book Seniorwriting ranked #46 in the Books> Nonfiction> Education> Adult & Continuing Education category. I've never seen it higher than the 60's there, so I was elated. It's not the money; I make only a dollar or two on each sale. I think it's just that a book is like a child to its creator, no matter how minor or insignificant it may be to others.

I still hope that this little book will help some senior non-writers get started on their memoirs, and that anyone affected by the book will contact me. Never mind that one reviewer objected to the fact that it doesn't help the reader to write "serious novels." If I knew how to do that, I'd be a novelist myself. The rest of the reviews are very positive.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Written on Moving Day, January 9: It's the Little Things that Matter

One of the saddest things about my move was seeing my former cat Lyon's favorite toys suddenly revealed when a living room cabinet was moved. There they were: a light blue catnip mouse and a red-and-yellow hedgehog. The latter was a funny-looking toy, but I still remember marveling at the soon-gone identifying label. Without the tag, I wouldn't have had any idea what it was. Both toys still bore traces of cat hair mixed with dust.

Chasing those toys, and others, across the floor, where they eventually disappeared beneath the furniture, was Lyon's favorite pastime until he got too old for such frivolity. I always tried to retrieve the toys, but obviously those two got away from me a few years ago. Suddenly I remembered those years of watching Lyon and the cats that came before him at play, and I was sad. As I approach what will probably be my final move, nostalgia reigns.

When I first contemplated this move, back in 2004 or so, I made a point of asking if pets would be allowed at The Clare. I wouldn't have signed up if the answer had been "no." But little more than a year later, Lyon succumbed to complications of his diabetes. Will he be replaced? I don't know, but seeing his old toys reminded me of pleasant years.

In the traumatic process os moving, it is, indeed, the small things that are memorable.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tomorrow is Moving Day!

I'm finally moving into The Clare at Water Tower, after many problems and much angst. Check my other blog, "Never too late!" for part of the story and two pictures.

There probably won't be new posts here for a while, but later I hope to write about my efforts to get my fellow residents writing.

Monday, January 5, 2009

On Moving to a Senior Residence: A Rictameter


On Moving to a Senior Residence

Moving.
This is the week
To leave a familiar
Scene behind, with memories good
And bad, joys and problems, things to deal with.
Is anyone ready to move?
For me, a final choice.
Better or worse?
Moving.


Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Question: A Rictameter

New Year Question


New Year:

What will you bring?
Happiness and joy to
Make a year much better than the
Last, or problems big and small to make the
Year too much like the past one we
Choose to forget as soon
As possible?
New Year?


Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Just-For-Fun New Year's Wishes

I'll get to my serious wishes and resolutions eventually, but here are my only-in-my-dreams requests:

I'd like to win millions in the Illinois lottery. I've had a yearly computerized ticket for years, and my occasional winnings have usually been in the $9 range. Isn't it time for something bigger? Just asking.

I'd like my three books to become best sellers. If most of the senior citizens in the country would buy Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor, Seniorwriting, and Elder Expectations, my financial difficulties would end. Of course the chances of such a thing happening are slim and none. Actually, I wrote those books for fun, not profit, but some profits would be nice. Oh, well.

I'd like to take up long-distance walking again. My knee replacements are supposed to get me walking again, but it's taking a long time. Perhaps with patience, this wish will come true. Hope springs eternal!

How about sharing your new year's wishes, serious or fantastic?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Enjoy your day, your family, and all the good things of the season! Happy writing, too.

Marlys

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On Visiting The Clare: a Rictameter

On Visiting The Clare at Watertower

The Clare:
Dream and promise,
Soon to come true as I
Plan my move for January.
Problems? Yes, but now I've been inside to
See reality, think ahead,
Hope for a happy life,
I welcome you,
The Clare.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Books: the Perfect Gifts for Seniors (and Others)

During the past year, I have written quite a number of book reviews, both here and in "Never too Late!" From new to older, from fact to fiction, from serious to humorous, these books have in common only their connections with aging and its problems. Many of these books are little known. For the most part, I don't review best-sellers, but try to encourage people to buy books that may be overlooked, but are well worth your attention. You may find some good last-minute Christmas gifts here, for others or for yourself. All these books are available at Amazon.com. They may be difficult or impossible to find in book stores.

Here are seven favorites from among the books I reviewed this year--and forgive me for recommending my own books as well. Links are to my on-line reviews (and for my books, reviews by others).

1. Measure of the Heart: a Father's Alzheimers, a Daughter's Return, by Mary Ellen Geist (Springboard, 2008). http://seniorwriter.blogspot.com/2008/09/realities-of-alzheimers-book-review.html

2. Leisure Daze, by Mike Mihalek (Heartland, 2008) (Fiction/humor) http://seniorwriter.blogspot.com/2008/09/high-life-in-florida-book-review.html

3 Where River Turns to Sky, by Greg Kleiner (Perennial, 2002). (Fiction) http://seniorwriter.blogspot.com/2008/08/aging-life-and-death-book-review.html-

4. As We Are Now, by May Sarton (Norton, 1973) (Fiction) http://seniorwriter.blogspot.com/2008/08/elder-disintegration-and-nursing-home.html

5. In the Arms of Elders: a Parable of Wise Leadership and Community Building, by William H. Thomas, M.D. (VanderWyk and Burnham, 2006) (Fiction/fantasy) http://seniorwriter.blogspot.com/2008/08/fighting-three-plagues-of-elders-book.html

6. One Last Dance, by Mardo Williams (Calliope, 2005) (Fiction/senior romance) http://seniorwriter.blogspot.com/2008/03/senior-romance-yes-book-review.html

7. The Fiction Class, by Susan Breen (Plume, 2008) (Fiction) http://seniormemoirs.blogspot.com/2008/03/life-and-fiction-collide-book-review.html

8. Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor, by Marlys Marshall Styne (Infiniuty, 2006) http://seniormemoirs.blogspot.com/2008/08/gracious-words-of-praise-for-one-of-my.html

9. Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide for Seniors who Want to Write, by Marlys Marshall Styne (Infinity, 2007). http://www.readerviews.com/ReviewStyneSeniorWriting.html

10. Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters, by Marlys Marshall Styne (Lulu, 2008) (Poetry) http://www.readerviews.com/ReviewStyneElderExpectations.html

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Writer's Confession--and Some Holiday Advice

To my friends and family:


For the first time in many years, I am not sending holiday cards or writing my usual holiday letter. I hope that none of you conclude that I am either dead or permanently disabled. You should all hear from me in January.

If you read my other blog, "Never too Late!" you know that my life has been filled with challenges lately. An account of my knee surgery, my unsold condo, my coming move, and other problems could only be depressing this time of year, and I've run out of time for all the steps I usually take to communicate with everyone at Christmas.

I'm sorry. Last year I was strongly advocating the holiday letter, even though it has a bad reputation. Despite my own challenges, I advise that the rest of you make it a point to send cards and letters to your old friends at this festive time of year. I'm enjoying the cards I've received, and I hope to continue my tradition in 2009.

Happy holidays to all!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some Realities About Writing to Heal

I've often written about the importance of writing to heal: from keeping a pen and paper near the sick bed to writing down your concerns and complaints for your caregivers. My recent hospitalization and nursing home stay (a total of nearly six weeks) should have provided an excellent opportunity for me to practice what I've preached.

It didn't quite work out that way. For one thing, I did not have easy computer access. I did, however, have a pen and a notebook. So why didn't I write much? Yes, I had a roommate and nearly continuous TV. However, there are other reasons, too. For me, writing is a reality of my life, and I seemed eager to escape from reality. I drifted into the routine of the institution, not thinking much about my "real" life. Writing was something I planned to do after I got home.

Did I write anything while I was in the nursing home? Yes, I wrote down a few notes for future writing, and then I wrote three rictameters. For me, an experienced user of this odd poetic form, this was tha perfect way to express myself. My three rictameters were "Kindness," "Patience," and "Painful." All three appear in my two blogs, this one and "Never too Late!"

So what is the message here? Poetry can be brief, direct, and meaningful (see "A Good Review Brings Cheer," below). When illness or injury makes one reluctant to write, a short poem can express a lot. As I look back, I notice that my three rehab rictameters tell the story of my experience better than more extensive writing might have.

If the thought of writing at length, especially in difficult times, is depressing, try writing simple poems: rhymed, unrhymed, free verse, or whatever. I found my magic in the rictameter, but there are many other possibilities. The idea of most poetry is to say a lot in a few words, and that's what I did. I seem to have redefined my understanding of writing to heal.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Testimonial to the Importance of Writing

I am always elated to find experrt references to the power of writing. I just discovered another that I would like to share:

In the November/December 2008 issue of AARP magazine, Dan Buettner's article "Find Purpose, Live Longer" discusses ways to get, or stay, connected with life at any age. "Finding that 'something more' in your life can mean a big health boost." Suggestions include "Keep Working," "Find your Flow," "Explore Religion," and "Volunteer," but of most interest to me was "Take Stock of Yourself." How? One important way is to keep a journal.

According to Gregory A. Plotnikoff, M.D. of Abbott Northwestern's Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis, writing in a journal can be a big help, especially after a major life change. "When a spouse dies, you retire, or your kids leave home, you interrupt your personal story. If you can figure out how this episode fits into the plot of your life, you'll be one step closer to seeing its purpose--and yours." Plotnikoff suggests writing at least thirty minutes per day. Write about crucial events in your life and how they made you feel. "Discovering purpose is like uncovering patterns. If you understand the first chapters of your life, you're in a better position to write the next chapters. We all need to be part of a bigger story."

Thanks, Mr. Buettner and Dr. Plotnikoff, for another reminder of the importance and power of personal writing. I've tried it, and it works.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Monday, November 17, 2008

Patience: Another Rictameter from Rehab

I wrote three rictameters while I was in rehab at a nurising home. See the first one below and the second in "Never too Late!" This is the third and last


Patience


Patience.
Prime need here in
Rehab hell. Everyone
Does her best to get things done, but
Waiting is required for help with all those
Things I can't do myself. I long
For independence, but
I need to wait.
Patience.


Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kindness: A Rictameter

Soon after I was transferred from the hospital to the nursing home for rehabilitation, I was feeling alone and desolate. Along came a member of the Clare staff to offer help. Here is the poem I wrote in honor of her comforting visit:

Kindness


Kindness.
Rachel came to
Offer help, advise, to
Care that I was helpless, hurting,
In despair. She answered questions, offered
Clothing, stamps, and cheer to make my
Day in this, my time of
Need. Thank you for
Kindness.


Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne


Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Good Review Brings Cheer!

As many of you know, I've been away from my computer for nearly six weeks recovering from my double knee replacement surgery. Now I'm back. I'll be writing about my recent experience soon, probably first in "Never too Late!"

Right now, I want to share a good review that cheered me as I returned home. Sincere thanks to Irene Watson of Reader Views.

Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters
Marlys Marshall Styne
Lulu Publishing (2008)
ISBN 9781435717718

Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (11/08)

After forty years of teaching at a college, Marlys Marshall Styne turned to writing and what a pleasure it is to read her work. In her third published book Styne offers a glimpse at her life in “rictameters.” However, it’s not only her life she creates poetry about; it’s the life for many of us as we move through the years of maturity.

Styne starts off with:

“Elder Expectations”

Waiting.
Human need and
Common quirk that makes us
Dream, expect, look forward to that
Bit of news, that unexpected sign that
Still we live, we matter, someone
Cares, remembers, sends us
Cheer to live on,
Waiting.

Deep and profound, many of us that are elder can relate to this as we wait for our children and grandchildren to contact us, to tell us something exciting, or to just chat.

The rest of Styne’s book reflects on many experiences we have, like “First Day of Spring” and “Household Tasks.” I thoroughly enjoyed “Elder Expectations” not only because I’m an elder, but because Marlys Marshall Style was able to capture the reality of life. Her writing is sweet, her feelings are deep, and she reflects on paper the thoughts many of us have.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Goodbye for a While

Tomorrow, I enter the hospital for double knee replacement surgery. There won't be any new posts here until I have computer access again, but I hope to have it while I'm in rehab. Stay tuned for more on writing to heal, and on the realities of knee surgery. I don't expect it to be fun, but if I come out of it able to walk again, it will be worthwhile.

Keep writing! I'll be back.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Interview about "Seniorwriting" (2007)

This interview was posted by Paul Lam of The Elders Tribune back in 2007. Since The Elders Tribune site no longer exists, I have decided to post the interview here. It may be of interest to seniors just discovering my book Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide for Seniors Who Want to Write or to teachers considering using it for a continuing education class or workshop. Besides, it provides a good reminder of the main purpose of this blog: to encourage writing.

1. Why a book encouraging seniors to write about their lives?

I believe that everyone has a story, or many stories, to tell, and that seniors need to make sure that their experiences and the lessons they have learned are preserved for their families. As an example, my father was a very quiet man who rarely talked, let alone wrote, and I really never got to know him. However, my brother recently shared a story that our father told him about the difficulties of driving an older Model-T Ford on unimproved roads from our home in southern Wisconsin to St. Olaf College in Minnesota in the late 1920's. Of course my brother remembered few details, and I never heard the story. How I wish our father had written about his life! Our mother did write her life story at age 86, and we are very grateful for that. She died this year at age 95, and we feel that we know her quite well. Also, seniors are likely to have some spare time, and the positive, therapeutic effects of writing, even in a private journal, have been well-documented. We need to write to discover, to heal, to reinvent, and to share.

2. How does your book differ from other writing guides for seniors?

There are many such guides on the market, and I have not seen them all. However, I favor a more creative approach than I’ve found in other guides I’ve seen or read about. Some of them seem to present extremely structured approaches. For example, one advertises “a structured template containing over 250 step-by-step life story questions (with ample space to write in answers).” I would find 250 questions intimidating, like a school workbook to fill in with mindless answers, but perhaps that’s just me. In one online-course I examined, the first assignment was to label the pages of a lined notebook, one for each year from birth to the present. Since I was over 70 at the time, that seemed like a daunting task, and it reminded me that there are many years, even periods in my life, that I do not remember at all. These approaches probably work for some, but I favor a more relaxed approach that involves brainstorming and free writing and organizing it all later. I offer guidance and examples, but no rigid rules.

3. What would you say is your personal goal for this book?

I would like my book to encourage and help senior non-writers develop the courage to write their stories for their families. I’m sure the structured methods work for many, but I think my approach is worth a try. I hope it proves useful, especially for individuals at home and in informal senior center writing classes. The book is small, inexpensive, and non-intimidating. I’m not expecting to gain personal fame or fortune from it. I would enjoy getting a few letters or emails recounting individual successes in writing life stories.

4. Between your books and blogs, the number of insights you produce is staggering. How do you do it?

Thanks for the compliment! Such insights as I share are generally based on my reading, my observations, and my experiences, and I shamelessly borrow ideas from others, properly attributed, of course. How do I find time? Unlike many seniors, I have no close family nearby and no regular paid job any more. Being a retired loner has a few advantages. I once wrote a blog post entitled “Living Large on Line,” and I guess that’s what I do. One piece of advice: always read a daily newspaper.

5. What do you love about writing the most?

I guess I enjoy the independent, solitary aspects of writing. I’ve never enjoyed interacting with groups of people very much, so writing is my way of communicating with the world. Of course I wrote my first book, Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor, to deal with retirement and loss and to get my life in order. I can write anywhere and everywhere, using a pen and a scrap of paper if no computer is available. I discovered that writing is my passion, and I advise all seniors to find theirs, whether it be writing or something else.

6. Is there a fundamental difference between writing personal history and fiction?

I think so. Some people seem to have a knack for writing fiction, but while I’ve written a few short stories, I seem to lack the imagination to write an entire novel. To me, writing personal history seems much easier, but I doubt that everyone would agree. Actually, I’d like to have the talent to write a novel, but it’s not going to happen.

7. Is there any difference between senior writers and younger writers?

I’m not sure. I suspect that seniors may lack confidence in their writing ability, as opposed to having the exuberant “I can do anything!” attitude of youth, and yet few of my young college students embraced writing with enthusiasm. I fear that we English teachers equipped with our red pens discouraged too many in the past. I wouldn’t do that to seniors, although I might suggest some copy editing by a family member or friend (or even a professional editor) if it’s necessary. I really believe that most seniors write better than they think they do. Writing errors aren’t likely to matter to a loving family anyway.

8. What’s the biggest challenge for a senior starting to write his or her life story?

Assuming an alert mind, I believe that the biggest challenge might be simply the logistics of getting started. I advocate plunging in with a notebook and a pen or pencil, but computer users may have an advantage. More and more seniors are learning to use computers these days, although a few are afraid of these new-fangled machines, as my late mother was. Younger people grew up with computers, and a few of us oldsters learned to use them at our jobs, but for my mother’s generation and some people in my own, computers are scary. Anyway, a willingness to write is the main requirement, along with a pen or pencil and paper, or even a tape recorder. I see no insurmountable challenges.

9. Any suggestions to overcome reluctance?

Talk to people who have already written their life stories. Join a relaxed memoir writing group at a senior center or community college, or even on line. Jot down your story ideas. Read my new book, Seniorwriting, and record your writing ideas as you read.

10. Writing sounds like hard work. Is it really worth it?

Yes! Once a person gets started, especially by keeping an informal journal, the process gets easier and easier. Most seniors will become enthusiastic about their life stories, and so will their families. For me, there’s great satisfaction in seeing my work in print or on a computer screen, whether it’s a letter to the editor, a blog post, a short story, an article, or a book. I guess writing can be hard work, but to me, it’s just doing what comes naturally. One warning: if a person’s main goal is to make money by personal writing, it’s probably wasted effort. However, for self-satisfaction and for discovering, healing, reinventing, and sharing, writing can’t be beat!

Note: This book is available on line at buybooksontheweb.com, amazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com. See links in the sidebar of this blog.

A New Computer: Another Challenge

My new computer, a Hewlett Packard Pavillion Elite, was installed on Sunday. It has more features than I'm likely to need, but learning to use it is time-consuming fun. I wasn't eager to buy a new computer in these uncertain times, with knee surgery and a move coming up, but when my old computer died a rather timely death (it was old), I decided that I couldn't live without one. Yes, I have a laptop, but it's not very easy to use. I've owned various desktop computers since the 1980's, and they have been important parts of my life.


Unfortunately, many of my treasured programs are gone. I'll be busy trying to acquire and install some of them. Unfortunately, I've lost the serial numbers of some programs, and some simply won't work with the Vista operating system. My data files are safe on an external backup drive, aned I've finally managed to restore them, but they are still so disorganized that finding anything is a real challenge.

Fortunately, my brother is coming from Utah during my operation time, so I'm depending on him to straighten things out. He's good at such things.

A shiny new computer is always a joy (the common color is now black; my old computer was silver). However, this experience makes me even more aware of how important computers are to me. A computer is my main connection to the outside world, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Speaking to Illinois Woman's Press Association: A Rictameter

Speaking to IWPA

Speaking.
Saturday I'll
Talk of blogging: magic,
Mystery of words on screen, a
Window to the world, communication.
Speak or write? I'd rather write, but
There I'll be. Will someone
Listen to my
Speaking?


Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Writing as Therapy: I Need Some Myself

The subtitle of my book Seniorwriting includes writing to discover, to heal, to reinvent, and to share. I've done all of that, but it seems to be time to write about my current feelings of uncertainty as my rapidly-approaching knee replacement sugery, 76th birthday, and move to a senior community loom ahead. I need to write my way through all of it. This seems to be a good time to follow my own advice.

There may be fewer blog posts here for a while, but if you're interested, see today's post on my other blog, "Never too Late!" I'm sure I'll share parts of my healing journal both here and there.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Knee Realities: A Rictameter



Knee Realities

Knee pain:
Reality
For many years as I
Limped, arose from sitting with no
Grace at all. My walks got shorter, ended.
Too much recliner time became
Routine, so now it's time
For surgery,
Knee pain.



Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Seniorwriter is Discovered and Quoted!

Imagine my surprise when Deb Nicklay of the Mason City, Iowa, Globe Gazette discovered my blogs and asked for my comments on memoir writing! Of course I couldn't resist answering. I don't consider myself a true expert, but I'm always willing and eager to "share my wisdom."

Nicklay's article appeared today. I am quoted, along with a California blogger and memoir writer. The only minor error is that I am said to live near, rather than in, Chicago. Perhaps the citizens of Mason City think everyone lives in the suburbs. Anyway, it's a good article. I'm pleased the see more attention given to the interest in and importance of writing: journal, memoir, autobiography: call it what you will. Just try it.

The article headline is "Memoirs are a permanent and personal way to share your story."

Check it out on line at http://www.globegazette.com/articles/2008/09/07/news/feature/doc48c34ee86d1ea893207915.txt

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Begin a New Career as a Writer? A Book Review

A review of The Writer Within You: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing in Your Retirement Years, by Charles Jacobs (Caros Books 2007).

In The Writer Within You, Charles Jacobs provides a basic guide to writing and publishing anything from a novel, memoir, or nonfiction book to magazine articles, travel stories, or business writing. His target audience seems to be the educated, entrepreneurial retiree eager to start a new career as a writer.

This book covers a lot of territory in its 300-plus pages, with an index and an appendix of sources for more in-depth information. It covers the writing process, the various ways to publish, and the business aspects of writing, with both instructional and inspirational purposes: "It is designed to be an activist book that propels you to make the leap from thinking to actually doing."

This is a serious, scholarly, well-written, informative book for anyone, retired or not, who is in the early stages of considering writing as a new career. On the other hand, for the more reluctant, perhaps older retiree just thinking about writing as a possible way to discover, heal, reinvent, share, or enjoy, the person just considering writing down family stories, it may seem intimidating.

For them, my own book, Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide for Seniors Who Want to Write may provide an easier start. Its 81 pages just might encourage some to go on to try full-fledged writing careers, and The Writer Within You would be a logical next step.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A New Site for Sharing Elder Wisdom

Jack Schacht has come up with an interesting idea: seniors should share their wisdom and experience on a wide variety of topics, from Aging to Work Ethic and beyond, with younger generations, especially the 35-50 age group. As I understand it, other age groups may be targeted also. The site's name, Wisdom's Feast, helps to describe what 's planned.

If you are interested, go to the as-yet incomplete site and read the "About" section. Request more information under "Comments" in that section. Once your initial blog post is approved, you will be asked to contribute two a month. The benefit is to be a link to your website, as well as perhaps a chance to reach a new set of readers. I don't know whether this site will be successful, but I wish Jack well.

Go to http://www.wisdomsfeast.com and check it out. There are only a few posts so far (one of them mine), but the possibilities are endless.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pursue Those Family Stories!

I've been too busy lately to write much about writing (I guess my other blog gets more of my attention), but here are some excerpts from my next column on eGenerations (it won't appear there for a week or so).

I’ve noticed a reluctance among Baby Boomers to write their life stories. Some are too busy living, adding new chapters to their lives, trying to find ways to remain young forever. All that is fine, but as a person who is facing many of the realities of old age now, I predict that many Boomers will get around to writing their life stories eventually. It’s never too early to begin.

It’s never too late, either. How about Mom, Dad, that favorite aunt or uncle or grandparent? You’ve probably heard their stories of growing up in the “old country,” their immigration tales, their stories of military service, love and loss, hardships and successes. You may have been a reluctant listener in your youth, but do you want those stories to die with their tellers? Why not help your older relatives to write or record their stories? As interest in genealogy increases, the younger generations will treasure those stories more.

Many people in their 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and beyond are still mentally alert, but the idea of writing may be foreign to them. However, oral storytelling is probably not. Get them talking. All you need are patience and a recording device. Try one of the new, small, inexpensive video cameras, or even an old-fashioned tape recorder. Or just listen and write down the stories yourself. Whether in book form, video, or cassette archives, your loved one’s stories can be preserved for the family.

There was a time when many people left their legacies in letters to family and friends. Those letters were often preserved to become their life stories. Few people write real "snail mail" letters these days, and email messages just cannot fill the same functions. Perhaps blogs may, and the number of Elderbloggers is growing.

But meanwhile, you can help. Think of the joys of watching a video of Grandma playing with her grandchildren, or of Grandpa relating his military exploits to family members, complete with audience reactions. Do you want those stories and experiences to be lost? Write or record them before it's too late.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Fan Letter!

Today, I received a fan letter (via email). It's not necessarily my first, but it's the first so labeled. Here is a quote from it (the author is someone I do not know and have never heard from before):

"I'm 68 and thinking that creative writing is probably an important part of what I'm supposed to do with the rest of my life. I enjoy your friendly and unpretentious example and encouragement, and your interest in fostering a community of senior writers. "

Take the time to express your appreciation for bloggers and writers. Best-selling authors probably don't need it, but the rest of us need occasional encouragement. And thanks to my new fan!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wednesday Lunch at the Signature Room: A Rictameter


Lunch views.
Sunshine, high place,
Eating with a friend to
Catch up on our lives while dining.
Salmon, wine, delicious. Happy time with
Conversation, scenery. Worth
Forty-five dollars? Yes,
To splurge, enjoy
Lunch views.


Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Encouraging Unknown Authors

Melissa Hart, in the October Writer's Digest, quotes some of Maryland psychologist Dr. Rochna D. Jain's advice to writers: "Make a 'success notebook' of positive things people have said about [your] writing, and read it when [you're] down."

The purpose of Hart's article "Surviving the Spite" is to advise authors about handling negative criticism. Although this has not been a problem for me, the above statement by Dr. Jain got me thinking about "positive things people have said." While I don't have a success notebook, I occasionally mention positive reviews and quote comments made about my various books, stories, blog posts, and columns here and on "Never too Late!" Jain's statement seems to justify and support my request for responses to my writing and that of others.

As I've said before, when you appreciate a book, story, or blog post by a virtually unknown author, please comment. It's a good way to encourage more writing that you'll enjoy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Matter of Choices: In Defense of Self-Publishing, Part II

The term “self-publishing” means different things to different people. Because it’s a negative word in some circles, many try to redefine the term to make it sound more positive. For example, my own POD publisher, Infinity, prefers “Author-initiated Publishing.” Here are a few definitions from Wikipedia (http:/www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-published). You’ll note that some of these definitions overlap; it’s a matter of semantics.

True Self-publishing

“True self-publishing means authors undertake the entire cost of publication themselves and handle all marketing, distribution, storage, etc. All rights remain with the author, the completed books are the writer’s property, and the writer gets all the proceeds of sales. Self-publishing can be more cost-effective than vanity or subsidy publishing and can result in a much higher-quality product because authors can put every aspect of the process out to bid rather than accepting a preset package of services.”

Comment: I suppose this is the way to go for true entrepreneurs, but it’s not for me. It essentially involves forming your own “publishing company” (does that fool many into thinking your book is traditionally published?) and understanding all the procedures involved, including seeking bids. It also generally involves ordering huge numbers of copies to get a good per-unit price, and if the book does not sell, it seems to me that the losses could be huge. And where would one store all those unsold books? I’m sure this works for some, but frankly, I’m too old and comfortable to “go for broke” this way. Besides, I lack business sense.

Vanity Publishers

This is a pejorative term rarely used these days. It used to be the only alternative to traditional publishing, with appeals to the writer’s vanity and desire to become a published author. Vanity publishers make most of their money from fees rather than sales. The author pays all the costs and bears all the risk. This is a method best known for producing basements full of poor-quality unsold books. There may be a touch of vanity in all self-published authors, but this is a term to avoid.

Subsidy Publishers

These publishers claim to be more selective, but they take payment from the author to print and bind a book. They may contribute a portion of the cost, as well as services such as editing, distribution, warehousing, and some limited degree of marketing—or they may not. They generally retain all or most rights to the book, and authors have little control of production aspects such as cover design. If the book sells, the author receives royalties, but if it doesn’t, it soon disappears from the market. It no longer belongs to the author, so he/she can’t try to sell it elsewhere. Vantage Press claims in its recent ads to be the “largest subsidy publisher in the field.”


POD (Print-on-Demand) Publishers

The computer age has created small-batch printing at reasonable cost. No longer does an author need to order and store vast quantities of books, although a few still do. Once “in the system,” one or more copies can be printed and delivered to the buyer very quickly. A majority of such publishers use Lightning Source for printing and Ingram for distribution, but a few, like Infinity, do it all in-house. Infinity generally keeps a stock of about ten copies, and prints and ships more as needed. Such books often used to be low-quality and easily identifiable, but that’s no longer true. Infinity books look beautiful. POD publishing has come a long way.

POD publishers differ in their offerings. Most allow authors to retain the rights to their work; a few don’t. Most offer various packages of services such as cover design, proofreading, content and/or copy-editing, and indexing, but like most traditional publishers these days, they do little marketing or publicity unless you’re a known author. Most offer ISBN numbers and availability at their own web sites and others such as Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. POD books are unlikely to be stocked by book stores, but most can be ordered there. POD publishing costs vary widely according to company and the number of services you order. Books are usually published within a few weeks, not the years required by some traditional publishers.

A subdivision of POD publishing is on-line publishing. Some standard POD publishers allow uploading of books via computer, but companies like Lulu.com and InstantPublisher.com accept uploads and can deliver printed proof copies in a few days. For the ultimate do-it-yourselfer who is really impatient, this may be the way to go. I used Lulu for both my family tribute to my late mother, Remembering Violet (for family only) and for Elder Expectations, which has an ISBN number and is listed with my other books on Amazon.com and elsewhere. For Remembering Violet, I designed the cover myself; for Elder Expectations, I used one of the Lulu stock designs, with a few color changes of my own. Both look beautiful. I was happy with Lulu; there is a good help line that brings live on-line answers if you need them, and everything is spelled out. This seems the least expensive way to go for very small quantities of books needed quickly and not intended for sale, or books with especially low sales potential. In fact, for the computer-literate beginning author on a tight budget, I highly recommend Lulu.

With any of these publishing methods, marketing is up to you. There are many books available on the subject, including John Kremer’s vast 1001 Ways to Market Your Books. Good marketing takes time and effort; I admit I’ve not done much of it, but it can be done.

Don’t let this vast number of publishing choices deter you. If you have something to say, either to the world or just to your family, go for it. For me, at least, most of the satisfaction is in the writing. Strive for success on your own terms, whatever they are.

Here are some of the more popular POD publishers, most found in ads in the latest issue of Writer’s Digest: Most offer free publishing guides.

Trafford (http://www.trafford.com/)
Author House (http://www.authorhouse.com/)
Bookstand Publishing (http://www.bookshelfpublishing.com/)
Outskirts Press (http://www.outskirtspress.com/)
iUniverse (http://www.iuniverse.com/)
Infinity (http://www.infinitypublishing.com/)

Here is my basic advice: ask yourself the following questions, and then check out the various publishing companies.

1. Who is your intended audience? Family and friends? The general public? A certain group?
2. What services will you need? Copy editing? Content editing? Cover design? Formatting aid? Word processing assistance? Others?
3. How many copies do you want or need?
4. Do you want an ISBN number for online searchability and listing on Amazon.com and other web sites?
5. Are you in a hurry for your book?
6. How much time and money are you willing and able to spend?

Ask other self-published authors about their experiences. Check ads and web sites. And most important of all, always read the fine print!

Please feel free to share your own self-publishing experiences, good or bad. Email me (my email address appears in my complete profile here) to be a guest blogger.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photo: Remembering Violet with self-designed cover, published by Lulu.com. Not for general public sale, but contact me if interested.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Amazon Rankings: What Do They Mean?

If you have books or anything else listed on Amazon.com, and have a profile page on their site, it's easy to discover at a glance how your products are selling--or it it? Sales rankings appear on individual product pages for books, too. However, the short answer to my title question is, "I don't know."

I'm quite aware that my writings are not best sellers, nor did I ever expect them to be. I also know that some book marketing gurus advise a technique that involves sending emails to hundreds or even thousands of people, offering them some premium if they will all order your book from Amazon on the same day. That's the secret of a top ranking--at least for one day. I've never tried that, nor am I likely to do so, but I sometimes check my rankings just for fun.

I'm used to finding rankings in the million-plus category (that means that millions of books are selling better than mine), and that's not a surprise. Occasionally, though, I find a surprising result. My book Seniorwriting occasionally hits a rank of around fifty among continuing education books, but I don't know the total number in that Amazon category. Anyway, it usually sinks to below 100 soon enough.


The most surprising ranking so far has been for my Amazon Short, "Marie's Story." Amazon Shorts are those short works, fiction and non-fiction, that can be downloaded for $0.49. The program has not been accepting new works for months now, but when they were, toward the end of 2007, I decided to submit two stories, "Marie's Story" and "Volunteer," just to see if they would be accepted. I'm not really a short story (fiction) writer, but I try it occasionally. To my surprise, both were accepted, and they appeared on the site early this year.

Now to the recent surprise: last night, I discovered that "Marie's Story" ranked 7 out of 155 in the Literature and Fiction/ Women's Fiction category, and 28 out of 1,952 in the Literature and Fiction category as a whole. I'm sure it won't remain there long, but the ranking leaves me with questions. Does this mean that suddenly one person downloaded the story, or that it was suddenly recognized by many? Since I make only a nickel or a dime on each download, I won't get rich either way. But my question still remains: what do these rankings really mean, and do they matter?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Kind Words about "Reinventing Myself"

Another blogging friend, Barbara J. Kirby Davis of The Serenity Room, has reviewed my first book, Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor. Here's an excerpt:

"I've just finished reading Reinventing Myself, Memoirs of a Retired Professor by Marlys Marshall Styne and LOVED IT!!! Her book was a pleasant surprise--filled with honest accounts of a life well-lived.

"This strong, talented lady writes about her struggles and joys, her trips all over the world and life as a resident of Chicago. What an exciting life she has lived! I am usually reading four or five books (all in various stages of completion), but when I began reading this one, I couldn't put it down until it was finished."

It's wonderful to learn that someone has read my book and loved it! Now if only the rest of the world would discover it. Thanks, Barbara.

Check out Barbara's blog at http://www.theserenityroom.blogspot.com.

Prejudices, Choices, and Opportunities: In Defense of Self-publishing, Part I

I am quite aware that my use of self- and print-on-demand publishing for all of my books makes them suspect. In my former academic mileau, authors got no respect unless their books were published and promoted by big-name publishing companies. There seemed to be a belief that published authors received huge cash advances and made tons of money. I suspect that those attitudes are still fairly common.

For some famous authors and celebrities (think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Barbara Walters, etc.) all that is true. But for the lesser-known, the picture is quite different. I've heard and read sad tales of multi-year, sometimes multi-decade struggles to find agents and/or publishers. I applaud eventual success, but it doesn't seem to happen very often. More often, the struggling author just relegates his or her manuscript(s) to a file cabinet or trash bin and gives up.

You may say that failure to find an agent or publisher means that the writer and/or the book is no good. That's certainly true of some, but I've read and reviewed enough virtually unknown books to realize that some self-published books are wonderful. It's mostly about money. Agents and publishers may love a book, but if it lacks commercial potential, they won't touch it.

As a true believer in the non-monetary rewards of writing (not that I'd mind selling a few more books), I welcome the opportunities brought by computers and the expanding self-publishing industry. Today, anyone with computer skills or the means to hire someone who has them can produce and publish a book quickly and inexpensively. The choices are many, and the costs vary widely.

I'll present more details later, but in the meantime, try to rethink your prejudices about self-publishing. For the record, I never tried to find an agent or a publisher for my books. I am a practical and realistic person. To quote fellow Chicago-area author Helen Gallagher in her book Release Your Writing, “Attract a publisher if you can, but if not, don’t wait your life away . . . Self-publishing is not settling for second best. It’s the right choice if your book won’t likely capture the attention of a large publisher and you don’t want to spend years waiting to see your book in print.”

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photo: Cover design and publishing by Infinity

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cubs Win: A Rictameter


Cubs Win

Ball game:
Cubs and Astros,
Lovely day at Wrigley.
At home, I watch TV at ease,
See, hear the young enjoying life. Alas,
No ballpark days for me this year,
Yet I can still enjoy
While Cubs win the
Ball game!



Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Gracious Words of Praise for One of My Books!

I received a day-brightening email from my blogging friend Lydia, of Writerquake (http://www.writerquake.blogspot.com/), today. I was elated that she had read Reinventing Myself and taken the time to write me about it. There's a message here: When you are impressed by a book, especially one by an unknown writer, contact the writer and let him or her know! Everyone appreciates recognition.


I assure you that Lydia is not a relative, nor have I ever met her in person, so I believe in her sincerity. Here is what she wrote:

"Dear Marlys,

"I finished Reinventing Myself in the early morning hours last Thursday. What an enjoyable book! It makes me sad that you say it hasn’t been widely read because people are missing out on reading an exciting travel adventure, a real love story, a condensed but highly interesting autobiography, the wisdom of a professor, a frank discussion of aging – especially concerning a woman alone – and a frank but vulnerable glance from a breast cancer survivor. They are missing out on picturesque descriptions of condos and classrooms, a neighborhood bar and long thoughtful walks, quirky cats and the value of poetry and writing, tours on every continent, and the expectations for a final residence, where, any careful reader would assume, a framed needlepoint picture of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage will make it home.

"Can you tell that I was touched by your dear book? I hope so. I’ve written about it to my blogging friend, Francessa, who is a teacher in Vienna and with whom I regularly email. She is intrigued and mentioned that she thinks she will buy Reinventing Myself. (She’s in my blogroll under Francessa’s Thinking) She now refers to “when you visit me…” in her messages, and, honestly, I would have in the past completely pooh-poohed the idea. However, where I’ve only visited Mexico and Canada outside of the U.S., and travel simply is not in the budget right now, I read her words with a different feeling after having read your book! I think to myself: it is possible, not impossible. Who knows? I must thank you for my newfound optimism in this regard.

"I’m so glad you decided to write your memoirs.

"Kind wishes.


Lydia"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In Praise of the Rictameter

In Praise of the Rictameter

This form,
Rictameter.
Is it crazy to write
Such poems, to count out two, four, six,
Eight, ten syllables, back again, no rhyme?
But try it! Experiment, say
Many things, few words; great
Thoughts or small fit
This form.


Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Review of Elder Expectations!

Thanks to Pat of Pat's Place for a fine review of my little book of poems, Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters. You may read it at http://atpatsplace.blogspot.com/2008/07/interesting-book.html.

Pat ends the review with a rictameter of her own:

"Thanks, Marlys, for encouraging me to self-publish a book of my own stories, and also for the gift of your rictameter poetry! Here is my own poem:


"Thank you,
Marlys, for the
gift of your poetry
that you have shared with us via
your lovely rictameters in your book,
Elder Expectations, and your
blog, where I first saw them,
then tried my own.
Thank you!


"They are tricky, but they are fun to work with!"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A "Who, Me?" Moment and a Challenge


When I encountered an email message bright and early this morning with the subject line "Invitation to Speak," I at first thought I'd strayed into my spam folder with its odd collection of financial offers from Nigerian noblemen, etc. Then I recognized the name of the sender, and my curiousity was aroused.

It seems that the Illinois Woman's Press Association, an organization of which I am a member, wants me to speak at its Fall Kickoff Breakfast on the topic "Blogging: The Magic and the Mystery." Actually, I'm to be part of a two-person panel with a moderator. My initial reaction was "Who, Me?" I'm hardly known as a speaker on any topic; I don't think I've made a speech since my Wright College commencement address in 1996. As I recall, speech was the only college course in which I earned a C. My recent years of relative elderly isolation aren't likely to have improved my speaking ability. The IWPA speakers are usually big-name female reporters from the Chicago media, publishers, or journalism professors, not obscure elderbloggers.

My second reaction was, "I can't do that." However, it only took me a few minutes to decide to accept the challenge. After all, I believe in the magic of blogging, and I realize that the whole idea is still a mystery to many, including many in my own generation. Here is my chance to spread the word. I have about two months to overcome my shyness and decide what I'll say. I'll try to remain positive and look upon this as an opportunity. Opportunities are rare for those of us past 70, and I'm flattered. After all, the title of my other blog is "Never too Late!"

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More on Recording Life Stories

Thanks to Linda Austin (http://moonbridgeblog.blogspot.com/) for reminding me of the obvious: instead of using outdated audio casettes, a more modern way of recording seniors' life stories would be to shoot videos. Ideally, this would be done by getting the subject to talk about his/her life, perhaps surrounded by family members. It would be great to both see and hear the storytellers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Share Life Stories and Memories Without Writing?

Much as I hate to admit it, I realize that there are people out there who are not willing or able to write their life stories. In many cases, they're just afraid to try, but some have physical disabilities that make writing difficult or impossible. It's only fair to note that there is an alternative: just talk and record the stories of your life.

One company devoted to helping you do this has been around for a while, and I've had no experience with it or its products. However, you might want to check out American Storykeepers.

This is outdated technology (aren't cassette players rare these days?) but the idea of speaking your memories rather than writing them, and the possibility of helping friends or relatives do this, appeals to me. Any simple recording device will do.

I hope that the art of life writing never dies; everyone should leave his or her story. However, if you love to talk but hate to write, or can't, consider recording your experiences, your memories, and those stories you like to tell. Consider helping others do the same.

An update, 8/11/08: Apparently bowing to changes in technology, the American Storykeepers site has been discontinued. The basic idea, translated to video, is still a good one.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Finally: A Review of my poetry book, "Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters"!

I guess I'm impatient, but soon after my plea for reviewers (see below), I discovered a new review by Judith Helburn for Story Circle Book Reviews: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/expectations.shtml. It's good!

Of course I still want more reviews, but let me quote a few lines from Helburn's:

"Her [Styne's] message is that anyone can write 'to discover, heal, reinvent, share and enjoy,' and that the topics one writes about need not be full of drama, unusual or life-changing."

"It would be fun to use Elder Expectations in a writing group experimenting with poetry."

Thank you, Judith. And if you lead a writing group, consider Ms. Helburn's advice.

Please Review My Book!

How about writing a review of my latest book, Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters, and posting it on your blog and on Amazon.com? It seems that the world is not quite ready for poetry, especially rictameters, which few have heard of, by unknown elders.

This book can be read in a very short time; it's only 56 pages long. If any blogger out there is willing to write a review, I'll send you a review copy. You just provide your "snail mail" address. If the review is negative, just send it to me without posting it. I really would like your opinion.

I don't claim that this is great poetry, and I don't expect to make a fortune (it only sells for $9.95, and not much of that goes to the author). My purpose is to encourage my peers to try writing poems, whether rictameters or not.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Time's Tyranny: A Rictameter



Time's Tyranny

Time Flies:
An old cliche,
Yet oh, how true these days
When doing much or nothing or
Just thinking makes these elder days rush on.
In joy or boredom or despair,
We cling to our routines,
Still hurry as
Time flies.



Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, July 11, 2008

Interesting Things from Other Blogs

1. Barbara Davis, of "The Serenity Room," has posted "Why Do I Blog?" If you've been considering blogging, you'll find some good reasons to do so here:

http://theserenityroom.blogspot.com/2008/07/why-do-i-blog.html

2. Sharon Lippincott, of "The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing," offers an interesting writing challenge for International Happiness Day (it was July 10). Give it a try.

http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/2008/07/international-happiness-day.html

3. Check out and comment on a new blog by an 83-year-old who lives in Arizona. It's "Darlene's Hodgepodge."

http://darleneshodgepodge.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wayne's Latest Poem

Inspired by my latest eGenerations column, "Give Poetry a Chance: Write It, Read It" http://egenerations.com/article-1472-6-give-poetry-a-chance-write-it-read-it, Wayne contributed another poem in the comment section. Here it is (with slight editing). It's not really a rictameter, but so what? See how much fun poetry can be?

A Rhyming Rictameter about a Rictameter, by Wayne Winters

A Rictameter
Unlike a barometer
Tells the scientific operator
Where he is in life
And not where he is in space
And what his chances are
Of returning to earth
And again doing
A Rictameter.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Another Press Release: "Elder Expectations"

Just a week after the PRWEb release for Seniorwriting came out, there is now one for Elder Expectations as well. Why? This is my experiment in do-it-yourself press release writing. Since little books of poetry, especially senior poetry, don't have much sales potential, what do I have to lose? As usual, I'm having fun trying to write different things.

I'm relatively satisfied with my release, but I realize it could be better. I guess I'm following my own suggestion: just write. I'm glad I don't have to try to make a living at it, however. I'm hoping I'll be discovered eventually.

Here is the release. If anyone happens to read this book, please write a review on Amazon.com and your blog.

Power of Poems Defies Age Limits: An Experiment in Senior Poetry

Poetry provides an enjoyable path to creativity, self-knowledge, and self-expression for everyone, especially senior citizens. If these poems just make you ponder, wonder, think or dream, consider your own life or write a story, draw or paint the truth, learn who you are, these poems inspire great things. Discover the joys of rictameters, and of poetry in general, in Chicago writer Marlys Marshall Styne's new, small collection, Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters (ISBN 9781435717718, Lulu Publishing 2008).

Chicago (PRWEB) July 9, 2008 -- The new, short poems in Marlys Marshall Styne's Elder Expectation: My Life in Rictameters feature many realities and concerns of elder life. Seven sections include "On Aging," "Writing and Reading," "Months and Weeks," "Weather and the Seasons," "Duties and Routines," "Activities and Pastimes," and "Observations and Reflections." These poems may inspire you to try writing your own. The form can be addictive!

The rictameter is a relatively new poetic form, somewhat similar to haiku. It contains nine unrhymed lines, with 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, and 2 syllables, and the first and last lines must be identical. Ms. Styne explains that as she wrote these poems, at first as a way to cope with the dreary month of March, 2008, they began to tell the story of her life as a seventy-five-year-old retiree and widow.

As she has in her earlier books, Styne promotes writing of all kinds for seniors who want or need to share their experience and wisdom. Writing can lead to self-discovery, healing, reinvention, and enjoyment, and Elder Expectations adds another option, poetry, with many inspiring examples. It provides a quick, easy read to return to again and again.

About the Author:

Marlys Marshall Styne, who earned a Master of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, taught composition and literature at Wilbur Wright College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, for forty years before retiring in 1999. When her husband died shortly after her retirement, she lifted herself out of depression by rediscovering the power of writing. Her first book was Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor (Infinity Publishing 2006); her second was Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide for Seniors Who Want to Write (Infinity Publishing 2007). Both books received first place awards in their respective categories in the 2007 and 2008 Illinois Woman's Press Association Mate E. Palmer Communications Contests. Styne also writes two blogs, "Never Too Late!" and "Write Your Life!" and a column about writing for the eGenerations web site.

Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters (ISBN 9781435717718, Lulu Publishing 2008) can be purchased through Lulu.com and online book stores. Review copies are available from the author.

Contact Information: MARLYS MARSHALL STYNE
http://www.seniorwriter.blogspot.com/

Link to this PRWeb release:
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/07/prweb1077614.htm

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Bothers You? Write About It

Without being tagged, I've discovered another meme, thanks to Grandad at http://www.headrambles.com/. It's the "Getting your Goat" meme.

The idea is to list two things that irritate you for a reason (and list the reasons) and two irrational annoyances that you can't quite explain. Why not try it yourself? Here is my list:

Things that Irritate me for a Reason:

1. Buildings with long flights of stairs and no elevators or escalators.

Anyone else with bad knees and/or other walking difficulties will appreciate this one. "Handicapped Access" is improving here in Chicago and in the US in general, but 'taint so in many foreign countries. I've probably missed a lot of interesting things by remaining on the first floor.

2. Forwarded e-mails, especially "jokes" and religious musings.

I usually don't think the jokes are funny, and while I respect everyone's religion or lack thereof, you can't convert me to anything.

Irrational Annoyances:

1. TV "teaser" ads.

These are the frequently repeated ads toting coming news bits or features. The idea is to get me so interested that I'll avoid switching channels, but I just get impatient. If it sounds interesting, I may not wait, and if it doesn't, I'm gone.

2. Cell Phones.

They're everywhere (but I don't even know where mine is). I know your life may revolve around or depend on your cell phone, but is it really necessary to walk down the street clutching it to your ear? And don't you know that driving while talking on a hand-held phone is illegal in Chicago, not to mention dangerous?

See the original at http://www.skillett.com/index.php/557/getting-your-goat-meme



Monday, July 7, 2008

A New Elder Poem

You read about Wayne here on June 25. Here is his latest poem, an almost-rictameter:


ELDERVERSITY, by Wayne Winters

ELDERVERSTIY
IS A WORD THAT
BEST DECRIBES ME AND
MY PHYSICAL CONDITION
AS I APPROACH MY EIGHTY-SECOND
AND RELINQUISH MORE CONTROL
OF LIFE'S DESIRES, WANTS,
AND WISHES.
ELDERVERSITY.

Wayne lives in Washington state and is a member of eGenerations (http://www.egenerations.com/). Thanks for sharing, Wayne.

Friday, July 4, 2008

More Senior Poems: A Book Review

I've recently added another relatively unknown book to my Amazon.com Listmania list "Poems for and by Seniors Citizens." It's Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man by Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. (Lulu, 2008).

While it wouldn't be classified as great literature, this book illustrates my point that seniors should consider expressing their lives and their thoughts in poetic form. This book provides an interesting tour through the author's mind.

In categories including "Rhyming Poems and Storoems (Story Poems)," "Two Limericks," "Acrostic Poems," and "Free Verse Poems," Gilleland writes on many subjects serious and humorous.

"Women Just Don't Get It!" ends with these lines: "Most women simply fail to understand how deep / a man's passion runs. They just don't get it at all. / If they had any inkling, then they wouldn't keep / saying, 'Why get so excited? It's only football.'"

Senior experiences are reflected: "I stand looking wistfully / back at them, my yesterdays . . . / knowing now my yesterdays outnumber my tomorrows." In "What War Is," Gilleland sees war as "Mankind's brutality unleashed," "Failure of reason," "An abomination for all mankind," although he admits that war is sometimes unavoidable.

The final poem, "Ghetto Dweller," is written in the voice of a young man who experienced typical ghetto life: gangs, drugs, prison. "I wasn't 'fraid of nothing or nobody. / And nobody talked down to me." The young man's fate was to be gunned down in the street at age twenty-two. "What you gonna do? / 'Aint no way to break the ghetto cycle. / Just 'aint no way." Gilleland's observations about life in this and most of his other poems ring true.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Just Released: Press Release for "Seniorwriting"

As you writers out there probably know, one way to market a book is to use a PRWeb Press Release (http://www.prweb.com/) . It's not free, but it's a good way to get the word out. You may write your own review, but I did not. As I did with Reinventing Myself, I ordered this one from http://www.readerviews.com/, which also reviewed the book.

I realize that my books will not be best sellers, but I hope they will be helpful--and interesting--to my fellow seniors.

Here is the press release. I like it.

Retirement is Perfect Time to Write and Reinvent Oneself

Writing brings clarification, joy, fond memories, and a new perspective on life. Learn these lessons and more in retirement--the perfect time to embark on an adventure by exploring the joy of writing. Begin the journey, with a few helpful hints from Marlys Marshall Styne's "Seniorwriting."

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) July 2, 2008 -- Have you always wanted to write a novel or memoir but kept putting it off because there just wasn't time? Retirement is the time to start. Don't let another day pass making up excuses. Grab the perfect starter's guide, Marlys Marshall Styne's "Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide for Seniors Who Want to Write" (ISBN 0741442965, Infinity Publishing 2007).

Many seniors do not plan for retirement. Others find it lacks the enjoyment they anticipated. When Styne lost her husband soon after she retired, she began writing to overcome the loneliness, depression, and self-doubt she faced. She soon found meaning in her life and that joy could be experienced again. Her discoveries from writing led to the publication of her first book "Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor" and then her desire to help other seniors "reinvent" themselves, discover the joys and benefits of writing and pass their stories along to their families. "Seniorwriting" is the fruition of that desire.

"Seniorwriting" speaks in non-technical terms and provides guidelines to transform memories into written words, whether on paper or the computer. Rather than rules or formulas, it presents suggestions and choices to encourage confidence and creativity.The book is compact, user-friendly, and divided into three sections. Styne begins by answering the question, "Why Write?" with such reasons as discovery, healing, rejuvenation and enjoyment. She provides suggestions for getting started, and asks the reader questions to stimulate writing topics.
Ten examples are provided in the second section on how to recreate experiences and memories as written words. Journal assignments encourage observation, family stories, imagination, and recording of favorite memories. The third section helps aspiring writers transform their words from a rough draft to an organized, revised, edited and proofread final manuscript. The section includes detailed suggestions for publishing as well.

Styne wants readers to learn what she has learned--that writing provides new perspectives, clarification, and a sense of life's meaning. "Seniorwriting" is inspiring and beneficial to anyone who wants to write, but the senior will find it especially helpful for personal concerns and leaving behind a written memorial for future generations. As Styne reminds us on her website with a favorite George Eliot quote, "It is never too late to be who you might have been."

"Seniorwriting" won first place in the Nonfiction: Instructional category of the Illinois Woman's Press Association's Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest in 2008.

About the Author

Marlys Marshall Styne taught composition, British and American Literature for forty years and was department chair of English at Wilbur Wright College in Chicago before retiring in 1999. When she lost her husband shortly after she retired, Styne lifted herself out of depression by using writing to affirm the meaning of her life. Her first book "Reinventing Myself" made her realize the importance of writing for seniors, which in turn encouraged her to write her new book "Seniorwriting." She recently published a small book of poetry, "Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters" (Lulu 2008). Styne also writes two blogs, "Never too Late!" and "Write your Life!" and a column about writing for the eGenerations web site.

"Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide for Seniors Who Want to Write" (ISBN 0741442965, Infinity Publishing 2007) can be purchased through online bookstores. For more information, visit http://www.seniorwriter.blogspot.com/. Publicity contact: http://www.readerviews.com/. Review copies available upon request.
###

Contact Information :

IRENE WATSON, ReaderViews: 512.288.8555

Marlys Marshall Styne
http://www.seniorwriter.blogspot.com/

To read the release on line:
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/07/prweb1064554.htm


To read a review:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More Good Writing News from eGenerations

I was elated to learn that one of my fellow columnists (there are four of us at eGenerations) is collaborating with another member to collaborate on writing a series of journal entries featuring senior characters. Their "Uncle Charlie" stories are a joy to read. Thanks, Ginny and Charles.

I've also noticed several members trying their hands at writing poetry. Since I love writing rictameters myself, I'm happy to see those poems (none of them, by the way, rictameters). My next column (not published yet) is on senior poetry, which I consider a great way to express interesting ideas in brief and fascinating ways.

Try writing some poetry yourself. The object is not great art, but, as with most of the writing I discuss here, self-expression--and enjoyment.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Check Out Today's Writing-Related Post on my Other Blog, "Never too Late!"

http://seniorwriter.blogspot.com/2008/06/blogs-rictameters-haikus-six-word.html

A Poll for Boomers and Seniors

Do you usually get your books from on-line stores like Amazon.com, from brick-and-mortar book stores, from other retail stores, or from the library?

Yesterday I posted a poll asking that question, but I've discovered that the poll format does not work. Please keep on adding your comments here. I'm still anxious to learn about where you get most of your books.

The results so far have been mixed, as I expected.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Power of Senior Writing: Perhaps I've Made a Difference

As in most of my other writing, my main goal in my twice-a-month eGenerations column, now more than a year old, is to encourage boomers and senior citizens to write, to record their memories, experiences, and wisdom for their families. I often wonder if anyone is listening, but in at least one case, I think I've encouraged a senior to write.

I've never met Wayne in person. I met him through eGenerations, where he contributes to his journal and to the forums. Wayne lives far away. He is over 80, widowed, disabled, and confined to a wheelchair. A daughter is his caregiver.

That sounds depressing, doesn't it? I can tell from his posts that he does get depressed by his situation. He even said goodbye to his eGeneration friends some time ago, but he came back in relatively good spirits. Wayne hasn't had an easy life--losing his beloved wife was a major tragedy for him--but he somehow manages to maintain an ironic sense of humor.

In his eGenerations profile, Wayne lists his biggest challenge as living and his wildest dream as walking. I'm old enough to understand.

Here are some excerpts from several of Wayne's eGenerations journal entries and comments.

"Twenty-one offspring at ages from 60 years to minus 5 weeks. Most of my hand-me-downs will not be material, but will be my memoirs, just recently written and covering the events of a family from its start to my finish. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for what it is worth."

"Seniorwriter, I think I have started writing out of frustration and confusion. I am frustrated because I cannot do what I always did and I'm confused because I don't remember why. Writing of any kind seems to help put facts and figures in place, in order, while otherwise they are just bouncing around in my mostly dried out gourd of a head. In some of us, God forgot to include the zerk fitting and so we were never properly maintained."

(I had no idea what a "zerk fitting" is, so I looked it up. It seems that it's a fitting providing a way for grease to be forced into mechanical joints that need grease to prevent wear and make movement easy. Perhaps those of you who are mechanically inclined knew that. What an appropriate image Wayne has used for some of the problems of aging!)

In a longer journal entry, Wayne wrote:

"I just finished proofing and printing out my memoirs, and possibly just in time, as I seem to be losing more of my abilities daily. Darned Golden Years. Anyway, I ended up with 62 half-pages (5 1/2 x 8 1/2), including some pictures and genealogy charts and historical records. I managed to find a "Four Seasons Winery" binder which fits in real well with my four seasons of progress: The Early Years to 21, The Middle Years to 65, The Later Years to 75, and The Ending Years to--God only knows. Looks real professional too.

"Wish I had met Seniorwriter earlier and started writing earlier. So many memories and so little time. Our offspring and theirs deserve to know something of their ancestry for a variety of reasons, one reason being health. I was able to offer some medical/genealogical information to the doctor of a 3-year-old grand-niece which will help prevent her from going through a lifetime of genetic Crohn's disease.

"I would like to make this recommendation to the general membership of eGenerations: write it down in some, any form so that those coming after you will have some of your knowledge, your experiences to treasure, or in some cases to avoid. Memories are all we have to leave sometimes, and oh yes, we're all going to leave them here.

"I would like to thank all of you for the help you've given me and the encouragement to keep on writing."

Many thanks, Wayne, for heeding some of my suggestions and writing your memoirs. You've made me feel that there's an audience for an old, retired writing teacher. Perhaps I can still make a difference in a few lives.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne