There are many surprises in author world. So many that, ironically, I could write a book about the surprises associated with writing a book.
But for today, let's touch on keeping this journey going and evolving. As we know from science and from hanging out for a while on this planet, nothing (except for God) stays the same. As authors, we have to keep producing new material in one form or another. Or, we have to keep finding new audiences for our old material.
The key word here is new, and keeping things fresh.
Last year, when my second novel came out, WholeHeart Communications Owner Christy Ragle suggested that I develop a presentation on self-publishing. At first, I balked at the notion. I wasn't an expert. I didn't have all the answers.
But the more I thought about it, I realized that while no, I wasn't a pro, I knew enough to publish two books and certainly had advice and opinions on the topic. I also realized that no one has "all the answers." But I had some answers. And some behind-the-cover insights and thoughts on the experience of self-publishing and what comes next. It could all prove helpful to those thinking of going for it.
I also have had a number of would-be authors approach me asking for advice, or inquiring if I would read and comment on their manuscripts, and even if I would edit their books.
So I put something together and realized that yes, I had enough for a program. It's gotten me into a few venues and this Saturday, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., I'll roll out a sample taken from the larger program in the Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne. I'll be speaking during a panel discussion on "Top 10 tips for finding readers."
I'll also be around the rest of the day at the noon to 5 p.m. author fair. It's all free to the public, including these workshops:
* Secrets of Successful Self-Publishing 12:30-1:30 pm
Learn how to self-publish like a pro.
* How to Write 50K Words in 30 Days 1:45-3:15 pm
Writing Workshop with Michelle Weidenbenner.
* Writing Down the Genres 3:30-4:30 pm
Four authors who write in different genres: romance, Christian, non-fiction/history, and memoir—will discuss their process.
No preregistration is required to attend either of the panels or the writing class.
As writers, authors, or speakers, you never know if a particular presentation you come up with will be one that's requested over and over. My best tip in this area is that when you are developing a program, make it useful to those listening to you. It' not just about you. Give those you are speaking to food for thought, encouragement, challenge, how-to information or SOMETHING that has potential to help or change them. Years ago in the journalism field, we used to call this "news you can use."
Also, don't shy away from writing new programs to suit new opportunities that come your way.
Maybe it's not just food for thought, but actual food! A Zionsville librarian approached me asking if I would do a presentation on recipes from my first book. Oh, and bring samples. I said I could do that, sure, and told him that I would like to be reimbursed for the food expenses. He said it wasn't a problem. So I wrote a program called "Novel Food," shopped for, prepared and hauled in two dishes from recipes found in Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast.
One day at work the phone rang. A local elementary school asked if I would give a back-to-school program to staff, parents and kids on some aspect of literacy. Umm, sure? I mean, sure! I put one together called "What's Your Clue?" I've used it since then at a library summer reading program kickoff.
The point is that if we're going to continue our journey, we have to think out of the book or books we wrote, and delve into new territory.
Will it be perfect? Are we experts? No and no. Will it take time? Yes. Is it worth it? If you love writing and sharing with readers, yes. It is indeed worth it.
Donna Cronk is author of two inspirational novels, quite a few programs, and thousands of newspaper columns and feature stories. To connect with her about her programs or books, email her at email@example.com.
It’s spring 1973. I’m in eighth-grade at Liberty Junior High School.
There was no high school-orientation night to plot our high school courses. I don’t remember signing up for freshman year other than my mother’s strong feelings about one thing.
She said I should take typing; that I would use it.
That fall I learned that everything in typing begins on home row, and soon our sweet business-skills teacher, Ethel Sharp, helped us expand our range to other rows on the keyboard.
My friend Cheryl Rodenburg also took typing that fall. One weekend, we decided to borrow her step-grandmother’s portable typewriter and practice our Typing I skills.
We thought it would be fun to create a weekly newspaper in Philomath, the farm community where she lived.
Philomath, in the northwest tip of Union County, Indiana, isn’t an incorporated town, and there are no businesses. But there was a street light outside the Rodenburg home (actually, a security light, no doubt billed to the family). There were several houses in the neighborhood and a lot of cars and tractors passing through the main drag. City life when compared to our much more isolated farm.
I felt so alive that weekend; in love with our newspaper project. Whereas three years earlier we spent weekends in marathon sessions playing with Barbies, this was a new era and I knew it.
I felt as though I could work on our little newspaper 24/7 and I would never tire of it, ever, ever. The power of the press had reached Philomath! And I knew that whatever stories we came up with about the neighborhood, the people would read them. They might have suggestions for more stories, and feel a sense of pride at being in print.
But with only home row under our belts that weekend, we weren’t yet skilled enough to pull off a weekly newspaper, or even one issue.
I ached with a desire to type fluently, stringing not just pecked-out words but sentences, and paragraphs together, to doing something I couldn’t quite verbalize the significance of, but it amounted to making that keyboard sing with the poetry of everyday people’s stories.
At home, there sat an ancient typewriter in the back of a closet. Mom unearthed it, but it was heavy as a Model T, and the keys had to be pushed hard into submission to gather enough ink off the old ribbon to leave a print.
Back in typing class, we kept getting better. Every beginner’s goal became the chance to move up from the manual typewriter to the modern IBM Selectric. I still recall the hum and slight vibration of the machine under my fingers, and the way the keys clicked so easily compared to the clack of non-electric keys. When my fingers sat on home row of that Selectric, I felt as a race horse must feel, itching to get out of the starting gate and move.
The sound of typing became music to my ears, a symphony when others typed at the same time. As the years rolled on, I joined the high school newspaper staff, became editor my senior year, and then studied journalism in college.
It was there I was introduced to video display terminals (VDTs) that we used in 1980s and 1990s newspapering.
What had not changed were the sounds and appeal of creating news stories, just as we had attempted as beginner typists that fall in Philomath. Only by the early 1980s, there was a screen and a curser and it felt so space-age to backspace and delete a stray character rather than attempt a neat job with the typewriter eraser or correction fluid.
Of course computers changed everything. The keyboards were connected to nothing short of the world and all its information in the form of the internet. But it also meant that everyone else was connected to the world. Would they still need local newspapers?
At some point, the clickity-clack of newsroom Associated Press bulletins and breaking news, as well as features and stock reports that printed out of that magical AP wire machine became obsolete. Computers silently transmitted all that copy to us.
As the years continued, many smaller papers stopped using their own presses and instead, printed at centralized locations.
At one time, a newspaper office was a noisy place. The press rolled, the keyboards of first typewriters, then VDTs, then computers clicked. The AP wire machine cranked out copy. People came and went in open-concept newsrooms and advertising departments.
You learned to concentrate in the midst of much noise and many disruptions. You didn’t think about it. Or if you did, you thought it was great to be a part of the pre-deadline mix; that it would all come together, somehow, as if by magic, into a printed newspaper. And it would all happen again the next day.
Most days now, someone comes by the newspaper office and says, “Sure is quiet in here.”
It’s true, too. Our Mac keyboards are so quiet that reporters with light touches can’t even be heard typing. The silence is deafening to where sometimes I think: Are we really making a paper? It's all happening so quietly.
At some point, I trashed my mother’s typewriter, that jet-black, heavy-as-a-Model-T number. As Brian would say, I was in one of my cleaning frenzies.
In the newspaper office, we were gifted with the typewriter that belonged to long-time owner Walter Chambers. It sits on his desk that his family also gave us. They thought his things should be at the newspaper.
The only other typewriter in the building rests above our old-time morgue, where old stories were clipped and stored for future reference. The typewriter typed the name of the topics of those stories on small envelopes. We never use that typewriter anymore. But no one is inclined to toss it out either.
I think back to October 1973 and the craving to know how to make a keyboard sing. I wanted to type fast and make newspapers.
It’s fall 2017. I’m in my thirty-fourth year as a paid community journalist. I still want to type fast and make newspapers.
Maybe some things don't change.
It's all about the new territory.
This week was a good one in the book-marketing department because the in-box brought details and posters from two large Indiana libraries affirming my acceptance as author at their fall fairs.
What that means is this. Potential new readers who might take an interest in my books will pass my table on two Saturdays in two separate cities. I might sell a couple, a few, or even a lot of books. But here's the real bait: if one of those readers happens to connect positively with what I write, that might generate an invite to a book club where all her friends have read it and want to discuss it.
Or it might mean that there isn't a peep until a winter's night when I get a call asking if I would be the speaker at her church's mother-daughter banquet come May. Or a beautiful hand-written letter arrives in the mail saying how much one of the books was enjoyed.
Or, nothing at all might result.
New territory. That's always the goal in author world.
When friends ask if I'm still selling books or doing anything with them, I see their surprise when I tell them yes. After all, they read the things a while ago, and in this super-fast-paced world, everything seems to be old news fast.
A book is like a homemade meal. Both take a lot of time to produce. There's all that ingredient-gathering, figuring out the recipes, having the right utensils, the cooking knowledge to prepare the dish properly, getting the right people to the table, and then, after such a long process to reach the end result, the book is read, the meal devoured.
Before the dishes are washed or the book widely distributed, the questions come: What's for dessert? (or) What are you doing next?
Well, if you're me or a whole bunch of other authors I know, what's next means looking for that new territory.
So along with the Fishers author fair, there's this one, which I heard through the author-vine, is a pretty terrific one, in Fort Wayne.
So what I know for now is that the author journey continues, and I am grateful to the Fishers / Hamilton County and the Fort Wayne / Allen County library staffs for selecting my books -- and me -- as a part of their author fairs.
If you or friends you know live in those areas, I'd love to visit with any of you on either of the first two Saturdays in November. The journey continues and as long as I can find new territory, I hope to remain on it.
AND, a bonus: My friend Sandy Moore, author of the children's chapter book, Sadie's Search for Home, and a new one coming out in December (which I'll let her announce more about when she's ready) also made the cut for these two author fairs. So we get to spend some time together. Any recommendations for a dinner spot in Fort Wayne?
In other news ...
Author Cathy Shouse of the Muncie branch of Pen Women sent this release along to The Courier-Times and I thought I’d share it here in full.
Cathy hosted me as a speaker last year and invited me to join the group. If there were more hours in the day, I would. If you’re looking for a group focused on the creative arts, Friday’s meeting would be a great way to check it out.
I met the guest speaker during a Tipton author fair two years ago and instantly liked her a lot. We’ve kept in touch and I’m happy to give her a plug, below.
Not only is this traditionally published author incredibly talented with art and words, she’s transparent and approachable. Here’s the info that Cathy sent:
Author and graphic designer Kelly O’Dell Stanley of Crawfordsville will speak at a luncheon program at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 20 in Muncie. Her topic is: “How to Express Your Creativity in Unique Ways.”
O’Dell Stanley’s work has been included in design anthologies and PRINT Magazine’s Design Annual and she has received a variety of awards for her design.
The author discovered writing as a new way of practicing her creativity. In 2013, her essay won first place in the Writer’s Digest Competition in inspirational writing. She’s published two books with Tyndale since 2015; Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God and Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage with God.
Her original monthly calendars are downloaded by hundreds of people worldwide Visit her at (www.kellyostanley.com or on Facebook at Kelly O’Dell Stanley, Author)
The catered meeting is an outreach of the National League of American Pen Women’s Muncie branch at Westminster Villa’s Community Hall, 5600 Westminster Blvd., Muncie. The cost is $10. Space is limited. To attend call Barb Kehoe at 765-288-2098 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pen Women is a national, non-profit organization with headquarters in Washington D.C., whose members are artists, musicians and writers.
Joyce and Jim exchanged vows on Fourth of July weekend 2013 on a New Hampshire hilltop. In this moment, Joyce told everyone to get comfortable because she had something to read to Jim and it would take a while. We would have expected nothing less. What we didn't expect was that they wouldn't have long together before they battled the demon of cancer that took Jim.
I’ve been a fan of author Joyce Maynard for 30 years. When I discovered her, she was knee-deep in raising kids and tomatoes, making pies, and beautiful Christmases. In the midst of all that, life got messy, and she didn’t shy away from sharing those parts, either.
There came the illness, then death of her beloved mother, a painful divorce; dating and relationships. And who happened to be in New York City on 9/11? Joyce, of course, as though sent to chronicle another moment that we needed to see through her first-person lens.
I would learn that Joyce had gained national fame as a teen with a New York Times magazine-cover essay whereby she rocketed to the description of "the voice" of her generation, and that led to a relationship with a famous man, her first heartbreak.
But what interested me most was not the fame part, but the ordinary part of her life – the kids-and-tomatoes part.
Add that homey side to the community-columnist and small-town-newspaper-reporter side of me, and I was hooked on her writing – and let her know.
Joyce came off the page when she invited me to stay with her during her epic New Hampshire yard sale before her move to California in the late 1990s. Who could guess there would be a second invite to New Hampshire, this time to see her marry Jim, the eventual love of her life, the dashing California attorney? Yet there my friend Gay and I stood on a New Hampshire hilltop, watching the ceremony in July 2013.
What nationally-acclaimed author gets that personal with her readers?
While she has always detailed the life and times of her generation, as well as shared personal details from her life, as though each reader is really her close friend visiting over coffee, The Best of Us is one we all wish she didn’t have to write.
She lost her love too soon. She tells us everything; things we don’t want to hear, but know she must say, about cancer and what you do when the person you love most is dying. Or before you know he is dying and you are frantically trying to find what will save him, and save you. But her fans have been around a day or two. We’ve seen cancer, and death, and pain, and disappointments along with our own hilltop moments. We understand.
At the end of almost every chapter, there is a simple, but profoundly poignant point offered by Joyce, a takeaway even, for us all. For example, while addressing a frustration over an inconvenience due to her husband losing his car keys, she writes, “In the old days, I would have made some sharp remark. How could he? I didn’t do those things anymore. ‘If only,’ I often said, ‘you could learn the lessons of cancer without having cancer.’”
She writes with candor, her signature, of course, in ways that sometimes make you wince and want to look away from plenty of ugly situations, not only of the cancer journey that we know won’t end well, but of heart-rending situations before the two found each other. We’re reminded of our own, personal, look-away moments. We're prone to hide them away rather than put them out there.
The joy that sparkles in this book is that Joyce and Jim found each other, and got to experience travel and life and love in a condensed form that I would call blessings.
Joyce and I are two different women in more obvious ways than we are alike. Yet perhaps at the heart of our curious connection is this shared core belief: That it isn’t real until it’s written. And that we don’t get to choose our life stories. They choose us. Then we tell them.
She spent a year after Jim’s death writing this book, and now she’s touring with it, something she revels in, and finds energy from. Writing a book is necessarily a solo experience with quiet and isolation. Joyce recharges by meeting her readers, hearing how they identify with her words, and how she identifies with them.
She will survive this. Jim had said he only wanted to be her good husband. He regretted, perhaps more than anything, the burden he would say he became to her, the pain his pain caused her. The way she can honor him now, I believe, is to press on and have a wonderful life, find new love and joy and, (I would add, most of all) faith.
She told me once to “Keep telling stories.”
I will stay tuned to hear hers. There will be new ones to find and I know she will write about them all. I hope that the next chapter will be one that makes her heart sing. Life is full of so much. Love, laughter, people we love and lose, relationships, sadness, disappointment, and moments that surprise and soar. She’s not done, this woman who chronicles life for the Baby Boomer generation.
I still see the two of them, Joyce and Jim, on that New Hampshire hilltop four years ago. They had it all.
From them, let us remember that our days are likewise numbered. And to cherish each and every one we get.
Connect with her at www.joycemaynard.com. Her book is available in bookstores, on Amazon.com, and if you are fortunate enough to catch her on tour, from Joyce personally.
Career community journalist Donna Cronk is author of two novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland.
Please join me this Saturday, Sept. 9, on the Union County courthouse square for four mini-presentations on Four Famous Folks From Liberty. At 10 a.m. I'll profile Civil War General Ambrose Burnside; 12:30 p.m. is the real "Little Orphant Annie," Mary Alice "Allie" Smith Gray; 1:45 p.m. will be Voice of the 500 Bob Jenkins, and at 2:45 p.m. is our own Miss Indiana 1988, Joni McMechan Checchia.
This weekend, Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 9-10, Union County, Indiana, honors its past at the annual Founder’s Days on the courthouse lawn in Liberty.
Last year I took part in the programming by reading some Hoosier poetry. The committee invited me back this year, but I decided to personalize the program with Union County history. And since local history—or any history, for that matter--is always more interesting when it speaks of people (his story = the story of people), I thought it would be fun to create profiles on some Union County natives whose stories go far beyond the small county’s borders.
While brainstorming, it occurred that when we think of a pioneer, we generally associate the term with Conestoga wagons heading west. But pioneers are also those who explore new territories in ways in addition to homesteading and community-building. I chose to highlight four.
A Civil War General
Liberty native General Ambrose Burnside was a national figure in a troubled time. He was the first person to come to mind when developing this program.
As Civil War Commander of the Grand Army of the Potomac, an entire seminar could be done on his service in that sobering war where 620,000 Americans died on our own soil. What I didn’t realize were his additional contributions to American life.
On a lighter note, for example, his name is still associated in pop culture for his unique facial hair, whereby his very name created the term “sideburns.” He invented an upgraded rifle from previous models – the Burnside Carbine – and was co-founder and first president of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
He went on to become a three-term governor of Rhode Island, a foreign-war mediator, a U.S. Senator, and – a fascinating side note – he was sitting under President Lincoln’s balcony in Ford’s Theater when the great president was slain.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, I’ll unpack more of Burnside’s story in the first of four 15-minute presentations on the courthouse lawn.
An orphan who inspired the Raggedy Ann doll
Specific details about her childhood are unclear. After all, the year was 1850 and there was no reason to think that the Liberty farm girl, Mary Alice “Allie” Smith, would in any way be associated with fame or legacy.
It is known, however, that the girl became homeless, an “orphan child” and as was the custom of the day, she was sent to “earn her board and keep” with a family that needed a “servant girl” to help around the house.
She found a home with a benevolent family in Greenfield, Indiana, whose home can be toured today as a museum. It was the childhood home of the man who would become The Hoosier Poet, James Whitcomb Riley. Little Jim was fond of “Allie” and the girl inspired his most famous work, “Little Orphant Annie.”
The story behind the poem, as well as the legs that the poem took in inspiring adaptive works – books, a movie musical, and of course the ever-popular play, “Annie,” not to mention one of the world’s most recognized dolls, Raggedy Ann.
And to think, the true orphan child is from Liberty, Indiana. The presentation about her is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
An auto sport broadcaster
Veteran auto sport broadcaster, ESPN and other national-media talent, radio and track Voice of the 500, and even though he is retired, current track voice each May, Bob Jenkins was raised on Main Street in Liberty.
It was in our town that his international career covering auto racing around the globe was nurtured. He became enamored with watching small-town racer Levi Dunaway get his car ready for a Richmond run on Friday nights, and as a kid, Bob’s own raceway was the “oval” behind Miles-Richmond, where his dad worked.
Yet despite his successes around the world through his broadcasting and movie work, Jenkins reveals that he has thought about writing a book – one largely about growing up in a small town.
I had the privilege of writing about Bob in March when he gave a talk at a historical society fundraiser in New Castle, and we have emailed each other since with updates for this talk.
I’ll speak about Bob at 1:45 p.m. Saturday and have some autographed photos for those attending to win as door prizes.
Miss Indiana 1988 is former Liberty farm girl Joni McMechan Checchia. Today, Joni lives in Houston, Texas with her family, Paul, a doctor, and son Andrew, 16.
A Northwestern University graduate, Joni is an interior designer whose clients are located throughout the country, and she does volunteer work in her community. (By the way, her home was spared by Hurricane Harvey but many friends there felt the brunt of it).
Joni provides insights into the significance of growing up on the family farm, unpacks some special Miss Indiana memories such as touring with the Miss America USO program throughout the world, and sharing what it was like to be Miss Indiana and represent the Miss America scholarship program internationally.
She sent some autographed photos from her reign as Miss Indiana that will be given as door prizes during the 2:45 p.m. presentation.
If you are interested in these Union County legends, I hope you’ll come see me on the courthouse square Saturday. I’ll have a table set up with some memorabilia that might surprise you – from photos of the four I’m featuring to a children’s book I found that’s written about Ambrose Burnside.
One of the challenges of editing a quarterly women's magazine is that with that project, I'm never working in season. I'm always thinking of what readers will see on the date the magazine appears which is three months out.
I've asked a cover subject to dress for late fall on a hot August day -- and could she please get out her autumn decorations for props? However if I'm working on the winter issue in the fall, the last thing I want in the background of photos are pumpkins.
So eyebrows might have raised Friday when a column appeared in the New Castle Courier-Times, publisher of her magazine for women, announcing our new holiday recipe contest. I wonder if there were groans such as when you walk into a department store this time of year and find Christmas trees lit up.
We did a survey among her magazine for women readers and the most common response was that they wanted more recipes. Our readership has always been recipe-oriented. For decades we hosted a successful annual recipe contest in March but after the magazine was created, that took the time that previously went into the recipe contest so we discontinued it.
That contest was rather elaborate in that we had six categories, a preliminary as well as final round, brought in a celebrity judge, and had a resulting publication devoted to recipes.
This new her Holiday Recipe Contest is a simplified competition. In fact, it's all new. We'll have 20 finalists, one top winner who will get $100 the evening of the finals and the cover spot in the fall issue, a tasting party for finalists, an assortment of door prizes, and a nice stash of local recipes for our magazine readers inside their Nov. 5 issue -- just in time for holiday fun.
I'm reprinting Friday's article here with the rules and regs. Since my blogging audience both overlaps and is expanded from the newspaper one, please keep something in mind. Only enter if you are able to prepare and bring your prepared recipe to the tasting party finals. And remember than the paper entry does not assure you are in the finals. I will notify you if you are.
While the top 20 recipes will be selected based on the submitted written recipes only, no one can win a thing if the actual food is not brought in to the finals. And above all, have some fun with this! I have no idea if it will be an annual thing. Maybe. Guess it depends on how this one goes.
OK! Here we go, from Friday's issue.
It’s not time to buy your Thanksgiving turkey, nor cook a batch of Christmas fudge.
But it’s always time to be thinking ahead to the holiday season.
Her magazine for women will devote the fall cover story and multiple pages to a new contest, and event, sponsored by the magazine and The Courier-Times. Let me introduce to you to her Holiday Recipe Contest. Today begins the entry period for the competition which extends through noon, Monday, Sept. 11.
Detailed instructions follow. The short version is that each reader is invited to submit a written recipe to the contest before the deadline. Of the recipes submitted, 20 readers will be invited to bring their prepared recipe in the form of edible food to the judging which will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4 at The Courier-Times, 201 S. 14th St. Contestants should be there no later than 6 p.m. for preliminary photos and registration.
The finalists will be seated and watch as a team of three judges comment on the food and a single overall winner is named. The top dish and the person submitting it will be featured on the cover of the fall issue. During the evening, a variety of photos will be taken. Finalists will have the opportunity to taste each other’s foods and door prizes will be awarded before the top winner is named. The top winner will take home $100.
As many recipes as space allows will be printed in the fall magazine, which comes out Sunday, Nov. 12.
Specific rules follow. Direct any questions to her magazine editor Donna Cronk at 765-575-4657 or email email@example.com.
1. One recipe per person may be entered. By submitting the recipe, the person submitting it affirms to the best of his or her knowledge he or she has permission to submit the recipe and is not in knowing violation of a copyright. The recipe must not be knowingly copied from a cookbook, internet or social media site, but instead be either created by the person submitting it or handed down in the family with the original source unknown.
2. The recipe should be something served by the submitter during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday season. It may be sweet or savory. It could be a favorite breakfast casserole, pie, cake, cookie, or any other dish that is a family favorite.
3. Only submit a recipe if at the time of submission you are available if contacted to prepare the dish and bring it to the Oct. 4 judging. The complete written recipe, with ingredients, amounts and instructions must be provided as the preliminary contest entry to be considered for the final judging competition.
4. Current Courier-Times employees, columnists and stringers, and those living in their households, are not permitted to enter.
5. In submitting the full written recipe, send it via one of the following: email (preferred), U.S. mail or drop it off at the newspaper office. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org; mail to The Courier-Times, Donna Cronk, 201 S. 14th St., New Castle, IN 47362; or drop off at the S. 14th St. address. Include your name, full address, email and daytime phone number.
Notification from her magazine and Cronk will go out to the 20 chosen contestants on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Those selected will have until noon, Monday, Sept. 18 to respond if they plan to participate in the judging and tasting party. If they do not, alternates will be named.
Note: Today's post is a reprint of my Sunday Courier-Times newspaper column. Inspiration comes in many forms and for me, most recently it arrived through my discovery of TED Talks (TED.com), courtesy of Dr. John Dickey, a retired optometrist in New Castle. He'll celebrate his 99th birthday soon, and he is one of the most interesting -- and interested -- people around.
A few weeks ago, Kent Kemmerling mentioned that he attends TED Talks at John Dickey's home.
Where have I been? I had never heard of the talks which number in the thousands. I figured "TED" meant a guy, maybe a man of considerable influence and intellect whose name I should know but don't.
A simple Google search provided multiple links to the world of TED Talks where I quickly learned that TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design in the form of a decades-long series of speeches — or talks, if you will — on anything and everything by experts on said topics. These experts are able to condense complex information in a way that inspires, encourages, challenges, and motivates. And even if the thousands of talks didn't do all that, they do with certainty accomplish the mission of spreading ideas.
I knew if Dr. John Dickey was a part of the talks, they were worthy. I've written about Dickey's handmade clocks, and our newspaper and the evening TV news have covered his autograph collection, and his travels.
I've always been impressed by his spirit of adventure, optimism, engagement, and yes, brilliance. I hadn't realized that he will be age 99 next month. Yet he enjoys new ideas, loves technology (and uses it adeptly), and enjoys sharing intellectual thoughts with those who fill his home weekly for the TED Talks -- which he hosts.
When I got the official invite to attend a Talk and write a story, I was delighted. In fact, I didn't mind Sunday night at all last week as I eagerly awaited Monday morning and my first experience with TED.
I may be obsessed.
When I left the gathering my head was spinning from the speakers, the new ways to look at math and science. I watched Yves Rossy spiral through the air with his Jetman wings as though a bird in flight. Amazing. I was inspired by Jim Yong Kim who sees beyond poverty and limitations and wonders why people everywhere can't have a shot at good lives.
I marvel at these brilliant people. From each Talk, I tried to imagine my own takeaway. I will never be good at advanced math concepts such as the gifted Roger Antonsen. But his challenge was to create the ability to change your perspective and see it in a new way. I can do that.
I will never have a bestseller as author Anne Lamott. But I left over-the-top inspired by her to come up with my own list of truths I've learned from life and writing.
I would be too chicken, if I even had the unlikely opportunity to soar through the sky like Jetman Yves Rossy who appears birdlike. Footage from his flights will take your breath away. But I sure can apply his tip to "always have a Plan B."
Now I have an idea that I can't shake. I'd like to get together with a group of friends where our agenda is to present our own TED-inspired talks. How fun would it be for each person to bring a surprise talk or activity or craft or reading or talent or song or musical representation to the table and wow us all with -- something. Something that inspires us. Challenges us. Delights us. Or even if it doesn't, makes us proud that our friend was gutsy enough to put it out there.
How about you? Would you and your friends consider devoting an evening or an afternoon to a sort of TED workshop? Or at least select some videos, play them for your group. Then see what happens. I think you and your friends will be changed.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors editor at The Courier-Times and edits the quarterly her magazine for women. Connect with her at dcronk@thecouriertimes or call her direct line at 765-575-4657.
The following is a reprint of my Sunday column in the New Castle Courier-Times. Have a great week, everyone. I'll catch up with you on the weekend.
During more than three decades in a newsroom, I've been asked to judge a few things:
American history essays, newspaper-sponsored writing contests, best-decorated door at Christmas at a health facility, a library chili cook-off, a nursing home pet contest, a queen contest at a small-town festival, parade floats at another small-town festival, baked goods at The Mooreland World’s Fair (as we like to call it at the paper). I also judged beautiful handmade needlework for a DAR competition.
Being a judge is fun. There’s no pomp, but there are circumstances. Those generally involve heat and humidity. There’s no black robe and no one stands up for you when you enter the space, which may be a pole barn in August. Or, it could be a tiny room filled with stacks of handiwork that has taken the stitchers hundreds of hours apiece, only to be evaluated by a judge over a single lunch hour.
Once during a judging event, I had a dulcimer band quit playing when I entered its space. The musicians stopped not out of respect, but to yell at me. Apparently I had inadvertently interrupted their performance while setting up trophies for the parade winners. Other than that humiliation, most of my judging efforts have been anonymous.
Oh, but make no mistake. It’s serious business to determine if a homemade snickerdoodle is better than a seven-layer-bar. Perhaps I should have another bite of each to make sure.
When I judged the queen contest, it wasn’t that the committee had searched high and low for a judging team whose combined wisdom could determine the fairest maiden in the land. Um, no, it was that my coworker, who was originally tapped, didn’t want to do it and asked me to sub. So why was she selected to begin with? Could be that that the committee figured she would come with a camera and put the results in the paper? Bingo.
These situations take me back to a childhood full of 4-H. I sewed dresses, baked nut bread, crocheted an afghan, arranged flowers, assembled a terrarium, pressed and labeled leaves on a poster, and created demonstrations.
In the back of my mind while completing the work, I wondered what the judges would think, fretted if the poster was turned the right way, if the label was in the correct corner, and if the hems were straight.
All I’ve ever wanted to be, career wise, is a writer. But what I’ve come to see is that I will be that no matter what, and it’s not only the interviews but the experiences that provide subject matter. Whether I’m writing for a newspaper, working on a book, or posting a Home Row blog, regular life is my subject matter, and Lord willing, a writer I’ll always be.
As I approach age 59, I have no plans to retire, but people are asking me about it more all the time. Maybe it’s because my husband is retired (he’s five-and-a-half years older). Maybe it’s because I’m looking like I should be retired. Whatever the reason, I’m starting to think about what I want to do when the time comes, whenever that is.
I think I’d like to become a 4-H judge. I don’t know if there is a course to take, if there are more or fewer judges than needed, or how all that works.
I’m still covering fairs as part of this small-town newspaper journey, one that began 43 years ago when I decided – at a 4-H fair dog show, no less – that it’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. But what do I want to be when I retire? Guess that’s something I should think about.
How about you?
How did you decide who you wanted to be in retirement? What unique plans do you have? What plans have come to pass? Anything unusual or unexpected happen? Might make an interesting story. Share with me at email@example.com.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times and edits the quarterly her magazine for women. Her hobby involves speaking engagements encouraging women to live their dreams and bloom where they are planted, themes in her two novels. See the About Donna and Contact sections on this website for details.
Donna Cronk / New Castle Courier-Times photos // Jack Claborn visits with National Road Yard Sale Founder and Chairperson Patricia McDaniel as they prepare for the annual 800-plus-mile yard sale, May 31-June 4. Treasures, bargains and ... goats. Pat will be featured in a 7:30 a.m. segment Wednesday morning on Fox 59-Indianapolis TV.
Every year, along our nation's first cross-country route, U.S. 40, historically called The National Road, a continuous yard sale takes place on farms, at homes, businesses and in pop-up locations. This goes on for more than 800 miles, from Baltimore, Maryland, to St. Louis. This year it runs May 31-June 4. Jump on anywhere. While previewing the sale, I became inspired to write this column, which ran Sunday in the New Castle Courier-Times.
When you’ve been married as long as I have, there are certain things you don’t discuss. For example, goats.
Brian doesn’t understand what I see in a goat. He thinks they are stinky and without purpose. He doesn’t find them humorous or interesting in any way.
I happen to love goats, and can easily overlook any perceived flaws. I think they are funny and I am interested in how they seem to look at life differently than the other farm animals, let alone the humans.
If we drove by a pasture with a goat standing on the roof of a shed or in any other unexpected place on the property, you would find me laughing and craning my neck for an extended look. You would find Brian annoyed not only by the goat, but at my amusement.
It’s a topic on which we agree to disagree.
Maybe it’s a rural thing, because quite out of the blue, and without realizing that goats were a topic of dispute in my home, a friend from my hometown said that her requirement for buying a vehicle is that it is, and I quote, “big enough to haul a goat.”
I do know that I will never own a live goat. Never mind that it would be highly inappropriate and probably even a zoning violation to have one in the subdivision where we live. But also, I respect Brian’s feelings, however misguided they may be, about this topic.
I’m sure he would say he has shown a good measure of tolerance by never complaining about my collection of more than 100 Christmas sheep ornaments. (I’ve never seen a goat ornament. Wonder why.) He doesn’t understand the sheep collection, or why I like them so much, either, but he doesn’t make it an issue. We choose our battles.
It’s the same way, I suppose, that I tolerate the thick smears of peanut butter he leaves on table knives, the butter able to stick to the blades regardless of a run through the dishwasher, or the way he has been known to leave empty containers in the pantry or fridge. I don’t say a word. Well, mostly I don’t.
So I found myself in a marital quandary.
When interviewing Jack Claborn about his barnyard folk art, which includes huge, colorful chickens and round, life-size pigs, I mentally gasped when my eyes fell on the whimsical goat. Perfect!
I don’t know what the going price is for a real goat, but for one that’s a metal piece of folk art made in Texas, it’s $50.
What would Brian say if I texted him that I had just bought a goat for $50? Surely when he got home and saw that the animal grazed silently in the landscape and would require no feed, and there was no chance it would randomly appear on top of a car or stray into the neighbors’ garden, he would be relieved.
But that wouldn’t be the only option. Since he sees no charm in a real goat, it’s highly unlikely that a metal one would provide it.
My mind fought itself. Oh, I wanted that metal goat! What an unusual nod to my rural heritage it would be in the middle of our landscaping. It would be like a perfectly acceptable gazing ball ir bird bath – only not.
No one else would have a metal goat. Perhaps it would become a conversation piece. “The Cronks? Oh yeah, the ones with the garden goat.”
I would laugh at such a reference. Brian would not.
To my way of thinking, not getting my goat is our loss.
To Brian’s, well, let's just say he'd rather have the cash.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times and edits the quarterly her magazine for women. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 765-575-4657. In her free time she enjoys speaking engagements encouraging people to live their dreams.
Yesterday, on Mother's Day, I had the blessing of having both sons and our daughter-in-law come visit and share a meal together on the back porch. I started the day at church, and since I had a gig Saturday, somehow I never got around to a weekend post.
So today, I'm reprinting my Sunday feature that ran in the New Castle Courier-TImes.
I was touched by both nursing home and school in coordinating a pen pal exchange between Tri sixth-graders and Heritage House seniors. What a great project to bring the older and younger generations together through words. And then to meet in person.
Please read on...
The tension mounted Monday afternoon in Dusty Neal’s Tri Elementary
classroom. Sixth-grade students watched the door, anticipating the arrival
of some special guests.
The guests were the pals behind the pens the kids had swapped letters with
since Christmas. As several of the senior writers rolled into the
classroom in their wheelchairs, they waved and sported wide smiles.
Everyone seemed anxious to meet each other.
It was a field trip for the Heritage House seniors. And it was a win-win
for all involved.
Student Grant Cash said his favorite part of the project is, “We get to
find out all their history.” Jade Coffey likes “getting to know a person”
along with “Thinking of the joy someone gets over a letter.”
Evan Craft enjoys writing to his senior friend so much that he hopes to keep it
up this summer – long after school credit is involved.
Heritage House pen pal Katy Walker said, “I thought they would be bored
with me. I’m definitely not bored with them.” She was happy to discover
the project involved sixth graders because “that was my favorite year in
Participating were Neal’s 31 students and Heritage House’s 24 residents.
“It’s been a really unique experience,” said the teacher. “These kids are
learning about someone else.” This is the first year he has implemented
the activity. “I had wanted to do some service learning,” he said.
The project also counted as an English / writing exercise and Neal has
seen the academic payoff. “I’ve definitely seen some improvement in their
Heritage House Activity Director Shari Waltman and Assistant Activity
Director Barbara Gideon escorted their residents to the school. Waltman
wanted the students to know that their letters are important to her residents.
Students got the chance to ask their pen pals questions, such as inquiring
about favorite foods, colors and seasons, if they have kids of their own
and what they did for a living. One resident, Janice “Sarg” Halphin, was
asked how she got the nickname. She explained that she has 30 nieces and
nephews and once when they were extra rowdy at an Easter egg hunt, Halphin
told them to settle down in a stern tone. They gave her the name and it stuck.
After a period of meeting, greeting, questions, answers and even a few
hugs, it was time for the pen pals to go their separate ways.
Said Heritage House’s Norma Sauer during the afternoon, “I love kids.”