Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Book of Me, Written By You - Prompt 1: Who Are You?

The Book of Me, Written By You
Prompt 1: Who Are You? 

"The Book of Me, Written By You" is a GeneaBloggers project created by Julie Goucher of the Anglers Rest blog. The concept: a series of blogging and writing prompts that help family historians capture their own memories and write about themselves.

Ask yourself 20 times "Who are you?" Each time you should give yourself a different answer. May have more than 20.

Family historian
Professor Emeritus
Earned PhD
Resident of community
Sports fan

My comments: I was careful not to look at details of others before I started writing them down. Wonder what I forgot? Have you tried it?

Families are Forever!

75 Years Ago This Week - August 31, 1938

75 Years Ago This Week - August 31, 1938

75 Years Ago This Week posts began March 1, 1938 - my mother and father were preparing to get married later in the month. I'm continuing this meme, from time to time, as issues warrant.

Over in The KINNICK Project blog this week we posted a series of daily entries regarding Mom and Dad's trip to the Iowa State Fair - 75 years ago this week, starting here at they prepared for the trip.

I was surprised to see that they took and stayed in a tent on the camping grounds adjacent to the fairgrounds proper.

On August 27th, they visited the livestock pavilion and ate at "a stand."

August 28th was the auto races in the afternoon; they left the fair and attended a movie; before driving home - and seeing friends who had also been to the fair.

I posted one more day, August 29th, just because it was a funny entry

Families are forever!  ;-)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fiction Friday - Post 4 - Point of View

Fiction Friday - Post 4 - Point of View

Author Sue Grafton   - Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In Post 3 we talked about Character - and Character Development. This is a task you can work on before you start writing a story. Another key element that must be considered before starting to write is Point of View.

Books have been written on Point of View, and it is a major topic of every writing workshop, seminar and course on writing. So, I want to comment on my experiences, positive and not so positive, rather than preach or teach here.

Perhaps the easiest point of view to recognize is "first-person narrative" where the story is told by a narrator who is also a character within the story. The narrator reveals the plot by referring to this viewpoint character as "I." I used this with Penny Nixon telling the story in my "Murder by the Homeplace." This point of view has been used in all the alphabet books of Sue Grafton (pictured above), one of my favorite authors with her lead character, Kinsey Millhone. It is commonly used in detective and private investigator stories, of course.

Third-person narrative provides the most flexibility to the author and thus is the most commonly used narrative mode in literature. In this mode, the narrator is not a character in the story, only the entity sharing the story being told. I used this Point of View in "The Homeplace Revisited" and in the forthcoming "Christmas at the Homplace." An interesting variation available is the third-person limited (versus omniscient) narrative where the story is told as 'seen by' one character at a time. The last couple of weeks I've been reading "Eighteen Acres" and "It's Classified" by Nicolle Wallace where each chapter alternates among three women characters.

This reading reminded me that I wrote in this manner, alternating chapters among six characters in my first novel, "Back to the Homeplace," and it was surprisingly successful. It worked well. While it is more difficult to write, I do believe it forces the author to plan the narrative much more precisely - which no doubt creates a better novel.

So, seriously consider which Point of View you will use, as you share your next story. Remember, there are other choices beyond the ones mentioned here. But, do choose carefully for a better result. That is - a better story.

Families are Forever!  ;-)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wordless (nearly) Wednesday - Smith Men and Women - 24 Aug 1941

Wordless (nearly) Wednesday
Smith Men and Women
24 Aug 1941

A 1941 Smith family gathering at the Smith 'Homeplace' - occasion was visit from Nebraska of Charles and Elsie (Smith) Grapes. She was sister of William Emanuel Smith, my grandfather (he had died a couple of years before). Another sister, Lena (Smith) Brown, who lived in nearby Scranton, Iowa, was there as well.

Women: Maxine holding daughter, Judy, Elsie, Lena, Eileen (my Mom), LVene, Irene, Betty (Bethene).

Men: Orrin Hilgenberg (Maxine), me (little Billie, age 2+) and my Dad, Leverne (better known as Pete), Charles Grapes, Willard (still single then), Verle Thomas (LVene).

Families are Forever!  ;-)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hometown Monday - 100 Years Ago This Week - Lem Williams News

Hometown Monday
100 Years Ago This Week
Lem Williams News

Last Friday, I posted a bonus piece from my home town newspaper from 100 Years Ago this week about my great-great uncle Lem Williams. His was a frequent name in the paper of the time because of the various blacksmithing, concrete, construction, ice man, and other projects he undertook. Many buildings that still exist had his hand somewhere in their construction. Here is another, today.

100 Years Ago in the Coon Rapids Enterprise, August 8, 1913:

"Lem Williams has contracted to build the new dam for the flour mill and the work will require several weeks. There will be more than a thousand loads of rock and cement used. The water is now
being pumped from the old dam by a rotary pump, preparatory to building the new. This is a new kind of work for Lem and a pretty big job but he will no doubt take care of it all right."

Families are Forever!  ;-)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fiction Friday - Post 3 - Character Development 1

Fiction Friday - Post 3
Character Development 1

From: Haymaking. Trades & occupations. Plate 9. Lithograph by L. Prang & Co., 1874.
Reproduction number: LC-USZ62-676 [retrieved 21 Aug 2013]

Recognize any of these farmers?

As I said, last time, I find that I start my fiction writing based on family history research with place. Next, for me, however, is Character - and I love Character Development. This is where I feel I most effectively use my family history research in writing fiction.

For my first novel, "Back to the Homeplace," I really appreciated the number of reviews that mentioned my character development in a positive light. Very satisfying.

One of the techniques of character development I'd like to discuss today is the concept of what I call 'composite characters.' A writer can only have a limited number of 'main' characters in any given story that are 'fully' developed. I found that using characteristics of several similar folks from my family history research combined into one 'composite' character worked very well.

A recommended tool I have adopted, or at least tried to, in character development is the Profile. Most writers use some variation of this tool which I'll describe in more detail in later posts. I am still working to make it more effective for me - so recognize I'm talking about a 'work in progress.' Have you used this tool? How does it work for you?

The Profile is a single sheet, or file, that tells everything 'you know' about each of your main characters. Properly prepared and used, the Profile has much more detail than ever appears, specifically, in your writing. This includes not only physical descriptions, but traits, nuances, 'likes and dislikes,' etc. The Profile should be a major assist to the writer to know how the character will respond to any given situation as well as how others are going to react to actions by the character. This process is never sufficiently complete, in my view. What do you think? Do you see this as a useful tool?

Finally, for today, think about some distinctive characteristics of family members, or friends or neighbors, that you would like to incorporate into a main character you would like to use in a story you want to tell. Write down a list of these characteristics. Are you thinking about physical characteristics or a 'manner of behavior?' You probably don't want to share this, but, if you do, I'd love to see/hear some of the results you get on a first pass.

It is sometimes hard to remember all these things as you write. Character development traits are one thing that can often be added in later editing of your work. I hope these ideas are as useful to you as they have been to me.

Order the Kindle Edition, here, now:

Families are Forever!  ;-)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wordless (nearly) Wednesday - Michael and Nellie Smith new photo to me

Wordless (nearly) Wednesday
Michael and Nellie Smith new photo to me

Thanks to Will Grapes, another Nebraska Smith cousin, for sharing this particular image of of Michael (Schmitt) and Margaret (Nellie) (Soderstrom) Smith. I don't think I've seen this one, of both of them, at this stage in their lives. [My paternal Great-Grandparents]

We have a question as to whether the costumes are really them, or, are props from the photo studio. What do you think? His head doesn't seem to fit his collar very well... Maybe he was just very uncomfortable... I certainly would have been!

Families are Forever! ;-)

Friday, August 16, 2013

75 Years Ago This Week - August 16, 1938

75 Years Ago This Week
August 16, 1938

75 Years Ago This Week began March 1, 1938 - my mother and father were preparing to get married later in the month.

Over in The KINNICK Project blog, we recently posted a series of daily entries regarding "threshing" from Mom's - that is Eileen Kinnick's - diary, starting here

This week, in the Coon Rapids Enterprise, 75 Years Ago column, dated 29 Jul 1938, was this excerpt:

"Roy Greenlee narrowly escaped being injured seriously Wednesday morning while helping thresh at the Robert Kinnick home. One of his horses skipped a wire, became frightened, and scared the colt he was driving. The team bolted towards the threshing machine, broke the neck yoke and line, hit a post and broke loose from the rack. Roy was knocked to the floor of the rack badly bruised and shaken up. Robert Kinnick and Howard Lewis took after the team in a car and caught them before they had run clear home."

My comments: Robert Kinnick was my great-uncle, brother of Paul Kinnick, Mom's father. This was near by to where Mom and Dad were threshing… likely some same crew members. Small world.

Bonus family item
From the local newspaper in Coon Rapids, Iowa, the Coon Rapids Enterprise, in the 100 Years Ago column, dated August 1, 1913:

"Lem Williams has bought the Booth blacksmith shop tools and employed a blacksmith to work for him."
My comment: Lem Williams was an uncle of Robert and Paul Kinnick; brother of their mother. He was very active in construction activity, and other business ventures, in Coon Rapids. It is much fun following his reports in the Enterprise.

Families are forever!  ;-)

Fiction Friday - Post 2 - Place

Fiction Friday - Post 2 - Place

When writing fiction we normally either start with Plot, Character, or Place. Many would probably say in that order. However, I have found that I start with Place, then put one or more Characters in that place (and have them interact), and let them 'tell me' the plot. Perhaps I start with place because of an emphasis in my family history research that I have developed on locating my ancestors first by where they were, and where they moved, along their timelines of their histories.

In developing The Homeplace Series of stories, using my family history research as inspiration, I have had the opportunity to 'create a place.' This 'place' has some characteristics of where I grew up, some characteristics I've drawn from the places my ancestors lived, and some characteristics I would like to have had in a place if I'd had the opportunity to 'pick a place' as I chose. It has been extremely satisfying to 'create this place.' It is a world I thorough enjoy inhabiting as I create and share stories with my characters and with my readers.

My initial novels were set in 1987 and 1996 in 'this place' - but the most fun, frankly, has been going back to 1833 and envisioning 'this place' as it grew over 150 plus years. Much of this 'creation' comes from family history research and much comes from local history research in the area where 'this place' is said to exist. 'This place' was devastated by the Civil War - representing the actual events of the region, as recorded in local histories, newspapers and other accounts of the time. The recovery was slow and painful. These stories are being told in Short Stories with an overarching narrative theme of the rise, the fall, and the rebirth of 'this place' - a small community in a rural valley set in the north west corner of Shannon County, Missouri, in the Ozarks Mountain region, along a fictional western branch of the Current River dubbed Oak Creek. The town in Oak Springs.

In the first novel, "Back to the Homeplace," the matriarch leaves a video will for her four children that is intended to keep the family farm that had been in her family more than 150 years intact and not split up and/or sold. With this concept still firmly in my mind, for the second novel which is set nine years later, "The Homeplace Revisited," some of the characters started looking seriously at their family history to try to begin to understand why the 'matriarch' had such strong feelings about this.

This, of course, called for a 'backstory" which is still being filled in - although the skeletal outline in largely in place. You can read the early Short Stories of the Founding of the Homeplace (the first two of which were earlier published in an Ozark Writers' Anthology a couple of years ago) on my blog: The Homeplace Series.

The Civil War Short Story has been sent to be included in this year's version of the Ozark Writer's Anthology. In any event, it will be published in a Short Story Collection in 2014 that will bring all these stories of 'place' together.

Characters are required for the story to emerge, but I seem to start with place. Perhaps you can now see why I do that. What will your approach be? What has it been? Would you consider place as 'the place' to start? I'd love to hear your comments and your answers to these questions. I love to hear from you. Please write! ;-)

Families are Forever! ;-)

 Photo image courtesy of Jessica Lewis August 3, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wordless (nearly) Wednesday - First Day of School - 1966

Wordless (nearly) Wednesday
First Day of School

Today on Facebook, many are posting photos of their children on "first day of school." I was reminded on this one: Our oldest daughter, Annette, on first day of First Grade, in Louisville, KY.
They didn't have public kindergarten then, she 'graduated' from a private kindergarten. Her sister, Allison, seems to be feeling left out... but I'm sure she wished Annette a great first day, anyway. 

By the way, she did get on a bus to go to school, here in the suburbs... a photo for another time, perhaps.

Families are Forever!  ;-)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy 98th Birthday Anniversary, Dad!

Happy 98th Birthday Anniversary, Dad!

Today is the 98th Anniversary of the birth date of my father, Pete Smith! This photo was at half that - his 49th birthday, in 1964.

This is the way I remember him, full of life! Great photo to use, again.

Families are Forever! ;-)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fiction Friday - Post 1: Birth Order, first pass

Fiction Friday
Post 1: Birth Order, first pass

Since I find myself spending the bulk of my 'free-time' writing fiction these days, it seems appropriate to use a little of that time explaining why - thus, the new Daily Theme Meme: Fiction Friday.

Writing fiction is my current way of sharing what I have learned, and continue to learn, from my family history and genealogy research and from life in general. I hope that in this series of Friday posts I am able to demonstrate why and how I do this. My hope is you will find something useful and meaningful for yourself by reading each post.

Birth Order, first pass

Of the many characteristics of relationships in families, to me, Birth Order stands out as a primary characteristic of the first order. I have not studied Birth Order theories in depth but have done enough reading to support my observations and interpretations. If you want to learn more, you might start here.

I used my understanding of Birth Order in creating the four siblings in my first novel, the first in 'The Homeplace Series' - "Back to the Homeplace," a continuing family saga. The four adult siblings are brought back to their southern Missouri Ozarks 'Homeplace' farm and community (from around the country) by the unusual video will of their mother when she died (at a not old age, 69). [A story of Birth Order in their earlier years would be interesting, but for the plot of the first novel we first see the four children as adults; but, Birth Order is still at work.

Basically, we have: 1) The Oldest, 2) The Second Child, 3) the Middle Child, and 4) the Youngest Child. There are other, mediating factors, of course, but these descriptors work well as a starting point. I did add one further issue that adds some spice to the story, as it often does in real-life families. There is a sizable gap, fourteen years, between child three and child four. Finally, the mix of genders can be important, as well. More on gender in a future post, of course, but here we had: female, female, male and male.

For our story, set in early 1987 at the beginning of the novel, our siblings were (and I am looking them up on my Reunion Genealogy Software on my MacBook Pro - right next to my own 15,000+ family database - to be sure I have this right):

1 - Karen, 52, born 9 Aug 1934
2 - Beverly, 45, born 10 May 1941
3 - Bart, 44, born 31 Aug 1942
4 - Peter, 30, born 26 Jun 1956

To keep this simple for today, Karen the oldest, was bright, active, a natural leader, and fairly independent. Beverly was just as bright, perhaps, but from early in life felt like an under-achiever because, in their small town/rural setting, she was always compared to her older sister and always came up short.

Bart, though relatively close to Beverly in age, was treated as the Youngest Child for many years, was somewhat spoiled (perhaps more so because he was the first boy); but in later years assumed the mediator style of the Middle Child.

Peter was the Youngest Child, always got his way, grew up in more affluence, to more mature parents and often sought out his own alternatives in life choices. He did exhibit some independence like an Oldest Child, because for many years, he was the Only Child in the family, at home.

As you can see, I am able to build into my characters the characteristics I have seen, over and over, in my observations of my own family through the generations, without needing to worry about necessarily 'pinpointing' particular people in the story.

We'll talk about this more, next time.

Families are Forever - and the stories never end, either!  ;-)

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