Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday — Memorial Day 2015

I've seen photos of the tombstone, but I always wanted to visit my great-great-grandfather's grave in person.

Something about my research this past weekend, combined with everybody talking about the meaning of Memorial Day, gave me a wild hair to drive out to Moore County and pay my respects.

By myself, 50 miles each way. Not even a library or courthouse open to make the trip "worthwhile." Oh, and I had family plans in the afternoon. Just find the cemetery and come right back.

All their lives, my grandfather and uncle got excited whenever they heard the name Maness. In Moore County, though, you can't throw a rock without hitting a Maness. Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church cemetery looked like a field of Manesses.

I finally found Thomas Swain Maness' grave (thanks to the person who posted a photo on Find-A-Grave with a view of the larger stones near it).

I'd brought a special flag: the Confederate version of the POW/MIA flag. During the long drive I thought about Thomas, who lied about his age to get into the army at 12 or 13 years old. After three years of hellish battles, he lied, deserted, did everything he could to get out.

Instead of letting him take the Oath of Allegiance, the Union kept him in prison camps at Point Lookout, Md. and Elmira, N.Y. for the next year. He eventually returned, married at about 17, and led a very full — and somewhat disturbed — life.

I wanted to bring an American flag, too, but this was a last-minute jaunt and I didn't have one. Thankfully, some kind-hearted soul had placed flags at all of the veteran graves in the cemetery. Thomas was both.

Sadly, they missed his brother Shadrach, even though his stone reads "KIA." He really did sacrifice everything and, in his case, for a friend. Shadrach went into the army as a substitute for Quimby Wallace (who had a wife and children), and never came home.

At least Shadrach's grave is next to a kinsman, Reuben Maness. Reuben was a chaplain in the army. He was also killed.

Maybe I'll bring an extra flag or two next year.

_ _ _

After all these years ... Thomas, meet your great-great-granddaughter. 

As the little flag says: "You shall not be forgotten."

_ _ _

Friday, May 01, 2015

Get Back Into Writing — 8 Tips

So far, 2015 has not been the year of writing for me. I started January gung-ho about a nonfiction book, but sometimes "life gets in the way." To sum it up in a tweet:
2015 so far: visited friends, moved bookshop, family visit, snow, family death, scrapbooked, sold a house, family wedding, mission trip... 
Is it any wonder my writing's been waylaid?!

'Thought I'd share some strategies that help me get back into writing. What gets you motivated? Feel free to add tips in the comments.

1. Free Write. Too paralyzed by perfectionism to start that next query? Daunted by that draft that hasn't been touched for two months? Grease those mental gears by writing about anything else. Set a timer and write about writing, or a memory, or a photo in the nearest magazine.

2. Journal. Capture events, details and feelings from today or the past week.

3. Change the Scene. Take your notebook or laptop to the library, city park, coffee shop or bookstore.

4. Carve Out Space. Create a writing nook or small office in your house. No room? Then pick a different chair from the one where you watch TV or do other routine activities. Keep your writing things — notebook, pen, research books — in that location. The trick is to signal your subconscious; when you sit in that spot, it's time to write.

5. Unplug. Yes, we type faster than we write (Scrivener is my favorite writing software). If you need to get out of a rut, however, or if you spent all day on the computer at your day job, it's time to pull out the paper. Brainstorm ideas for articles. Skim through Writer's Market books or your favorite magazine for submission ideas. When my genealogy-based book projects have been neglected, I draw an extended family tree and tape it to the wall to get a feel for timeline and subplots. Some writers use mindmaps (flow charts of ideas) while others sort characters or scenes on index cards.

6. Protect Your Best Mental Time. I never thought of myself as a morning person. I'd find myself standing in the shower or sitting at the table, staring into space. I finally realized that, while I'm not physically a morning person, my mind and imagination are in hyperdrive. Now I say no to morning meetings and appointments that aren't the best use of my most creative time.

7. Motivate with Deadlines and Rewards. Other people's deadlines work great, especially submission dates from a paying editor. Sticking to your own deadline, however, is hard, especially for a long-term project like a book. First, break big tasks into small pieces, like editing 10 pages or drafting a query letter. Don't use an essential as a reward — like eating a meal or playing with the kids. Pick a small luxury, and stick to it — like watching TV or treating yourself to a latte.

8. Connect with Community. With so many demands on your time, it's easy to put off writing. But having writer buddies to meet you at that coffee shop, or a weekly critique group, is a huge motivator (with a deadline!). I wrote this blog post at the encouragement of Wordsmith Studio — an incredibly supportive online writing community. We're celebrating our third anniversary!