Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “writing”

Wrap Up or Fall Flat

After five years of stop and go writing on my historical novel I’m nearing the end chapters. It’s rather intimidating. The ending involves the reuniting of a homestead mother with her family. The way I have presented the conflict is that there is some ambiguity of whether the mother left the family due to the grind of daily life as a pioneer women or if she wandered away due to fever delirium.
Here’s what I need to figure out:
-Is the husband readily accepting her leaving the family and not returning once she was better? (He’s a good guy overall, but was left with six children ages 3-15 to raise in her absence)
-How will the daughter (her POV) feel about her mama at this point? Anger, relief? This girl took on the task of raising her three ornery brothers and packed up her petticoats and put on pants to do so in order up keep up with them.

The right grab really counts… image:


Reaching the end chapters is a lot like rock climbing. A cadence is developed in both–the reach and pull up towards progress. Just when the top is in sight, flat is sometimes hit, meaning no handholds and no way to go up. Finding a new path is sometimes the only direction left. Then again a risky move can be tried and what a sensation of exhilaration when it leads to success and pulling over the top.

Write now? I’m at that looking for a move that will pull me over the top.

So, writers–what do you do when you hit flat when the top ledge is in sight? Do you press on or look for a new route?

Bargain Bin Book Bonazas

At a local warehouse clothing sale I unexpectedly found a tier of gift books.  At a couple of dollars a piece I grabbed up a few.  It proved a difficult choice as they ranged from the secret lives of cats to how to dress cool instead of never cool (I kid you not).  There were also cutesy books like how to enjoy incense and candles.  I passed on those.  A match is all I need to understand those two.  Okay, maybe there are a couple of things I could learn, but when I came across these I couldn’t resist:

1. The Gregg Reference Manual (ninth edition) by William A. Sabin
Of course I already have my Strunk and White, How to Not Write Bad, and various college textbooks sitting on my shelf, yet who can resist a grammar handboook. I can’t. And because I don’t need it I decide to give it to my youngest progeny who admittedly wants to get his there, its, and yours figured out once and for all.

2. Leadership Courage by David Cottrell and Eric Harvey
Definitely a gift book for the youngest because he is into building up a business and is always talking about all these amazing leadership books he’s reading, so he most certainly needs another one.

3. Shakespeare’s Sonnets by William Shakespeare
For  the oldest son, I couldn’t pass up this slim volume of the Bard’s best.  I bought it because every young man who is looking for the perfect soul mate should have at least a couple of sonnets up his sleeve.  He received it graciously, if not warily. I  was amused to overhear him say the line, “Hey, I have a sonnet and I know how to use, so back off.”  I’m pretty sure he was kidding.  A loaded sonnet is nothing to mess with.  I have cautioned him on the power of verse.

4.  How to Say It Style Guide by Rosalie Maggio
Yes, another reference book. With two boyos in business they each need their handy dandy grammer guide.



Finding books on sale is always a bonus.  And being able to give them away is the best bonus.  Have any of you found any bin bonuses lately?

Oh, all images are from

Why We Say: #8 (a backstock of Bs)

Well, Well…

I haven’t run a “Why We Say” since December. Tsk. Not wanting to disappoint I will make up the lost months in a bevy of Bs. Five months equal five reasonings for “Why We Say”–


1. Springtime is April showers and May flowers and baseball!  It is appropriate we begin our first B with Baseball Fan. Back when newspaper ruled the news, there would be great competition for space. Naturally, if a longer word could be exchanged for a shorter one, or if a long one could be condensed, the switch was made.  Charles Haas, apparently is the reason we now refer to sports enthusiasts as “fans.”  He was credited as being the greatest baseball “fanatic,” which became shortened to “fan” once it hit the press pages.  And here I thought “fan” referred to the paper waving needed for those hot days in the stands.


2. “Oh quit beating around the bush, and just tell me what you think!” Have you ever been accused of holding back information? If so, this statement might be flung at you. You might not realize how foxy you’re being by holding back from your audience.  Back in the day, hunters wanting to rout foxes from their hiding spots in the bushes, would send someone to beat the bushes to scare out the tawny evaders.  Not wanting to become some ladies fur stole, the foxes would learn to keep hidden, which meant it took a long time to get a fox to pop out.  The “aha” moment with this phrase: sometimes it takes someone a long time to get to the point of the story.


3. Do you suffer from getting in tight spots? Do you sigh at the getting behind, just when you thought you had it all in order? Do you wish you could be a winner, instead of being a loser?  If you checked “yes” to any of these questions, you will then most certainly relate to the expression “Behind the Eight Ball.” This expression is derived from the pool game of rotation, where each ball is played except the eight ball. If the eight ball blocks your shot, you have basically lost the game.

4. “I would love to be in your shoes.” This one makes sense all on its own.  It’s simple, right?  It simply means we want to trade places.  That’s true and then some.  Let’s go back as far as 1834 in England. At that time children who were to be adopted would step into their new father’s shoes to stress the importance of the new connection and family ties.  “Shoes me, are you my new dad?”



5.  With spring comes summer and with summer comes weddings.  Ooh, I love a summer wedding and I am so disappointed when I don’t get to go to at least one summer nuptial exchange.  I love the chance to actually dress up, mix and mingle with old and new acquaintances, eat, drink, and be merry and best of all I enjoy watching the bride and groom exchange their commitment to one another.  I look forward to the wedding theme and the fashions.  How many bridesmaid? Will the best man be serious? Or will he pull the old “ring, what ring?” routine.  The best man is naturally the groom’s best friend or close relation, and it’s a place of honor.  This custom stems from centuries ago (primarily in Europe) most weddings took place at night (don’t know the reason on that one–research time) and it wasn’t unheard of to have the rival come swooping in an attempt to kidnap the bride. One precaution against this shocking, and irritating practice, was to have the groom’s men stand guard during the service.  The main guard would be the groom’s most trusted or best man. Tuxedos optional with swords?


Next month B on the lookout for some more Bewildering “Why We Says.”  Until next time…

Updated Momisms

Mother’s Day has taken on new meaning having become an Empty Nester. The kiddos have flown the coop, starting their own lives, and while I’m still, and will always be their Mum, I don’t expect or need a big flautin’ tootin’ acknowledgement of being their mother.  Thanks, but not needed, Hallmark.  Another calendar guilt day.  Whoa–wait–stop–I didn’t mean to go in this quasi-negative direction. Of course, getting a card or phone call or even flowers is sweet and appreciated, but everyday I’m reminded that it is so cool I’m a mom of three very lovely children who have become adult just that fast. The youngest turned 21 in March and the oldest will be turning the *yikes* 29 in June.  How’d that happen?  Wasn’t it moments ago I was telling them:

  • Hey! I’m your mother not the maid. Pick up your stuff!
  • Don’t make me come back there!
  • Just try one bite–
  • It’s your brother’s turn to pick the movie.
  • No, I don’t have money for candy.
  • You can have one–I said one.
  • Not before dinner.

Now that they are adults, I find the following conversationals happening:

  • How’s work going?
  • Is this a “friend” or a friend?
  • Do you need gas money?
  • What are you doing for the holidays?
  • Is it okay if Pops and I come over?
  • Do you want to meet at the restaurant?

Yes, I notice they tend to be questions rather than statements?  Why is that? Maybe it’s because I can’t really tell my kids to get a haircut, or that they should tidy up their apartment anymore.  But I guess I do. *Sigh* I really can’t stop being a mother so easily.  There is not switch off once the kinder become A-dults.  That Mom drive just keeps going.

So, this post is dedicated to my children.  You make Mother’s Day happen everyday–not only some designated May Sunday.

And this is why I wrote that essay that got in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide. 

Now that you have all moved out and have your own lives I finally do have “A Little Piece of Quiet.”

Loves and Hugs, Mum

Chicken Soup Cover

Image: Amazon Inspiration: My Very Own Progeny (psst…story #10)






Adieu, Adieu Sweet Month of Muse


I agree with Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” April is a busy, busy month with its heralding of spring, removal of snow tires, paying of taxes, celebrating Billy Bard’s birthday, prepping for AP exams, and musing upon poems. I started loading my April blog calendar back in December as I discovered poems and poets I would pre-schedule them and now the days are spent and I am a bit bereft as I head into May. Whatever shall I fill my May days with?  It is ever so nice to have a theme for a month, like poetry for April. May will probably become my mish-mash month. I have several posties that I’ve been saving that don’t relate to anything except that I like them–sorta serendipity finds.

As I bid adieu to April I shall reflect:

  • Gathering poets for most of the year is akin to Saturday yard sale mornings as I scout for treasures to stuff in my bag
  • I appreciate poetry more and more as I become more and more involved with the reading of it
  • Having Billy Bard’s 450th birthday in the middle of National Poetry Month was absolute icing on the loveliest of cakes
  • Passing out poems to my students on April 24 for National Poem in Your Pocket Day is a blast–reactions range from excited anticipation of reading their poem to leaving them on the floor–which is about par for poetry (love it or leave it)
  • My school superintendent emailed me that I encouraged him to read a sonnet in my postscript to enjoy Shakespeare’s birthday
  • I decorated my hallway in recognition of Shakespeare’s birthday and convinced the journalism department to put it in the school’s daily video. Well, it’s not everyday a person is 450 years old…


Displaying photo.JPG


I look forward to May. School is winding down, weather is heating up, and the countdown to summer break begins.  Here is to May and all its blooming good days


Waiting out the days of May to slip into June

Poetry Workshop: Getting in Shape with Concrete Poetry


First the grammar lesson, and then the poetry workshop lesson.


A common noun is a noun referring to a person, place, or thing in a general sense. There are many types of nouns: common, proper, possessive, singular, abstract and concrete.

Concrete Nouns

A concrete noun names animate and inanimate things  that can be perceived through the five senses: touch, sight, taste, hearing, or smell. Examples are: cats, doors, waffles, teachers. A concrete noun is the opposite of an abstract noun such as concepts like: love, liberty, courage.


With the basic noun lesson understood, let’s move on to the Poetry Workshop: Concrete Poetry.

Concrete Poetry: aka Shape Poetry aka Visual Poetry

Poetry in which the overall effect is influenced through visual means by forming or arranging the words in a pattern that reflects the subject or meaning.

The concrete aspect comes from basing the poem on tangible nouns, ones in which employ the senses, as opposed to abstract nouns.  For instance, I can write about how cats see us, but are often invisible as they hide in plain view or I can emphasize the cat aspect by shaping the words around this concrete noun:


Sometimes the poem and its shape is humorous:



And sometimes it is more art than actual words:




Other times there is a message within the message that turns out to be abstract after all:


concrete poem by jennifer Phillips

For the most part, concrete poetry is a visual blending of text and shape.  It’s an interactive expression, a melding and mixing of art, thought, feeling. Get into poetry by getting into shape.

Explore more with forming!



The Peace and Quiet Found in Chicken Soup

Yes, I do hope you look inside.  Especially if you are a mom, know a mom, have a mom, know someone who will someday become a mom–that covers just about all of it, doesn’t it?
Moms.  Busy people. The “M” in “Mom” stands for “multi-tasking.” Let’s see: answer homework questions while checking the meatloaf in the oven after asking the table to be set amid soothing a sibling squabble–this all takes place in the span of heartbeat for many moms.  Yup, been there, done that.
This is why I submitted an essay to the Chicken Soup folk when they announced they were putting together a new book about moms and multi-tasking.  Like most submissions, I forgot about it as the months rolled by.  So–it was quite a pleasant surprise to receive the news my essay “A Little Piece of Quiet” (#10 in the TOC) had been accepted and would be included in the forthcoming book.
This is not my first publishing credit–and yet this one is extra-special since most people recognize the Chicken Soup series. What I especially like is being able to walk into a Barnes and Noble and find the book on the shelf. Even though my story is one of many, I still get that “YAY!” moment seeing my book keeping company with other ready-to-purchase selections.
This is a great mom present and Mother’s Day will be here before you know it.  On the other hand, this is a great gift for showing appreciation to any mom anytime of the year.
Although my kiddos are all grown up and out of the house now, I do remember those days when my longing for peace and quiet was turned around when I realized the blessing of having a little piece of quiet.
Hope you pick up the book for the certain mom-person in your life, and I hope you find your way to reading my contribution.
Blue Skies,
Cricket Muse

The Fiction of Common Core

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Common Core State Standards may or may not rock your world, but it has affected you in someway if you are any of the following:

  • Educator
  • Parent
  • Writer

As an educator it has already affected your world. I’m not going there at this time. I feel your pain, and rejoice in your triumphs as we plod our way through this new-to-us (for the most part) curriculum.

As a parent it will affect your kidz education. In a good way. For the most part. Trust me, the CCSS is not as bad as you’ve heard. The main aspect of Common Core is getting our students to understand their world better through the development of critical thinking skills. A very good thing.

As a writer, I’m not sure how it will affect you. That depends if you write fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction is getting the big focus in the CCSS makeover. If you think about it, most of what we read is non-fiction, ranging from the back of the Cheerios box to the science textbook to the summons to appear in traffic court. Learning how to break down the text, to synthesize it, paraphrase it, and process the information is indeed an important skill, one needed to be successful in this crazy info-laden world of ours. And yet And yet, we need to feed our minds with the language of fiction as well.  That’s where you come in as a writer of fiction.

You might have heard the doomsayers extolling the death of fiction by the hands of those horrible, terrible, no-good eduniks who dreamt up the CCSS curriculum. Meh. Don’t let them worry you. Keep writing about neverlands, tomorrows, pasts, and todays.  Here’s why: there are specific standard built around students reading fiction, specifically stories, fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures (ELA Standard RL 3.2) Common Core comes down to caring about  how students develop their critical thinking skills, instead of focusing on the content. Teachers can switch up the reading offerings as long as the material meets the standards–at least that’s what we are doing in our district.

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In fact, to be fair, much of the past English reading/language curriculums dwelt heavily on fiction selections. As in most paradigm shifts, we are now swinging towards the other direction. Non-fiction is now going to be more in the spotlight as  a result. It will all balance out, but give a couple of years at least. After all, skirts have risen and fallen with the times, and so shall reading content in the classroom.

The Book I Would Like to Write

Sometimes the rumblings of hunger manage to induce some amazing culinary renderings on my behalf.

“Let’s see–some rice, a dollop of pesto, assorted veggies, ooh a garnish of nuts, oh yeah there is that leftover sautéed chicken breast.”

Yes, it was tasty. No, didn’t snap a photo.

I wish I could do that with my writing. Here are the ingredients that are rumbling around in my writerly mixing bowl:
-an irrepressible protagonist who transcends time
-address a political issue in a manner that is neither knee jerk, condescending, nor didactic
-scatter in memorable minor characters who majorly affect the plot
-set the story in a picturesque small town of yesteryear
-provide a handful of quotes that will resonate long after the book has been reviewed, shelved, studied, and reread
-have one maybe two iconic symbols that shift paradigms
-explore old thoughts in a new way
-create a subculture that spans time, culture, and political decorum

Wait a minute…
This book is already available, attainable, and darn right delicious.

Harper Lee’s classic remains my ideal of perfect novel.  I have too many ideas rumbling around to only write one book, but oh what a book to have written as the one-claim-to-fame.
Do you have a ONE book that you feast on as a reader?  Or is there one special book that inspires your writer creativity towards boil, simmer, and serve?

YAy for Dystopian

Once upon time when writers wrote about the world going wrong and trying to make a go of it in the aftermath the novels usually found its way on the college reading list. Ruined landscapes, fragmented governments, odd creatures mucking about, abundance of shortages and the like just wasn’t fit for kiddos. Think about the titles: Brave New World, 1984, Time Machine, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange. Right. Yes. Some of them do end up on high school lists, but not when they first came out. There is a reason for that.

Lately, the shelves are full of dystopian novels and those shelves are usually in the YA section.  There is a reason for that too.

Back in the once upon a time, the world wasn’t that scary, even with the Cold War, we still had a pretty good idea of feeling on top of the world, so we could poke a bit around the edges of the “what ifs.” Then the world did get scary. AIDS, a couple of wars in a few out-of-the-way places, recession, terrorists, weather disasters, recalls–dystopian became popular among YA because the future is not looking so bright anymore. I’m just saying.

In fact, the adults are now reading the YA list (even though some don’t admit it): The Giver, Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent are some names that pop to the surface.

Is Dystopian bad for teens? I don’t think so.  I didn’t get ruined from reading Brave New World in college, although 1984 and Clockwork Orange had me thinking hard at times. 

What do you think? Is there a difference between YA dystopian fiction and adult dystopian? Or is a bad world after the fact good reading for both adults and teens?


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