Category Archives: Adventures in Life

History vs. The Moment

I’m prepping to move – something I’ve done every few years for most of my kids’ lives. They’re all in their thirties now, so that’s a lot of moves.

Now I grew up in the same house for fifteen years, with weekends at the farm that had been in the family over fifty years before I was born – then moved to the farm. So of course a lot of stuff accumulated. I played with the tea set my mother had when she was a little girl and read books that had been my grandfather’s. There was also a stereoscope with cards to view from his grand tour of Europe – circa 1890. These things weren’t artifacts to be examine in a museum, then forgotten. They were part of my life, along with the stories that went along with them. So I grew up with history as part of my world.

But when you move a lot, the treasures get condensed a bit each trip. I just finally did away with the last box of memorabilia I’d kept from my kids – artwork, report cards, stories they wrote. I chose a few items too cute to lose to scan. The rest, well, no one really cares. And when we talk about our personal past, we don’t always remember things the same way. Looking through some of the things my kids wrote back then, I realize we didn’t always see things the same way while they were happening, either.

We’re focused on the moment these days. It’s reflected in the way we get news and react to it, all fleeting. We’re living in the moment. And if the past doesn’t really exist as one truth, there may be some benefit to that.

But I don’t think that’s the whole story, because all that past I grew up with is still with me in my present, and while I read a lot of history, what sticks with me the most are the stories I heard along the way. I think feeling connected all the way back over more than a hundred years informs my understanding of the world around me right now.

So I’m thinking it’s important for us to pass on those personal histories, to make them a part of the lives of today’s children, to give them a context for the moment in which they live. You don’t have to wait until you’re old. Start an electronic scrapbook. When you make an album of photos from a trip or birthday or place you love, add a page telling about the day or what you felt was special about that particular sunset photo.

Putting words to it will enrich the experience for you, even if no one else ever looks at it. I know. I’ve already done this for my twenties. And someday a grandchild or a stranger may read it and look at the photos, and their sense of the world will expand.

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www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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Curves in the Road

At sixteen my plan was to spend my senior year of high school as an exchange student, then go to Northwestern for journalism and become an international reporter. I’d make the world a better place and have adventures at the same time. I was on that road. I was editor of my school paper and studying both French and Spanish. I joined AFS and met exchange students from all over the world. I brought home the application.

But my mother had been a stay-at-home mom for almost forty years and she wasn’t ready for an empty nest, so she insisted I could wait and go abroad while I was in college. That last year of high school, there were few academic courses left for me to take. Instead, my interest in art, music, and drama, which had been largely dormant for two years, came back full force. I never even applied to Northwestern.

The killings at Kent State, a month before my high school graduation, did nothing to change my mind. The paranoia of the day seeped into me. Publication of the Pentagon Papers could have inspired a renewal of my interest in journalism, but instead the content increased my detachment from world events. Then Watergate filled the television and my first choice for president was a crook or the man he’d made look like a buffoon. I did a write-in vote for “No Body” and wanted nothing to do with any of it.

I just wanted to live my life.

It’s a good way to live, focused on immediate surroundings, the things where you may make a real difference in lives, one at a time, or one small community at a time. And that is one way to change the world without taking on the big issues.

Looking back, there have been many other roads not taken, some of which might have brought me back closer to my original intent. It’s okay I didn’t take those roads. There have been rough spots, but overall, life has been full and interesting and right now it’s really good. I’m writing fiction full of strong women, providing good role models. . .but, every so often, I wonder if I’m playing hooky from another destiny.

A few weeks ago, I bought the January 15, 2018 Time because it was supposed to be a good news edition, edited by Bill Gates. This morning it got to the top of the reading pile. In it, there’s an article by Melinda Gates about how women’s movements around the world are bringing about significant changes not just for the betterment of women, but for society as a whole. She advocates for an increase in financial support for grassroots women’s organizations and women’s funds.

The article makes me feel as if there’s more I need to do.

It could be a diversion from projects already in place, to avoid completion. I need to guard against that temptation. But I suspect the road I’m on is curving and will eventually intersect with the one not taken long ago.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

 

 

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Levels of Edit

The world goes on while we write: The term “buckets of rain” became real to me in 1972, when Tropical Storm Agnes stalled over Pennsylvania for days. So I checked – total rainfall that caused massive flooding back then was less than Houston got in the first twenty-four hours. Cousins – glad you’re safe.

On to levels of edit. I’m going to repeat one piece up here:

Don’t submit rough drafts for critique or editing!

If you’re working with a critique group, it’s rude. If you’re paying for an editor, it’s a waste of money. Always read, revise, and correct to the best of your ability first.

At least use your word processor’s spelling and grammar checks. These are flawed – you need to look at each suggestion before accepting corrections – but there’s no excuse for asking people to read something that looks like you threw letters and words into a blender, then poured them onto the page. Grammarly has a free app that gives feedback on grammar and Natural Readers has a free download that will read your documents aloud. It’s mechanical and makes pronunciation errors, but if you have a problem with commas, you’ll hear if you’re missing pauses or have too many.

Sheri McGuinn
I write.
http://www.sherimcguinn.com
http://www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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A Writer’s Journey Part 3: Trying to be a Writer

Sorry this is late: as I went to post it, there was a muffled crash and the electricity went out. A car crashed into a nearby utility pole. According to people on the scene, no one was seriously injured, but our electricity is still out more than twelve hours later. Good time to work at the coffee shop!

Trying to Be a Writer

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“Running Away is one of the best Lifetime films of the years so far.”

Yet another adventure in life: my first novel’s been made into a movie that people are actually watching! The crazy part is I haven’t seen it yet. There was a communication glitch and I thought it was still exclusively in Europe. In fact, I sat with extras on a bus for a couple hours and don’t know if I made it into a cameo shot, either!

Running Away airs again on Mother’s Day (5/14/17) at noon on Lifetime.

  • Director: Brian Skiba
  • Writer: Sheri McGuinn
  • Stars: Holly Deveaux, William McNamara, Paula Trickey

The quote: After watching an earlier showing, Lisa Marie Bowman of Shattered Lens said: “Running Away is one of the best Lifetime films of the years so far.” Read her full 5/7/17 review in Shattered Lens: What Lisa Watched Last Night.

My take as the writer: We had to change a lot to make the novel work as a movie, but the director’s ending is perfect for the film and the book will still hold surprises for someone who’s seen the movie – or vice versa.

I only watched one day of filming. However, it was clear that each person on the crew was absolutely professional and that everyone had the same goal: to make a good film

Which, as I said, isn’t going to be the same as the book. Movies are visual, so the way the story was told had to change. Movie audiences have different expectations than novel readers, so that required changes as well. And movies are a collaborative effort – the initial script is simply a skeleton which is shaped and developed by producers, directors, actors – everyone working on the film.

So if you’ve read the book, watch the movie without expectations and enjoy the suspense.

I have the shooting script so I know the ending, but I’ll still enjoy watching the story unfold.

Ups and Downs

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Up: The Pitchfest I went to last spring paid off. Running Away, a screenplay based on my novel of the same name, was optioned by Nasser Entertainment (after months of negotiation) and is currently being filmed by Run Run Media in Los Angeles.

Down: I got hurt in February, stayed at the day job through June in pain, and have spent the summer getting repaired. Still have my arm in a sling following surgery to bicep and rotator cuff that involved a lot of stitches and re-anchoring both. I now have reason to skip the metal detector and say “Just pat me down and get over it.”

Up: I’ve been able to camp in my son’s living room all summer and have spent time with the rest of the family as well.

House1.JPGDown: Moved all my stuff to storage here in Sacramento while the Cedar Creek fire dropped ash on my home in Arizona. Leaves me committed to the move, though emotionally I’m still attached.

Up: Sacramento has multiple active writing and filmmaker communities, so staying here should be a good thing – even if my digs end up being a step back. I might be able to swing something up in the hills a bit…

 

 

In Country

ViewHorses2015 my traveling was restricted to driving back and forth between Arizona and California. My writing expenses in 2014 put me thousands of dollars in the hole so I started applying for day jobs. Of course the wild horses started hanging out across the street on the rez just to make it harder to leave!

I am now located in Sacramento CA with contracts for a day job and an apartment through June. I get a couple weeks off before then, so I may manage to squeak in a quick trip.

I did make one writing conference in LA – The Great American Pitchfest – but otherwise did little other than submit a few stories to contests. Of course, having pretty much given up on writing taking me anywhere, things are starting to happen. One of my short stories was chosen for Saturday Evening Post’s 2016 anthology. It’s available online at Amazon.

My story is “Maria Angelica’s Baby” – check it out.

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