Speaking of Speaking by Jen Higley

Today membership coordinator Jen Higley give us a recap on the October meeting paired with a boost for December’s meeting.  Welcome, Jen.

With November’s Authors Fair taking the place of our general meeting, our next meeting is December’s read-around potluck.  That means speaking…in front of people.

Thus, October’s meeting was the perfect time for Writers Forum to welcome Shasta College speech instructor Robb Lightfoot.  In “Talking Up What You’ve Written Down,” Lightfoot presented information on speaking to inform or entertain, to persuade or engage, and even offered tips for impromptu conversations.  But the core advice given for nearly every speaking scenario is represented in The Gold Standard: combine preparation with a natural speaking style.  By keeping a speech conversational, you can keep your audience involved and have greater opportunity to fulfill your own speaking goals.  Lightfoot also recommends keeping organization simple and easy to follow, reminding us, “Listeners can’t scroll back.”

Whether your audience be friendly, neutral, hostile, or even uninterested, a tip to engage is to find out what interests them, and adapt your speech to fit your audience. Have a middle school crowd? Member Linda Boyden recommends you include “humor…and something gross!”

Leading by example, Lightfoot asked us our goals for public speaking.  When it became clear that overcoming speech anxiety was a high priority for this crowd, Lightfoot tailored his presentation to include many tips for remaining calm and organized.  He recommends using tools—notes, props, etc.—over memorization, as nerves can cause you to lose your place or repeat sections.  Good preparation before a speech can keep even a nerve-rattled brain more organized, and warming up your voice and practicing out loud will help you get in “the zone” to speak confidently and clearly. Focus on what you would like to accomplish (positives) over what you hope not to do (negatives).  Still a little nervous?  Before you head out, envision the crowd applauding and smiling, and you can even bring your own cheering section for added support.

Many thanks to Robb Lightfoot, who reminded us that everyone gets nervous sometimes, and shared a quote from Edward R. Murrow:

   “The only difference between the pros and the novices is that the pros have trained their butterflies to fly in formation.”

So breathe deeply, and let the butterfly show begin!

Member Monday: An Excerpt from Daisy Chain Killers by Jim Barrett

Welcome back to Member Monday.  This month we’re highlighting Writers Forum member authors who will be featured at the upcoming Authors Fair on November 10th at the Mt. Shasta Mall.  It’s a pleasure to welcome back author Jim Barrett.

The Convicts (an Excerpt from Daisy Chain Killers)

Jackson (Jacko) Dickson was a big man. Even when dressed in prison garb, he was a presence. He was also a “Texan” through and through; proud of his heritage—especially so in his later years which he was rapidly approaching. Many of those who knew him compared him to Lyndon Johnson, the past president of the United States, whom he closely resembled. That comparison never made Dickson happy because he loathed all politicians. They were, in his mind, the bane of American society. Dickson had reached his retirement years, but he was not spending them as he had envisioned. For one thing, he was still working, and for very little pay. He was the prison librarian at the Federal Penitentiary at El Reno, Oklahoma. But he knew better than to gripe about the job, because it had its benefits. And, in this place, there were much worse ways to spend your time.

Dickson’s work world now revolved around books. His library—yes he thought of it as his—encompassed a twelve by twenty room chock full of books—mainly paperbacks—which lined all four walls. His desk was a battered institutional grey metal affair, with only two of the five drawers still working. Behind his desk was a brass hat rack, and hung upon the rack was Jacko’s trademark—a silver belly Stetson hat. This small token of his individuality had been approved by Warden Reznak some years previously, no doubt as a reward for the prisoner not causing trouble in the cell blocks.

Dickson rose from his desk and began dusting books stocked on the metal shelves when the door swung open and a guard entered the room. He paused in his work and looked at the man in blue, noting that he had never seen this guy before. “Oh shit, a rookie,” he thought. He watched the officer out of the corner of his eye as the man strolled around the library. The cop was doing what they called a “walk through;” putting in an appearance, but apparently not interested in “tossing” the room or doing a thorough search. The officer stopped and began looking in earnest at several books. He plucked one from the shelf, opened it and riffled through the pages before returning the book to its former location.

The guard walked over to a small table, pulled up a chair and sat facing Jacko’s back. “Hey Dickson, c’mon here and sit down.”

Jacko hesitated for a moment not wanting to immediately accede to the man’s demands. He slowly set down his duster on the corner of the desk and ambled to the chair across from the officer. He hesitantly pulled the chair out, made brief eye contact, and then sat.

“Whatcha want?” he drawled.

“How long you been in here?”

“Why you askin’?”

“Jus wonderin’.”

“Twelve years.”

“What for?”

“Rico Statute—out of Montana District Court.”

“You do it?”

“Hell yes—and lots more!”

“Now that’s refreshing—someone around here actually ownin’ up to what they did,” the guard smirked as he spoke.

“Might as well—I got a life sentence and all of my appeals have been shot down.  At my age I’m only coming out of here one way.”

The conversation paused as the two men considered the implications of Dickson’s statement. Jacko broke the silence, “You new around here?”

“Yeah—been working for about six months.”

“Thought so.”

“So, how’d they get you on a Rico case? I thought that was for the heavy hitters out of Chicago?”

Jacko shrugged his shoulders wondering why he should talk to this cop. “Why not tell this guy, it isn’t going to change my circumstances,” he thought to himself.

“So, you writing a book or somethin’?” Dickson asked.

“Hell, no…just curious about how you got here.”

“You gonna take notes?”

The guard leaned back in his chair and laughed. “I ain’t that interested.”

“I got here because a banker friend of mine introduced me to this Washington farmer . . .”

Daisy Chain Killers, is available on line at www.dckillers.com, through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com or Xlibris.com. Jim will also be selling his other book Ma Duncan, which is available through www.maduncanbook.com and Amazon.com.

Be sure to stop by Jim’s table at the Author’s Fair on November 10th and pick up a copy of Daisy Chain Killers to find out what happens next.


A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free.  Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links.  The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter.  Thank you!

Member Monday: An Excerpt from Giveaways by Linda Boyden

Welcome back to Member Monday.  This month we’re highlighting Writers Forum member authors who will be featured at the upcoming Authors Fair on November 10th at the Mt. Shasta Mall.  It’s a pleasure to welcome back author, storyteller, illustrator and poet Linda Boyden.  She does it all and she does it all so very well.

Excerpt From “Giveaways, An ABC Book of Loanwords from the Americas”

©Linda Boyden 2010

W w   Wampum


From Massachusett and Narragansett, wampumpeag

To English, wampum

The gift of wampumpeag, wampum, came from the Atlantic Ocean, from common seashells washed up on its shores.  For thousands of years, the Massachusetts, the Narragansetts, the Pequots and other coastal Native nations collected them, much the same way that modern beachcombers do, but used them in different ways.

From the white, spiraled shells of the whelks and the dark purple eyespot of the quahog (Q page) the People made wampum.  They broke, sanded, shaped and drilled the shells into beads, to be strung on twisted plant fibers or animal sinew. At first wampum was used for hair decorations or jewelry, and quickly became a popular trade item. Eventually, Native people near and far desired and depended on wampum.

By the 1600s when the first Europeans arrived, wampum was a well-established way for Native people to communicate and trade.  Messages woven into the wampum’s designs helped people speaking different languages to understand each other and conduct business. The European settlers observed this complicated system and because they had a shortage of coins from their mother countries, decided to use wampum as money.  However, they failed to understand that Native people considered wampum to be much more than currency.

The People of the Longhouse, the Haudenosaunee, (Iroquois) are six nations of the northeast woodlands: the Mohawk, the Cayuga, the Seneca, the Oneida, and the Onondaga, with the Tuscaroras joining later.  They say that wampum was first brought to them thousands of years ago by a holy man called the Peacemaker and his follower, Ayonwatha, (Hiawatha).  The Peacemaker asked the warring nations to consider peace and end the practice of cannibalism.  He proposed that they still keep their own council fires, their Council of Chiefs and Clan Mothers, but in matters that affect all the nations they should act with “one mind.”

This first of its kind message, that nations work best separately but together, was woven on a thirty-eight rowed purple and white wampum belt known as the Hiawatha Belt.  It is estimated to be at least 4,500 years old. The heart-shaped symbol in the center represents the Great Tree of Peace or the central nation, the Onondaga.  Surrounding it are four white squares to represent other member nations. The belt’s story, like hundreds of other wampum message belts, was read and still may be read by those trained to memorize the story within the beads.  The Hiawatha Belt’s opening words, “We the People…” influenced the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who penned those words into the Preamble of the United States Constitution.

(From the glossary/acknowledgements section at the back of the book)

Wampum According to the American Heritage Dictionary, one meaning of the word, book is, “something regarded as a source of knowledge or understanding.”  In this sense, wampum belts should be considered one of the world’s first kinds of books.  Besides the sacred meaning of wampum described on the W page, American Indians used wampum belts and strings primarily for diplomatic purposes, helping nations to come to collective agreements.  After Europeans settled in America, they were at a loss for currency, so for them wampum became a type of money.  Soon, factories were started to mass-produce it.   According to http://www.us-coin-values-advisor.com in its section on the history of U.S. coins, wampum in the Colonial Period could be used to pay your Commonwealth of Massachusetts taxes or attend Harvard University.

Linda Boyden has spent most of her adult life leading children to literacy.  From 1970-1997, she taught in primary grades, receiving her master’s in Gifted and Talented Education in 1992 from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. In 1997, Linda decided to change careers and abandoned full-time teaching for full-time writing.  Her first picture book, “The Blue Roses,” debuted in 2002.  It was the recipient of Lee and Low Books’ first New Voices Award, the 2003 Paterson Prize, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers’ Book of the Year, Children’s Literature, 2002-2003, and was included on the prestigious CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center) 2003 Choices list of recommended titles. In 2007 she wrote and illustrated her second picture book, “Powwow’s Coming” which was published by the University of New Mexico Press. She has also written and illustrated “Giveaways, an ABC of Loanwords from the Americas” published also by the University of New Mexico Press in 2010. In 2011, Giveaways was the recipient of three Finalist Awards from the International Book Awards, Finalist in the 2012 New Mexico Book of the Year Award and was included in the California Reading’s Association’s 2012 California Collections list of recommended titles. In her writing for adults, she has had poems included in a number of anthologies. In 2006, she won the Adult First Place and Third Place awards at the Pleasanton Poetry Festival. Linda is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers.  She enjoys doing author visits and storytelling at schools and libraries as well as presenting workshops at writing conferences around the country. Visit www.lindaboyden.com.
Be sure to stop by Linda’s table at the Author’s Fair on November 10th and pick up a copy of Giveaways for the child in your life or for your favorite kid at heart.
A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free.  Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links.  The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter.  Thank you!

Jan Brett at Barnes & Noble TODAY!!!

Jan Brett, beloved children’s author/illustrator, will be at Barnes and Noble today at 4pm.  I am absolutely giddy as I type this because I’ve wanted to meet her since I was a kid!  I use her books all of the time in my first class for reading. writing and art lessons.  She is brilliant!  Have I gushed enough?

She will arrive at 4pm, do a drawing lesson at 5pm and sign books after that.  The first 100 purchases of her new book, Mossy, also get an autographed poster and a ticket to get your book autographed, too.

Click here for more details and information.

I hope to see you there!

Bylaws Amendment Approved

At the last General Meeting, a proposed amendment to Section 8.1 of the Writers Forum Bylaws passed unanimously. It was amended to:

8.1 Annual dues of $20 are due on anniversary of joining, and become delinquent two (2) months later.

Exceptions: High school and college students shall be required to pay ten dollars ($10) dues. These members shall be entitled to receive the newsletter, attend and vote at meetings, and participate in all activities connected with the organization.

To read the bylaws in their entirety, click here.