Archive for September, 2011

It’s strange how I feel about this. On the day new story selections are posted (they’re up for a week), I sometimes have this dread. It’s like: I don’t want to do this. It’s too hard. It’s too much work. But when I start critiquing, I enjoy myself. I like looking over other people’s writing and checking for errors or for where it doesn’t flow. It’s not like I’m an ogre eager to diss and destroy other people’s dreams. I want to be helpful and I want to make my own writing better. My philosophy in critiquing is that if you can’t be constructive, move on. This is all about helping someone. I try to phrase my comments to bolster up a writer and when I see something good, I let them know it. Some works I’ve read have these wonderful descriptions about the people and the setting of the story. This is something I feel I lack. When I find a passage, I read it over several times. How can I write like that? When I first started with this, I looked at the grammar part, like I’m the guru on grammar. Half the time I had to look in a grammar book to make sure what I wrote was correct. I learned a lot about grammar, so that’s a good thing. As time went, I concentrated on other aspects of writing, the flow of the story, the dialog, repetition, and that. This has all helped me tremendously with editing student’s work although I don’t think they always appreciate it, because I tend to get too in depth. Now, about two years after I’ve started to critique, I feel that not only am I critiquer, but a better writer, and I appreciate the craft so much more.


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Dear Angus,

Dear Angus,

We went on Holiday.

To England.

With Granda we did!

We visited Alnwick castle.

The Harry Potter castle in the first two films. Aye.

We took the bus and then the train.

Right through Edinburgh we went. It was brilliant.

Changed trains too. Granda knows EVERYTHING!

We took a bus to the castle.

We slept there too. In the castle. And no one knew.

The grass could be tastier.

Aye. Only in the edges did the taste improve.

But Granda brought hay with him too so we didn’t starve.

And he bought fruties for us all.

We made sure to take the Harry Potter tour. Granda thought we couldna keep up.

Only we brought our skates with us and yours too.

For Granda.

Aye. And we told the tour guide to walk slow.

Which he did so we heard EVERYTHING!

It was brilliant.

Aye, brilliant.

We saw where Hagrid’s croft was.

And the whomping willow. A pity ’tis not there in real.

And we saw where Harry and his mates learned to fly their brooms.

The little people statues on the wall are fantastic. You should put sheep statues on the ramparts of your crofts.

A croft has no ramparts.

It could have one, if one wanted.

Wouldn’t be a true croft then. It’d be a castle.

A croft is one’s own castle. So there.

The gate was fantastic. Amazing all they had there to keep the enemy away.

But granda said it wasn’t for sheep like us, so we couldn’t learn much.

I wanted to hear about the boiling oil.

Instead we went to the shop.

And guess what.

Aye guess.

Did you guess?

Aye, did you?

We were the second set of twins in the shop that day and won ten pounds each plus shipping.

Ten whole pounds to do with what we wanted, Angus!

We could buy ANYTHING!

We offered Granda some money, but he said everything he needed was in his pasture.

So more money for us.

I bought a postcard even though it was big. You should get it soon.

Or have it already. They had small wands. We each got one.

They had Lego Harry Potter items.

They were expensive so we decided to only get the Harry Potter figure.

Twas better than Voldemort. Mum would chuck that straight in the bin.

We got robes too and Heather got a sorting hat.

Peat bought Hamish a plastic telly set that shows Harry Potter scenes.

So? Granda wouldna let us have it and if I give it to Hamish I can visit and see it.

Aye? That’s a grand idea.

I know.

We got more stuff too. The lady packed it all up to go in the post.

Then we went to the gardens. Granda wanted to see it.

And couldn’t eat a thing there and it all looking good and tasty.

I wanted to see the deadly plants.

But Granda said: No, now let’s go.

So we went and saw the other things.

Then we went back home.

I want another holiday like this.


Yours twolies,


Heather. McSheep.

Peatmoss. McSheep.



Ian got us into the Harry Potter movie.

It was grand.


Except Heather got a nightmare later and Mum found out.

That we went, not that Ian took us. ‘Sides twas the chocolate not the movie.

Aye it was the movie. You were going on about Voldemort.

It was the chocolate. You know I can’t eat much.

Anyway, we told Mum you said it was a good movie for us to go see.


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Travel Journals

In the last few weeks, I’ve been boxing up my father’s slides. The slide trays take up quite a bit of room and my mother wants to condense the ‘stuff’ she has. As I’m going through the slides, I’ve been writing on the date on them and where (as best I can) where they’ve been taken. Unfortunately they are out of order so I’m doing some guessing along the way.

Which brings me to travel journals. The slides I’ve been going through are from my youth, but I’ll be darned if I remember anything about the trips except for the occasional memory such as ‘Oh, I remember, we went to a Chinese restaurant here’ or ‘Oh, yeah, I’m not in the picture because I’m scared of cows.’ I sure wish I’d been into writing travel journals back then.

Nowadays I write a journal for every trip I make. I also make sure to label my pictures so I know where they’ve been taken. My journal will tell me when so I don’t put a date on them. I’ve been writing in depth travel journals since 1992, but that leaves a number of holidays unaccounted for such as our trip to China and Canada, and my trip to New Mexico although for the first one I did start one. I just didn’t finish it.

In 1992, my sister and I left our jobs and embarked on a six month plus camping trip of the American West. That was when I really started travel journal. A trip like this can’t be forgotten. We even had small notebooks to write down where pictures were taken so we wouldn’t forget. The trip took four diaries, diaries I’ll read next year, 2012 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary.

I’ve been hooked on travel journals ever since. If I’m taking a trip, by golly, I want to remember it. Even my short trip this summer, a week at Table Rock State Park (you can read Angus. McSheep’s versions on the blog) got chronicled. Last year, I wrote up my four day trip to the Natchez Trace Trail.

Pictures can show you where you’ve been and who’ve you been with, but a journal digs deeper. It’s a lot of work, but worth it in the end, bringing back the memories the pictures can’t always give back. Like looking at the slides from my father. I see me, but what am I thinking? What was going on at the time. There’s one picture I saw, my head is down and I look a sad and my sister is beside me laughing. Not only do I wish I knew where we were, but why was I sad? If I could go back in time, I’d tell my younger self to write a travel journal, I would have saved much more then my experiences.


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No one’s really asked me this question yet and I, for one, am glad. My list should include the likes of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Gatsby, Cather, and Hughes. Sorry to disappoint, but the writers who inspired me are the ones I grew up with. That includes the author of ‘Little Bear’. Who can’t love Little Bear?

No, my inspiration are the authors I’ve grown up on. These include the Brothers Grimm and Christian Andersen. The first stories I remember being read are fairy tales and how I love fairy tales. I want to write fairy tales.

Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan. I devoured his books, with the exception of the Mars series. I didn’t quite get into that. He gave me the love of adventure and adventure stories. His books set deep under the surface of the Earth, the Pellucidar series inspired me to dream of lost worlds.

Comic books. Super heroes. I read every book I could get my hands on. The Fantastic Four, Captain America, Thor, Spiderman, Superman. I learned there’s a hero in everybody.

Then there is Lester Del Ray, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and the other classic science fiction writers for children and young adults. Ooops, nearly forgot Andre Norton. Her book Daybreak -2250 A.D. instilled an interest in life after a major disaster, something I write quite a bit about. The others just made me want to write. After reading one to many books about the boys having all the glory (these books were written in the fifties when girls only supposedly only wanted to be nurses and mothers and teachers) I knew I had to write a book where the girl got to experience the adventure – go to Mars, find the robot, whatever. I haven’t taken up that challenge yet, but my girl heroines can give those boys a run for their money.

Patricia Beatty makes me want to write historical fiction. Enid Blyton makes me want to write school stories, of students getting into mischief and adventure. And the list can go on. Maybe these aren’t ‘big’ names, but to me as a child, you couldn’t get any better or bigger.

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