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Every run is an adventure March 31, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Exercise.
6 comments

Mississippi River, Quad Cities

Yesterday was the first 70 degree day of 2010, with the first 80 degree temperature on the horizon for tomorrow. After cold and wind kept me from the Mississippi riverfront at the end of last week, I was anxious to head back there after work to go running.

This is week five of my running program (mostly the Cool Running Couch to 5K program, although my inner competitiveness has me stretching beyond their suggestions most days) and I’m up to running five minutes at a time now.  My last run was Saturday, indoors at the YMCA. Since I don’t like treadmills, I run on one of the tracks. Usually it’s the cleverly named jogging track – a large blue oval that rings the large gym below. The other, the walking track, is in an area that houses bikes and elliptical machines, plus a series of resistance weight machines. It’s smaller, meaning that sensation of going around in circles is worse, but there’s a drinking fountain! Typically, it’s very crowded with walkers so running there is challenging. Saturday, there were few people so I ran there. Of all four weeks’ worth of outings, it was probably the easiest.

So my expectations were high yesterday – I was again running five minutes at a time, plus back outdoors.

It was very windy. On my running days, I obsessively check the Weather Channel Web site all afternoon for the wind speed and direction. The Mississippi River actually runs east to west in the Quad Cities, so the riverfront path does too. Typically I park at the east end, though on occasion will change because of the wind. (When it’s cool, I prefer running into the wind first and having an easier time on the way back to the car.) Yesterday’s 20 to 25 mph winds were from the south. I wasn’t sure how that would affect me, so I decided to stick with the usual. I like routine!

As expected, the lot was crowded when I arrived. A woman in a little SUV pulled in right as I did. While I was gathering my iPod and car keys, she backed up and left. Well, one less person to on the path … And there were many, far more than any other day I’ve been there. I passed the walkers and just enjoyed the weather.

There were many runners out yesterday, also more than ever before. One cute shirtless guy smiled as he ran past, which was nice. I almost laughed out loud when the song “Be Still My Beating Heart” by Sting began a moment later on my iPod. As the song continued, and Sting said “it’s not healthy to run at this pace,” I chuckled to myself again. My running pace is not harmful to anyone.

As I continued, things weren’t quite as easy as they’d been Saturday at the Y. Quickly I realized why: springtime allergies + budding trees + new grass + 20 to 25 mph winds = difficulty breathing! Approaching the end of my five-minute segments, I couldn’t help but huff and puff like Fernando Vina and David Eckstein used to do as they were rounding the bases.

But I did end up with a friendly voice guiding me along. For no reason at all, I am listening to all the songs on my iPod in alphabetical order while running. It’s kind of like having it on shuffle, since I don’t really know what will come up next. As mentioned with the Sting song, I’m in the B’s now. And I was thrilled when, as U2’s “Beautiful Day” ended, the next song was “A Beautiful Friendship” by Teraesa Vinson. Teraesa is one of my Cardinals Twitter pals, as well as a jazz singer in New York City, and I love her music. (Find out more about Teraesa and her music here.)  Listening to her sing boosted my motivation.

After the turnaround, the running stretches were more difficult as my allergies bugged me more. The usual Chris Carpenter motivation didn’t work, perhaps because Chris was not his best yesterday either when he pitched for the Cardinals. But as I started my last section of running, it was Teraesa to the rescue again as “Being Green” (the Kermit the Frog song!) began. I kept my pace even slower, just concentrating on one step at a time. When I approached five minutes, I decided to keep going a bit to prepare for Thursday – the first stretch is for eight minutes. At six minutes, I wondered if I could reach seven. (More examples of my competitiveness with myself!) And I did reach seven, and was that much closer to my car. Sweaty yet victorious, my trip was soon complete.

As I reached my car, I shut off the iPod and took out the ear buds. That gave me the opportunity to hear the conversation of the couple on the other side of the path. “So what size is your bed?” the young woman said. The guy was silent for that moment, so I never did hear what his response was. Too bad I didn’t see the cute shirtless runner again. Now I had a question I could ask him.

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Learning in the early morning stillness March 29, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Writing.
6 comments

I’m not a morning person. Yet for eight years, my alarm clock has awakened me very early on weekdays (now, thanks to my Twitter friends, known as “stupid o’clock”) and I spend a couple hours before I go to my job on the real me – ideally writing.

Early morning is peaceful, almost reverential. Clear mornings like today are the best: a bright full moon overhead with tiny stars dotting the sky. This blog design was perfect for me, since it illustrates my morning time. Yet it’s more than just the sky. When the weather is warm and the windows are open, the sounds are from nature, with crickets and other insects singing their nightly songs. Traffic sounds can occasionally be heard, and sometimes a train whistle that carries all the way from the Mississippi riverfront. Now that spring is here, the lengthening days mean the birds will awaken and the sky will lighten earlier and earlier. Those elements energize me all the more.

During today’s early time, I’m clarifying all my thoughts from over the weekend about “Summer of ’94.” I re-read the latest draft, re-read all the blog comments and e-mails and Facebook responses about last week’s writing dilemma. Thank you for your feedback – it’s helped me. And I’ve come to some realizations about the story. I love Sara and her never-give-up attitude. I love that the first thing Sara does once her parents and brother leave after moving her into an apartment down the street from Wrigley Field is walk to the ballpark. It’s not a game day – which is why she moved in that day – but she has to see it for herself, revel in the fact she’s there, before she even unpacks a single box. I love how she totally breaks down crying hours into her first day on her new job when she finds out that Ryne Sandberg, her baseball idol forever, just up and retires on a Monday in June. I love her next-door neighbor Miriam. But that’s about it.

The flaws with the story are many, even after three rewrites. There’s too much going on – the changing post-college friendships with her college roommates, adjusting to a new job (that never seems as bad as Sara talks about it being), Kyle and his not-really jerkiness, the guy Ben at the train station who I threw into the latest version to prove to myself that she wasn’t interested in Kyle, the wisdom and experiences of Miriam, the memories of her Grandpa and – oh yeah – all the baseball stuff, with the growing labor disputes throughout June and July 1994 that lead to the strike in August. Whew …

“Summer of ‘94” is done. No more rewrites, no more anything.

But there’s so much I’ve learned from the process of writing its various drafts in these early morning hours. It’s time to move on now, take what I’ve learned and devote it to new writing projects that energize me. And maybe the entire thing won’t end up in the proverbial bottom drawer forever. An idea that came to mind last week was writing a series of shorts stories (after my friend Linda asked if I’d considered writing short stories, which I haven’t) that all have something to do with baseball. After more thinking, ideas for several stories developed – and I might as well use some of the insight and experiences I gained during my baseball stadium tour in 2008. (I have an entire blog on that here!) Maybe the first chapter of “Summer of ‘94” – which is one of the things I love – could be a stand-alone story. (That’s not a new idea, as an Iowa workshop instructor in 2004 who only read that chapter suggested it.) In addition to these ideas, I have many swirling around for a new novel, a different version of the National Novel Writing Month story from last November. I spent time thinking about and jotting some of those down over the weekend too.

So there’s plenty to look forward to in my early-morning time, and many new projects to start on tomorrow. And, as I hear the birds chirping outside, I realize the worst thing about this early morning time: how quickly it passes by.

A story from long ago March 26, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Writing.
2 comments

Sincere thanks to everyone for your comments on my novel dilemma. Still pondering it all …

In the meantime, I was looking through some of the writing on my computer. Amazing the number of one and two paragraph “things” I’ve started through the years. (I have a plastic tub filled with notebooks that contain similar bits.) I also came across several stories from a children’s writing class I took in fall 1999. Re-reading these stories after such a long time was fun, because I could only remember bits and pieces of them. Here’s one of the stories I wrote — as it was the last time I edited it, on Dec. 6, 1999!

The Ghost of Jimmy Wilson

“Bye Mom! Bye Dad! Have fun at the party!” Valerie shouted as her parents walked down the driveway to their car. It was finally time for Valerie’s slumber party.

“What are we going to do first?” Ashley asked.

“Let’s call Joshua and see if he really likes Megan,” Natalie said.

“I don’t care if he does,” Megan answered.

“I know what we can do – tell ghost stories!” Valerie said.

 “OK,” Ashley replied. “Who knows a good one?”

 “Did you ever hear about Jimmy Wilson?” Valerie asked. “He lived down the road from here 30 years ago, next to where Joshua lives now.”

“Let’s go into the living room,” Ashley suggested. “And let’s keep the lights out – that will be better!”

“Look – there’s a full moon,” Megan said, looking through the picture window. “And look at those clouds getting closer to it! This is the perfect night for stories.”

The girls sat in a circle on the carpet in the dark living room, with both the moon and the streetlight outside the window combining to cast long shadows of the front yard tree across the room.

“This isn’t a story – it really happened,” Valerie began. “Jimmy Wilson was 13 years old at the time, just like us. There were fewer houses out here then, and his house was the last one on the lane. All this area was just woods, like it is across the street. Jimmy’s favorite place was the pond – the one where we ice skate. His mother always told him never go to the pond by himself – she was worried something could happen and no one would hear.”

The girls were already engrossed in Valerie’s story, sitting cross-legged with their elbows on their knees, heads resting in their hands and eyes wide. A breeze outside made the tree shadows dance across the floor.

“It was an October night, like this one, with a full moon and a breeze. But the temperature was warm, and it was very hot inside the house. Around midnight, Jimmy still wasn’t asleep because it was so hot in his room. But there was one place he knew he could cool off. He got up and tiptoed by his parents’ room – they were fast asleep. He tiptoed down the hallway then out the back door. He ran to the woods and down the paths to the pond. It looked pretty in the moonlight and felt so cool with the breeze. He knew better than to go swimming alone, so he climbed a tree next to the pond instead. Jimmy sat on a lower branch, swinging his feet and enjoying the night air.”

Valerie paused. “Keep going!” Ashley said.

“Just then the breeze shifted and a strong wind started to blow. Very quickly, clouds piled up in the sky and covered up the moon. Jimmy liked watching the clouds, so he sat on the branch looking at the sky. He didn’t realize how dark it now was and how hard seeing the path home would be without the moon. He felt scared, then realized that was silly. He’d been down the path hundreds of times – he could find his way in the dark. Suddenly, a lightning bolt flashed nearby and a huge crack of thunder rang out through the sky. It startled Jimmy. He yelled, but his cry was muffled by the thunder. At the same time he jumped up and the sudden motion caused the branch—”

A bright lightning flash lit up the room, followed by a crack of real thunder that rattled the windows. The girls screamed. “No way – I can’t believe there’s really lightning and thunder,” Megan said.

“This is getting way too creepy,” Natalie whispered.

“No, it’s not,” Ashley said, her eyes wide with anticipation. “What happened next?”

“No one knows,” Valerie said. “The next morning, Jimmy’s parents saw his empty bed and knew to look in the woods. When they got to the pond, they saw a broken branch and a torn piece of Jimmy’s pajamas on the ground. But they didn’t find him. They searched the pond and all the woods but his parents never saw him again.”

“That can’t be true,” Natalie said. “People don’t just disappear.”

“His parents never saw him again, but that doesn’t mean others didn’t. He usually appears on nights like this  – where there’s a full moon, clouds in the sky and a breeze. He’ll start out walking through the woods by the pond, this white figure dressed in pajamas. He walks around, trying to find his way back home, confused by the new houses here. Once my Dad saw him next door, looking in the Miller’s window.”

“We HAVE to turn the lights on!” Natalie yelled.

“Wait, what was that?” Ashley asked, looking down toward the carpet. “I mean it – look at that shadow!”

The girls looked at the floor. Even though the moon was now behind the clouds, the streetlight allowed them to make out the obvious shadow of a boy mixed in with the tree branches.

“Oh no, what do we do now?” Valerie whispered.

“I’m really, really scared,” Ashley said. Natalie was too terrified to speak.

“I’ll go look out the window,” Megan said, trying to sound brave.

“Look out the little window on the door instead,” Valerie whispered. “That way, he — I mean, it —, I mean no one will see you.” Lightning again flashed outside.

Megan took a few steps toward the door.

All at once there was another clap of thunder, a pounding on the door and a continuous ringing of the doorbell. The girls screamed, and Megan dove back to her circle of friends on the floor.

The pounding continued, followed by a voice from outside the door. “What are you girls screaming at?”

The girls were quiet but breathing heavy from their fear.

The voice outside continued. “Hey, come open the door!”

“Wait,” Megan whispered. “That sounds like Joshua. I’ll go see.”

“Be careful . . .” Natalie whispered back.

Megan rose again and tiptoed toward to the door. Once there, she peeked out through the window then slowly opened the door.

There on the porch stood Joshua, trying to look in the door’s window himself.

“Joshua!” Megan said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Come on in. Hey, have you heard the story of the ghost of Jimmy Wilson?”

When do you give up on a novel? March 24, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Writing.
7 comments

Writing a novel is, not surprisingly, hard. Figuring out what to do with a novel you’ve written and rewritten several times is even harder. That’s where I’m at right now, with a question creeping into my thoughts: can I just let this novel go and move on to something new?

I’ve always loved the idea of “Summer of ’94,” and the description I wrote of it for a writing workshop several years ago still applies after several drafts:
Naïve and innocent Sara Sanders moves to Chicago after college graduation to start her first job and be near the ruling passion of her life, the Chicago Cubs. Real life hits hard as Sara endures the sudden retirement of her baseball idol, the changing friendship with her two best friends from college, a job she doesn’t really like and a boss who annoys her, plus the possibility of a baseball strike that threatens the one comfort she does have. Ultimately feeling betrayed by everything around her once the baseball strike occurs in mid-August, Sara struggles to figure out what she needs to do now.

I want that description to still apply, anyway. The biggest problem after the first draft remains the problem after the latest one: the story is more like “Bridget Jones Moves to Chicago” instead of being reminiscent of “Field of Dreams” and “The Catcher in the Rye” like I’ve always envision. From the start, I intended for Kyle, the boss, to be a jerk and for he and Sara to clash. He’s the baseball realist to her hopeless romantic, the one who should be smashing all her illusions about what the real world she’s been waiting for really is like. Except that’s not the case. Oh, sure, Kyle will occasionally say sort-of jerky things. But the way he ultimately acts toward Sara, the interaction between them, completely backs up what I learned at Bret Anthony Johnston’s writing workshop: any time there are a man and a woman interacting in a story, there is automatically sexual tension. Further, Sara and Kyle – though I won’t let them admit it – are really interested in each other. I tried to write everything possible to get away from that obvious point. Yet it dominates the story. And that’s fine, but it’s not what I want the story to be. It’s supposed to be about Sara’s interest in baseball.

Or maybe I don’t know what I want the story to be any more. Maybe I’ve added too many other elements into it. Only one person has ever read any of the drafts, my friend Linda a couple years ago. She had wonderful suggestions about what was missing, and I’ve added those parts in. Yet I’m still not thrilled with it. There are still many holes, many problems.

I’ve learned much in writing and rewriting these drafts. I’ve become a better writer. At times, I’ve put this novel aside and started on others, and it’s all been an education. The idea of shelving “Summer of ’94” for good seems surprising – I’ve put so much effort and energy into it, for many years now. Can I really abandon it?

Trying to answer that question also is where I get stuck. There are no rules for doing this, and I’m very much a by-the-rules person. (All those years of Catholic school, where I actually listened and believed what I was taught, had an impact.) I do better when there’s a step-by-step process – looking up the “Couch to 5K” program whenever I start running again, for example, or joining Weight Watchers when I originally wanted to lose weight. Do this, get these results, move forward.

I followed what I knew was the process for writing a novel – sit down and write and write and write, read through the whole draft, figure out the flaws and rewrite. And, as there are rules for the publication process, I know I need to have a version that I am really confident in before I can look for an agent. But what about when you’re not confident, even after several drafts?

How do you know when it’s okay to say to yourself “This story just isn’t going to work” and move on to create something totally new and different that will?

A lifelong love affair with books March 21, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Uncategorized.
6 comments

One of my bookshelves

I read too much. We all do anymore, with e-mails and Web sites and blogs and Twitter and whatever else taking up so much of our days, both at home and on the job. I’m a traditionalist who still gets a daily newspaper delivered too, plus I have a couple of magazine subscriptions. And all of that reading each day makes it a challenge to find time for my first love: reading books. I do find the time, just not as much as I’d like.

Once I learned to read in first grade, books became my constant companions. Every car ride, even if just to my Grandma Coleman’s house twenty minutes away, meant bringing a book with me. I loved buying books (a habit that still continues) and checking them out of the library (one that hasn’t, since I own so many books I still haven’t read).

I’d do whatever it took to get books too. When we were 11 or 12 years old, my next-door neighbor Terri (now novelist Therese Fowler) and I used to ride our bikes a couple of miles to the tiny branch library adjacent to a fire station to check out books. Though it’s vague, I have a recollection of transporting the books in a free backpack from Hardees. We’d ride home and get to reading.

Exploring the books my Grandma Coleman and Grandma and Grandpa O’Brien had were a high point of visiting them. When I first read Grandma C’s copy of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” I found a kindred spirit in Francie Nolan with her reading of a book a day and desire to read all the books in the world. That book, from 1943, is mine today and has been read so many times it’s now fragile with a broken and frayed binding. Last fall I purchased a paperback copy. The story is identical and still captivating, but seems out of place in this new package. My other grandparents had more non-fiction books – I absolutely loved reading an encyclopedia of television shows Grandma had, about the shows I could remember and the many that were before my time. Grandpa had an almanac in his bedroom that I enjoyed picking up, flipping through and reading random entries. Today, it’s on one of my bookshelves.

Yes, I have multiple bookshelves plus a couple of big tubs full of books. Most are ones I have yet to read. Last year I made two reading-related New Year’s resolutions: to not buy any books so I could read some of the ones I had and to read 40 books for the year. I did pretty well with the first one until late summer. When I went to Madison, Wis., for Labor Day weekend, my friends Jan and Mike and I went shopping at a couple used book stores. One was even having an extra sale that weekend! It was too good to pass up, so I drove home with 10 new-to-me books. Around the same time I also joined my friend Linda’s book group. So that was a legitimate reason to buy a new book every month – plus it gave me the opportunity to talk about books (among many other topics) with a great group of women. And, somehow, I did fulfill the resolution of reading 40 books for 2009.

This year: no book-reading resolutions. And I am finding it more difficult to find time to read so far this year – it took me months to finish a terrific baseball book, “Sixty Feet, Six Inches,” even though there was a fascinating online discussion going on with my Twitter Cardinals friends. It also took some cramming late last week to finish reading Julia Child’s “My Life in France” for yesterday’s book group. Like making the time to write, reading too is all a matter of priorities.

My favorite way to spend the day remains curling up on the couch with a book and getting lost in another world, whether fictional or factual. And, if you’ll excuse me, that’s what I’m going to spend a little time doing right now …

***

On another book-related note, congratulations to Jeanne Matthews, one of my 2005 Iowa workshop classmates, whose first novel will be published June 1! “Bones of Contention” is a murder mystery set in Australia – learn more at www.jeannematthews.com. I just ordered a copy and look forward to reading it this summer.

Ah, spring … March 16, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Baseball, Exercise.
4 comments

The Mississippi River and Ben Butterworth Parkway, fall 2009

 I love daylight saving time (which, according to a tweet I read from AP Stylebook is the proper term for it) so much that my least favorite day of the year is when it ends. Darkness at 5 p.m. is depressing. Plus it forces me out of my after-work spring/summer/fall routine of going to Ben Butterworth Parkway along the riverfront in Moline and walking or running. So when spring arrives and I can return, it’s a cause for celebration.

Ben Butterworth is like a second home to me, since I’ve been exercising there regularly for eight years now. Walking along the river was how I exercised while losing weight in 2002. It was where I first started running, on a brisk and breezy day in May 2003. I’m not sure which was worse, running into the wind or the eternity of that first 60 seconds (all I needed to run each time). I’ve improved since then, even though injuries have had me starting over with running several times in the past seven years. But those have usually occurred down there as well.

Yesterday was the big day, my first time to exercise there since last fall. The weather was terrific with the temperature in the upper 50s, little wind and enough scattered clouds that I didn’t need sunglasses. As I changed into my exercise clothes before leaving work, I discovered my sports watch wasn’t in my bag. With running again the past two weeks, my watch governs my progress on the running program. Or, perhaps more accurately, I let the watch take charge.

But I decided not to let it bother me – nothing was going to detract from the day. I’d just make due and run as far as I could, walk a bit, repeat. I’m familiar enough with the path to know how far to go for total distances of two-and-a-half, three or four miles.

My usual parking lot was about half full when I arrived. Starting on the path was like visiting an old friend. As I passed the Captains Table and continued on, I saw several other old friends were there too: the crows, gulls, ducks and Canada geese, as well as other runners, walkers, dog-walkers and even a few rollerbladers. People are always friendly along the path, but seemed even more so last night. Perhaps, like me, they were happy to be outside again.

And I was equally happy to be along the river. The Mississippi never looks the same from day to day, nor do the sky and clouds. It’s always enjoyable to see what they look like. Since yesterday’s breeze was slight, the river’s surface was mostly smooth. No sun sparkling on the surface as it has so many other times, but the ducks and geese paddled along anyway. It was all enough to make the first half of my journey very easy and smooth. The running part went fine, with the walking breaks short.

The habit to check my watch is obviously ingrained, especially as I reach certain points along the path. Several times I caught myself glancing at my bare wrist. My usual turnaround is one such spot, so I can see my time for the first half and see if I can beat it on my way back to the car. Even without a watch, I know that wouldn’t have happened yesterday. As often happens, the last quarter of the workout was the toughest. When I’m in better running shape, I can usually push through it anyway – especially when I channel my inner Chris Carpenter and ask myself how he would handle it. The answer is always the same: he’d blow a bubble with his gum, wipe the sweat away and just keep on going. So, figuratively speaking, that’s what I did. And it helped … for about 30 seconds. I picked a tree in the distance as my stopping point, not too far yet far enough to challenge myself for this last section of running. I tried to think like Chris again. But that didn’t work long either. Wanting to be as competitive as he is, I conjured the image that is very familiar to the Twitter Cardinals girls. (This, of course.) Success! I didn’t even think to check my non-existent watch.

It was a good sense of accomplishment as I reached the tree and started walking. Another day of running, after a week layoff because of sore knees. A successful run and walk without even knowing the time I spent doing either. And, even better, the first day running outside along the river. (Plus another new mind game to get me through the next time I need a motivational boost.) A wonderful first trip back to Ben Butterworth Parkway. Welcome back daylight saving time, spring – and, of course, baseball!

Our Irish eyes were smiling March 14, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Family.
3 comments
2010 parade

At the St. Patrick's Day Grand Parade 2010

My family celebrates St. Patrick’s Day each year. It’s my Mom’s birthday – and her maiden name was Pat O’Brien, which practically makes it a requirement to celebrate – plus there’s the local St. Patrick’s Day Grand Parade each year. (It’s known for being the only two-state parade in the United States.) My niece Samantha’s birthday is the 14th, adding another cause for celebration – especially when the parade coincides with her birthday as it has the past two years.

Yesterday was the 2010 parade. It wasn’t the best weather, with the threat of rain and windy and cool conditions, but we bundled up and met at our traditional gathering spot. There were ten of us this year, the usual gang. Occasionally one of my brothers will go, some years my aunts from Chicago are here.

Last year was the biggest group ever, yet attending that parade was bittersweet. It was on Samantha’s birthday, something she’d been eagerly anticipating for weeks. She’d made a sign that said it was her birthday, decorating it with a leprechaun and shamrocks, and wanted the Elvises to sing to her. (They’re a group of guys who attend local events dressed up in their white jumpsuits and plastic black pompadours.) Two days before Samantha’s birthday and the parade, my Dad passed away. Our celebration continued, however – and the Elvises did sing “Happy Birthday” to Samantha. It ended up being a nice day.

This year Samantha made another sign, now announcing that tomorrow is her birthday. She received attention for it during the parade, with plenty of people telling her happy birthday and giving her beads. Candy is no longer the appeal for the nieces and nephews at the parade – the beads are. And the distribution of beads at the parade, a relatively recent phenomenon, has grown each year. It started out with just green beads several years ago. Now there also are red, blue, purple, silver and gold that seem more Mardi Gras than St. Patrick’s Day. No matter the color, collecting the most is what’s important. To keep with the family’s baseball rivalry, I always wear my Cardinals beads from the 2004 NLCS. This year Lily wore her Cub beads.

Following the parade, it was our traditional lunch together. Once unbundled from our warm clothing, we could finally see what green shirts everyone was wearing this year – because green clothing is absolutely required. The kids finally removed all their beads, counting the strands to see who collected the most. Remembering last year, when they had root beer served in brown bottles resembling a more grown-up beverage, all ordered root beer again. Much to their disappointment, it was served in styrofoam cups. The waitress tried to make them feel better by stressing that they would get free refills. The lunch was the cap to another enjoyable parade day.

As the kids get older, they are becoming more interested in our family’s heritage and nationalities. There’s a lot of Irish, of course, but also German, English and French – although for generations now, just American. Yet for St. Patrick’s Day and the parade, it’s that Irish ancestry that we honor the most.

Welcome! March 12, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Writing.
5 comments

Welcome to my blog!

Writing is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember, starting with stories and poems in second grade. Those continued through the years and, when older, translated into working on the newspaper and yearbook in high school and majoring in journalism at Northern Illinois University. Most of my jobs have involved writing — currently at work, I write everything from magazine and newsletter articles to blast e-mails and Facebook and Twitter posts.

Yet it’s creative writing that fulfills me the most, and it’s something I’ve focused on for 11 or so years. I started with a children’s writing class taught by a local author, then discovered the Summer Writing Festival at the University of Iowa. I’ve attended a couple of weekend workshops and several week-long ones, and the full weeks were the best — the opportunity to get away (all of 60 miles) and focus completely on creative writing. Two workshops were the most influential: a beginning novel writing course taught by Elizabeth Strout, after which I wrote my first novel, and a character course with Bret Anthony Johnston. There are so many lessons I learned from Bret. The one I put into practice most often is that a writer needs to be stubborn, dedicated and disciplined. I try. (Although lately I need to try harder.)

My first novel, Summer of ’94,  is something I’ve written and rewritten three or four (don’t really know for sure) times now, and am currently working my way through again. It focuses on my other love besides writing: baseball. It will disappoint all my Cardinals fan friends to know this novel focuses on a recent college graduate who’s a die-hard Cubs fan — please don’t hold that against me. I grew up a Cubs fan, but have since realized the error of my ways and converted. Besides, think back to what happened to baseball in the summer of ’94. That too is part of the story. Anyway, in addition to Summer of ’94, I’ve also written substantial portions of two other novels. One still interests me enough to complete, somewhere down the road. Last November, I wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month. (Yay, I was a winner!) While the draft I wrote won’t go anywhere, it’s given me some ideas on a new story to work on next.

Yet with all the current reading and revising of Summer of ’94, I wanted — actually, needed — another outlet for writing regularly. Thus, this blog and the chance to push myself more and be creative. I hope you enjoy reading it.