Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Love Thy Neighbor by Amanda Waley

Before I went to sleep, I wanted to share the story I want to submit in the next "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book.  Let me know what you think about it, and if it needs some improvement.  I can work on it until October 3rd when I have to submit it.  Thank you in advance for your critique.

Love Thy Neighbor

By Amanda Waley

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.”
-Mark 12:31

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
-The first verse of It is Well with my Soul,
written by Horatio G. Spafford
with music by Philip P. Bliss

            This is a story about my neighbor, Annette “Tobie” Hickcox who was like a sister to me.  She was forty-four years old when she died of pneumonia, and complications with diabetes.  My mother verbally adopted her into my family when her own mother passed away.  She took her mother’s death very hard because they were very close.  Her mother became friends with my mother, and Tobie switched from a downstairs apartment to one directly above her old apartment when her mother could no longer walk up the stairs.  My family stepped into the role of “adopted” siblings when Tobie needed us the most.
            For a while she came over to my apartment across the yard once a week to watch movies with my brother and I.  Before she passed away, she was over 2-3 times a week watching television, watching movies, and having the occasional pizza party.
            Tobie and I started calling each other “Twin” even though she was fifteen years older than me, and we weren’t related by blood at all because we were both accident-prone and would end up comparing ouches.  A lot of the time, we had bruises and cuts in the exact same places.  Most of her falls were the result of grand mal seizures, whereas mine would be sheer clumsiness.
            Whenever we saw each other in public, we would greet each other with “Hey, Twin,” followed by the E. T. phone home signal with our index fingers.  The E. T. thing is something I started doing with my mom when I wanted to “phone the mother ship,” but with Tobie I would say “sister ship.”
            Aside from having epilepsy and diabetes, Tobie was partially deaf.  When my brother and I were going to college together, we took an American Sign Language course.  Tobie would practice with us when we did our homework.  My mother is also hard of hearing, so the Sign Language course was supposed to help talk to her, too.  Even though a lot of what my mother learned in her Sign Language class wasn’t retained, it was like we were teaching her some of the signs again.
            Tobie also volunteered a couple times a week at the local Library in the Children’s department.  She always loved being around kids even though she never had any of her own.  Since her death, I’ve began volunteering at the same Library once a week with my brother to continue something in her memory.  She loved working at the library.
            A few months before Tobie passed away, my dad lost his battle with prostate cancer and the Lord called him home.  That’s one of the reasons Tobie ended up coming over so much before she died.  Because most of my brothers and sisters were very close to my dad, and my brother, Ray, and I would visit him several times a week.  My brother, Vern, and sister, Amee, ended up taking care of him a lot in his final months by taking him to several doctor’s appointments, going shopping for him, and making sure he didn’t skip any medications.  They were both at his bedside when he drew his last breath along with my nephew, Aaron, who was visiting his dad.
            Tobie got sick with what she thought was the flu, but she wasn’t getting any better.  She had her housekeeper make an unscheduled visit on one of her regular days off to take her to a doctor’s appointment.  Her housekeeper came over, and had a hard time getting my neighbor to open the door to let her in.  Tobie had been sleeping on the couch, and the door was locked.  My neighbor seemed confused, and delirious for five minutes.  Finally, the housekeeper got her to unlock the door and she called 9-1-1.  The housekeeper found out later the doctor’s appointment was actually set for the following week.
            The first night Tobie was in the hospital, she went into cardiac arrest and had a stroke that she never recovered from.  My mom and I visited her in the ICU, my brother and I got her apartment key to take care of her cats while she was in the hospital, and found her uncle’s phone number in her address book and called him to let him know what happened.  He lives in Colorado, and couldn’t make it to Oregon right away.  A few days after Tobie was admitted to the hospital, her uncle gave permission over the phone to “pull the plug.”  She died ten minutes later.
            One week before all this happened; I made Tobie promise to come over for a movie night the following week thinking she would get better.  A week after she died, I believe I got the visit I was promised.  I was sleeping in my bed the following Friday night, and I shot up out of bed when I heard the word “Twin” in her voice.  Then I heard giggling after I said “Twin” back.  I had been praying for a sign from God that Tobie was okay.  I knew when she was alive she attended church regularly, and believed in God.  However, she was never really sure if she was ever baptized, and that’s what had me worried the most.  The thought of never seeing her in the sweet by and by.  Ever since that night, I’ve been comforted knowing I’ll see her again someday, and she’s happy where she’s at because she’s reunited with her mother and Heavenly Father.

Soul Sisters[1]

I’m glad I had met
My soul sister, Annette,
Before we both were gone.
She was a great shoulder to lean on
After my dad died
Because she experienced something similar
When her mother died,
And she cried,
But got a new “family”
With me
In it, and a support system
She couldn’t beat.

Have you ever been so close
To someone that they become
A brother or sister
Even though you’re not related by blood?

I told her often she was my sister
From another mother,
And I don’t know what I would’ve done
Without her kindness and smiling face
To brighten up the place.

[1] Copyright June 2011 by Amanda Waley.  The poem is taken from pg. 87 of Second Thoughts: A Collection of Poetry by Amanda Waley.  Published by Lulu Press.

I also have a second story to submit to "Chicken Soup for the Soul" typed up, but I still need to add more to it. It's still a work in progress, but I don't have to submit that story until December 31st.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Chicken Soup for the Soul" Submission Guidelines

I remember submitting a similar blog post on this subject, but I noticed some of the guidelines for submission have changed.  Instead of the 500 to 1,000 word submissions, it's now 1,200 words unless otherwise noted.  I'm just glad I double checked  the guidelines before I started writing my story.  Another change I noticed was the price they offer for submissions that are chosen to go into the books.  The price went from $100 to $200 in addition to the ten copies previously specified.  I've submitted three stories this year already, and all the books are due out in October.  So if my stories were chosen for all three submissions, that's $600 in my pocket.  The first book being released October 4th.  That would be an awesome birthday present!  Here's the guidelines if anyone else feels courageous enough to submit one of their own works:

Recipe for A Winning Chicken Soup for the Soul Story
A Chicken Soup for the Soul story is an inspirational, true story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It is a story that opens the heart and rekindles the spirit. It is a simple, inter-denominational, living art piece that touches the soul of the readers and helps them discover basic principles they can use in their own lives. They are personal and often filled with emotion and drama. They are filled with vivid images created by using the five senses. In some stories, the readers feel that they are actually in the scene with the people.
Chicken Soup for the Soul stories are written in the first person and have a beginning, middle and an ending that often closes with a punch, creating emotion rather than simply talking about it. Chicken Soup for the Soul stories have heart, but also something extra…an element that makes us all feel more hopeful, more connected, more thankful, more passionate and better about life in general. A story that causes tears, laughter, goosebumps or any combination of these. A good story covers the range of human emotions.
The most powerful stories are about people extending themselves, or performing an act of love, service or courage for another person.

Guidelines for a Chicken Soup for the Soul Story
1. Tell an exciting, sad or funny story about something that has happened to you or someone you know. Make sure that you introduce the character(s). Please know that your story should be written in the first person.
2. Tell your story in a way that will make the reader cry, laugh or get goose bumps (the good kind!) Don’t leave anything out — how did you feel?
3. The story should start with action; it should include a problem, issue or situation. It should include dialogue and the character should express their feelings though the conflict or situation. It should end in a result, such as a lesson learned, a positive change or pay-off.
4. Above all, let it come from your HEART! Your story is important!

What a Chicken Soup for the Soul story IS NOT:
1. A sermon, an essay or eulogy.
2. An "as told to" story written in the third person.
3. A term paper, thesis, letter or journal entry.
4. About politics or controversial issues.
5. A biography or testimonial.

Story Specifications
1. We are no longer able to accept or consider any submissions sent by fax or postal mail. Please know that the only way to submit your stories or poems to us is via our website: If you have any problems when trying to submit, please contact our webmaster
2. Stories and poems must be non-fiction and should be no longer than 1,200 words.
3. No anonymous, author unknown or "as told to" submissions, please.
4. We prefer that you submit your stories only once, but if you believe your story fits in more than one book topic, please indicate which other topics you have submitted it for in the Comments line on the submission form. Submitting the SAME story more than once to the SAME topic causes delays, so please resist the urge to submit your story multiple times to the same topic.
5. Be sure to keep a copy of the stories and/or poems that you submit to us. Please do not contact us and ask us to send you a copy of anything you have previously submitted. We are unable to do that.
6. Please submit only stories or poems that have not been previously published. The only exception to this is if your work has only been published in a small local publication with limited circulation.  
If the story or poem you wrote is published by us, you will be paid $200 upon publication of the book plus you will receive ten free copies of the book your story or poem appears in.
When you submit your story to us through our website, you will receive an immediate response that we have received it. It is the next screen that comes up after you hit the submit button and not a separate e-mail message from us. The message says, "Thank you! Your information has been received." This is the confirmation that your story has been delivered and accepted into our submission process. It is the only acknowledgment you will receive from us. If you receive an error message when trying to submit, please contact our webmaster for assistance. If you do not have Internet access at home, you can always visit a local library.
It can take up to three or four years for Chicken Soup for the Soul books to develop. Please be patient, as this is an important, yet time-consuming process. If your story is chosen for a future edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul or any other projects, you will be notified and your permission to print it will be requested. Please know that we never publish anything without written permission from the author.
Feel free to submit more than one story or poem to us to consider.
Please do not send us any book manuscripts, unless through a literary agent, as these will be automatically discarded.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Possible Writing Topics

I've been churning the gears all month since I checked the Chicken Soup for the Soul website for upcoming book titles to submit stories for.  This is the next one with a deadline:

Messages from Heaven 
When our loved ones leave this world, our connection with them does not end. Death takes away their physical presence, but not their spirit, and we often sense them after they have gone. Sometimes we see or hear from them after they've passed, giving us signs and messages from beyond. We want to hear from you if you have experienced the other side or received a sign or signal from a loved one who has passed. The deadline date for story and poem submissions is October 3, 2011

I've been thinking about a story to submit for it, and I have a pretty good idea what I want it to be about.  My life's been a little hectic this month with other things on my plate, but I want to spend time tomorrow writing my story.  It wouldn't take me long to write because normally the submissions are supposed to be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 words.  I can accomplish that within an hour or two.  I'm contemplating whether I want to write a poem as well, or just have the story.

There's also a couple other topics I was thinking about contributing to at a later date.  They are:

Breast Cancer Stories of Support 
We encourage women and men with breast cancer and their family members and friends to submit stories to this important book title. From the fear at the initial diagnosis to the hopefully, positive "cancer free" diagnosis at the end of treatment, the stories in this book will serve as a support group for patients and their loved ones. The deadline date for story and poem submissions is March 31, 2012.

Finding My Faith 
Whether we consider ourselves to be Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or any other religion, our belief in a higher power directs our lives and our thoughts. Everyone's "faith story" is different. Some of us find faith late in life. Others lose their faith after a tragic event or spiritual dry spell, only to rediscover it through a divine nudge. Faith can appear quickly or build up over time. It can hit us like a sledgehammer or whisper in our ear. It can show up in a miracle or in an ordinary event. However faith arrives, it is life-changing and powerful. If you have an inspirational personal story of finding your faith, we want to hear from you! The deadline date for story and poem submissions is December 31, 2011.

I'm not sure yet what I'm going to write for them yet, but I have quite some time to think about it.  In the meantime, I'm still writing in "The Shepherdess Princess" as well.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Goodreads Author Program

Goodreads is a website I joined in June to share what books I'm currently reading, and it also lets you list books you've already read or want to read later using a virtual bookshelf.  According to the Goodreads link I shared on my Facebook page: "See what your friends are reading. Keep track of what you've read and organize your books into virtual bookshelves. Join a book club to discuss your favorite books. A better way to find good books to read!"  With some of the books I was looking up, I noticed next to the authors name was added Goodreads Author in parenthesis.  That eventually led me back to the homepage where I found a link that told about the program with instructions to encourage any authors on the site: "The Goodreads Author Program is a completely free feature designed to help authors reach their target audience — passionate readers. This is the perfect place for new and established authors to promote their books."

So anyway, that's what I've been busy doing over the past few days.  I like that Goodreads has a place on my author's page to add any upcoming events, and let my loyal readers know when a book is coming out, or when I'm going to be doing a signing.  Follow me there, and keep up to date.  My author's page also has links to all my books Facebook pages.  I'll be working on adding links to my bookstore there, too, so people can order the book if they want to have their own copy to read.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Writing again...

I'm glad I've finally blasted through my writer's block, and am making progress once again.  Over the past few days, I've been writing non-stop in one of my notebooks.  It's the notebook I've dedicated to my fairy tale-like story because it has a picture of Tinkerbell on the cover.  I started out writing in it any ideas for upcoming scenes in the book to actually writing some whole chapters in it to be added later to the manuscript on my computer.

I started this latest writing bout wanting to start my book from scratch, taking the time to re-write the whole thing entirely to make it flow the way I want it to.  Then, as I began writing more and more onto the notebook page, I realized what I was writing could be fit into the existing story line, and still work.

Now, though, I feel like I'm going off on tangent with the newest couple paragraphs because it's pertaining to how the shepherdess's parents met and I feel it's starting to take away from the rest of the story.  I want to work the parents story into the book somehow because I had this idea of making the shepherdess come from nobility, and that way she can marry the Prince in the end without being just a regular commoner.

One of the twist's is she won't know the truth about the nobility until the end if I have my way.  The back story: Her titled grandparents fled England for Scotland to escape having to fight a battle they were against in the first place.  A battle the grandfather thought could be avoided, but was wanted by all the other noblemen.  He sells his property, and moves his wife and child to Scotland.  When the older generation dies, the title gets passed down to their son (the Shepherdess's father) who ends up living pretty meagerly by choice.

They have no servants, own the land they live on, want for nothing, and work the farm they live on themselves.  The family's titles only show up on official paperwork, and business documents.  Some of the townspeople know of the family's nobility, but don't bring it up out of respect for the shepherdess's father who wants to tell his daughter when he's ready about her privileged heritage.

I know I'll figure things out eventually, and will be able to write the story the way I want it to be written.  It'll just take time, and me putting more thought into how I want to proceed from where I'm at now.

Friday, September 2, 2011



Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

I have no idea why, but I woke up from a nap this evening with this poem stuck in my head.  Specifically the last two lines: "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."

It's been a while since I watched the movie "Invictus" with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon about "Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup." as stated on IMDB.

Those last two lines made me think of the book I'm working on titled "The Shepherdess Princess."  I ended up asking myself what if the main character doesn't know he's a prince until near the end?  What if the prince was raised by some kidnappers, and ends up getting a job later as a sea captain?  I have no idea if the story will progress this way, but it would mean totally wiping out everything and starting from scratch.  I don't know for sure if I want to do that, but that's where it might lead.