One-Room Country Schools

Recently I wrote a short “memory” piece about my one-room country school at Sand Springs, MT, for an author friend who is putting together a book on the subject. It was a fun trip down memory lane.

Heidi 2nd grade

When I was almost six years old, there were no kids of school age in the area and no school closer than twenty or thirty miles away. I was so eager to learn to read and write that my parents consulted the county superintendent of schools who recommended teaching me to read from the “Mac and Muff” pre-primer series. I was in seventh heaven! Now I could read and write my own books!

 

By that next summer of 1956 the Joe Dutton family moved to Sand Springs and bought the general store. They had four children, three of school age, so the neighbors got together, formed a school board, and hired a teacher, Susie Huston from the Brusett, MT area. There had been a school at Sand Springs in the past, and the parents pitched in to clean and fix up the schoolhouse, which was in the middle of a field about a quarter mile from the store. A coatroom was converted into a “teacherage”—living quarters for the teacher with a bed, dresser, and a stove. Later the schoolhouse was moved across the highway when a new store building was built, and a small two-room building was constructed next to the school for the teacher to live in.

I started school with one boy with me in the first grade, one in the third, and a girl in the fourth. For several years, we four were the only students. The largest school population was during my brother’s time in the early ‘60s, with twelve students.

I have fond memories of “Huston,” as she preferred to be called, teaching us in innovative ways—board games for math, “Go-Fish” type card games for vocabulary words, and pictures she cut out from magazines as writing prompts. Listening to the upper grade students also piqued my interest and spurred my quest for learning. When I reached upper grades, I helped the younger kids with their studies. Huston taught there for three years.

Sand Springs School 1

Photo courtesy The Missoulian

Apparently the school population has come full circle, according to Sandy Gibson, Postmistress and owner of the Sand Springs Store, once again with four students, who have a male teacher and attend four days a week. Innovation teaching is still the “norm” with “lots of hands-on” projects, such as planting and caring for trees and a bow-and-arrow class.

North-Central Arizona, where I live now, also has a still-operating one-room school at Crown King—celebrating 100 years of teaching K-8 this year. Only one other such school in Arizona is located at Apache near Douglas. Crown King has 11 students, with one teacher, and was featured in the August/September issue of Prescott Woman Magazine. http://prescottwomanmagazine.com/aug-sept2017/

 

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Published in: on September 30, 2017 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Round Robin: Jo March, A Most Memorable Character

Welcome to this Round Robin blog hop. Our topic this month is a character that wouldn’t leave our minds long after we’ve read a book.

Little WomenJo March from Little Women is a memorable character for me. I loved the book and all the characters. Each was an example of strength and resilience in the face of hardship and adversity.

But Jo stands out to me, first of course because she was a writer. Despite disapproval of her chosen avocation, she perseveres, and eventually writes and publishes a book about her family.

I identify with her also because she was quite independent—nobody tells her what she “must” do, and because she wasLIttle Men a “tomboy.” I was raised on a ranch and followed my dad around, helped him ride and do various ranch and farm chores. In our isolated community I didn’t have other girls my age to pal around with and I was six years older than my brother. So I made up my own stories, imaginary playmates, and fun.

It’s been many years since I’ve read Little Women, Little men and Jo’s Boys, but maybe it’s time to go back an revisit my memorable character!

Please hop over to these blogs for other memorable characters:

Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

Published in: on September 23, 2017 at 2:00 pm  Comments (7)  
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Harpies & Gray Birds of Loneliness

angel & devilDo you feel like you have that devil on your shoulder when you write?—the one who says, “This is crap, utter nonsense, never should be published.”

You are not alone. Back in the years when I was writing freelance magazine articles, I heard that negative voice every time I had an article published. “Oh, that was just a fluke. You’ll never write another one worthy of publishing.”

And now, even though I’ve had five books published, I get bogged down in the rewrite of my sixth one, and continually hear the voice say, “You probably shouldn’t publish this one. Just give up on it. Nobody likes your character, she’s self-centered and whiny. You can’t fix it. Forget about it.”

Some days I listen to the negative voice and say, “OK. I’m just going to chuck this book.” But other days I think, No, you’ve done this before. You know what to do. Keep on plugging away. You’ll get there!

While it’s not comfortable, it’s good to know others struggle with the same negativity. My author friend and multi-published author, Jane Kirkpatrick, calls the voices her “harpies.”

grey birdJane Friedman recently wrote a blog titled “Creation and Doubt are Enjoined Twins.” She also references an article by Devin Murphy in Glimmer Train, “The Gray Birds of Loneliness,” where he talks about John Steinbeck’s negative, critical voices. This is from widely acclaimed authors.

No, we are not alone!

I hope we all can recognize this element of our writing personalities and balance it out with the positive voice of the angel on the other shoulder, telling us, “You can do it. You have the talent, the skill, and the perseverance. Don’t give up!”

Published in: on September 4, 2017 at 8:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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You Might be a Redneck If…

You live in Chino Valley, Arizona!

Beautiful clouds

Recently Chino Valley, where I now live, was named “#1 Redneck City in Arizona.” I have to laugh. First of all, by population it’s a town (about 11,000), not a city. One of the criteria for ranking is number of high school graduates, which they said was the least in the state.

A story in the Courier Times newspaper debunked that statistic, quoting Assistant Superintendent Cindy Daniels, Chino Valley Unified School District, “We actually have one of the highest graduation rates in the state, 92 percent (Class of 2016), and have been recognized at both the state and national levels for this accomplishment.”

Another criterion was number of bars (ranked high). However, when my husband and I moved here almost five years ago, we remarked that it was a good sign there seemed to be more churches than bars in town.

It’s funny, how the perception of a rural community can be so skewed. I’d just been talking to a new neighbor who said her son (from Prescott) told her not to even look for property in Chino Valley, because first he’d have to knock two of her front teeth out and buy her a trailer. (We live in an extremely nice subdivision with beautiful homes and well-kept acreages.)

100_0182When we lived in Mount Vernon, Washington, the small town of Sedro-Woolley was about the same distance as Chino is from Prescott, and that was its reputation as well. Birthed from the lumber industry in the 1800s, it still sits in the middle of farming country. Even “worse” was anything “upriver” from there, as if it were the backwoods of Appalachia.

I’ve always been the “hick from the sticks.” I grew up on a ranch in isolated, rural eastern Montana, 35 miles from the nearest town (and only one in the county) which had a population of about 300. The nearest “city” was at least 100 miles away. I attended a one-room country school which boasted four students when I started first grade, and I didn’t have any girls my own age around until I went to high school (where I lived in a dorm during the week). So, I was a bit socially backward for part of my life.

SeekingAmericanDream_1.5x2When my mother emigrated from Germany after WWII, she was considered “different” and therefore “suspect.” Fitting in, for her, was difficult and she fought that prejudice all her life.

My newest novel, Seeking the American Dream, is based on my mother’s life and the kind of life I had as a “redneck.”

I guess you never quite escape your roots!

Published in: on August 11, 2017 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Prairie Fire!

by Heidi M. Thomas

Prairie firePhoto courtesy http://askabiologist.asu.edu

Lightning strikes, a glow forms on the horizon, the smell of smoke wafts on the wind. Prairie Fire!

This scenario strikes fear in the hearts of ranchers everywhere, and this fear was realized recently in eastern Montana near where I grew up. The Lodgepole Complex Fire near Sand Springs eventually encompassed 270,000 acres, burned miles of grazing land, haystacks, outbuildings, and killed some livestock.

Here in north-central Arizona, where I now live, the Goodwin Fire in June also devastated 28,000 acres, closed a main highway, and evacuated residents for several days.

In my new novel, Seeking the American Dream, I have a fictionalized composite scene of this feared wrath of Mother Nature, when Neil and the neighbors battle a prairie fire on their ranch and Anna fears they will lose their home.

praire fireline

Photo courtesy weebly.com

Excerpt From: Seeking the American Dream

As they approached within ten miles of the ranch, yet another huge bolt of lightning crashed into the earth along the horizon. Anna thought she saw flames flicker in the distance.

“Prairie fire.” Neil punched the accelerator to the floor. Then, nothing, just the blackness of the night sky.

Anna breathed a small sigh of relief. Maybe it had been a reflection of the lightning strike against the clouds.

A sudden gust of wind stirred the stillness in the air, and dust swirled in the headlights. Then flames leaped again from the same spot. Anna gasped. In minutes the hillside glowed and smoke rose as the dried grass caught and the fire spread.

“Is it…it isn’t our place, is it?” Anna couldn’t breathe with the fear that gripped her.

“It won’t come our way.” Neil’s voice was firm with conviction, but his knuckles turned white around the wheel…

***

It was only a half-mile from their house. Anna heard the flames crackle. Her nose closed and her eyes watered from the astringent smoke.

“I’m going to get the tractor and plow a firebreak.” Neil jumped out of the car. “You’ll have to carry buckets of water and wet down the roof, in case it heads this way.”

Anna ran to the house, carrying Monica who now screamed in fright. “Honey, it’s okay.” Anna tried to control her quavering voice. “Here, you can lie down in Mama’s bed and look at these books. I have to go to the well and get some water. You stay right here.”

“No, Mommy. You stay.” Monica sobbed and clutched at Anna’s neck.

“Honey, you’re all right. Mommy will be right back. Look at the book. It’s your favorite, see? Three Little Pigs.” She tucked the blanket around her daughter’s shoulders. Oh, please stay put. Dear Lord, watch over her.

SeekingAmericanDream_1.5x2Anna grabbed the drinking bucket from the kitchen cupboard and ran out into the wind. Her skirts whipped around her legs and her hair lashed her face. She pumped a bucketful of water. Now, where was the ladder? She scuttled toward the house, crablike, grasping the heavy bucket in both hands, water sloshing down her dress. It would take forever to wet down the roof. She had to find a faster way. What do I do? Anna looked wildly around and focused on the galvanized bathtub. She pulled it around the side of the house and ran to the granary, where she found the ladder and an armload of gunnysacks. She dragged the ladder to the house, then went back for the sacks. Throwing them into the tub, she dumped the bucket of water on top and ran for another.

The fire thrust intense orange, hungry fingers high against the inky sky and rode the crest of the hill on the other side of the county road. Anna’s eyes stung from the smoke haze. Her throat ached. Vehicles with their tanks of water in the back sprayed the flames. Someone had joined Neil with another tractor, plowing a firebreak. The men looked like black stick figures silhouetted in the wavering glow that lit the sky like a sunrise. The heat flushed Anna’s face.

She grasped several soaked gunnysacks, climbed the ladder, and spread them over the roof. Between trips, she ran into the house to make sure Monica stayed put, terrified she would wander outside to find her mommy. The little girl whimpered, but lay in the big bed, wide-eyed, holding a book to her chest. It was as if she sensed the danger and knew this was a safe place.

“Good girl. Just stay there, Mama is right outside.”

One eye on the fire, Anna climbed up and down the ladder, her pink dancing dress now stained and wet. Then she felt the wind on her face and watched in horror as it switched direction. As if sprouting glowing wings, the fire jumped the road. Now it was headed their way.

She watched the men struggle to turn the fire. Just as they started another fire line, the wind gave a violent push and the fire jumped over. Men beat at the burning brush and grass with wet gunnysacks, trying to contain the spread. The wildfire twisted and turned, a living entity, consuming the dry prairie grasses.

Anna twisted her ruined skirt in one fist. This couldn’t be happening. Would they lose their pastureland and their house, too?

Seeking the American Dream is the first in the “American Dream” series, the next generation of the Moser family we met in the “Cowgirl Dreams” series. This book is based on my mother who emigrated from Germany after WWII. The book is available autographed from my website or through Amazon.

 

My Mother Seeks the American Dream

When my husband and I moved from Missoula, Montana to western Washington in 1996, I thought it would be an easy transition. We were both ready for a change, a great job became available for him, and I was a freelance writer. I could do that from anywhere.

But I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to adjust, become acclimated, and feel at home there. Everything I’d known changed—new grocery stores, new doctors, and new friends. I kept thinking, what must it have been like for my mom, who emigrated from Germany in 1948 after WWII?

I moved only a few hundred miles, the language and culture was the same, and we did actually have some acquaintances there before the move.

Mom photo hi resMy mother came from an urban setting, where—at least before the war—they enjoyed electricity and indoor plumbing, and cultural experiences such as concerts and plays. She moved to extremely rural eastern Montana with no running water and an outdoor privy—the “middle of nowhere” where the nearest town was close to a hundred miles away—to live with the in-laws for nearly three years. She knew very little English, the culture was different, and people still considered Germans “the enemy.” Plus, she knew no one, except her fiancé, a man she hadn’t seen for two years!

A move like hers took a great deal of courage. I remember my nervousness when I went from my ranch home to college in the “big city” of Missoula, Montana. And I got to go home for quarter breaks and holidays. It was ten years before Mom was able to go back to Germany to visit her family.

All of these thoughts and questions ran through my mind until I was compelled to sit at my computer and write her story. I fictionalized it, so I could “fill in the blanks,” and with fiction, the author can create an ending that is the way it should have beenSeekingAmericanDream_1.5x2.

It has been twenty years since I started writing my mother’s story, and Seeking the American Dream is finally published! It was not the right timing until now. I needed to study and learn my craft, to continue to make it better, and chronologically, it follows the “Cowgirl Dreams” series I wrote, based on my rodeo cowgirl grandmother.

Mom died thirty years ago, but I hope she would be proud of the results. You were a strong, brave woman, and I’ve always admired you.

Seeking the American Dream is available as an e-book and in print from Amazon and autographed copies through my website.

Advance Reviews:

“With beautifully researched detail, haunting descriptions, and the authentic language of the heart, Heidi Thomas’s Seeking the American Dream is a classic immigrant’s tale, a domestic drama that shows the rebuilding of the world as planned at the kitchen table, enacted in the fields, and put into action in the financial, emotional, and psychological details of daily life. A story of longing—and finally of belonging—we see one woman’s dream become the fulfillment of the American dream one step at a time.”

– Mara Purl, best-selling author of the Milford-Haven Novels

“Seeking the American Dream is such a beautiful, heartwarming book! It was a pleasure to read about Anna’s quest for her dream. I didn’t just enjoy it, I loved it! Heidi Thomas has a way of building suspense that just kills me. Readers will love it as much as I do.” –Carol Buchanan, award-winning author of “The Vigilante Quartet” series

“Once again, I open the pages of a Heidi Thomas novel and I’m transported to another time and place. From post WWII Germany to the sometimes-brutal Montana ranch life, Seeking the American Dream explores one woman’s journey as she faces impossible odds to live her dream. Ms. Thomas is excellent at period literature. You won’t be disappointed.”—Brenda Whiteside, Author of The Love and Murder Series
Synopsis: As a nurse, Anna Schmidt deals with the aftermath of a war-torn Germany on a daily basis. The destruction and suffering of WWII frame her existence until she meets American GI, Neil Moser. His stories of ranch life in Montana, his quiet kindness and compassion, and the attraction that blossoms give her hope for a different life. Before their relationship develops, Neil is suddenly shipped out of Germany, and Anna is left with nothing but a yearning for what might have been.

Anna’s dreams are renewed when Neil writes to declare his love and propose that she join him in America as his wife. After two years of endless paperwork, she is finally on American soil. But will Anna be able to overcome the language barrier and harsh Montana ranch life, to gain acceptance from his parents, and form a family in a country that still considers a German the enemy?

Book 1 in the American Dream series and the next generation of the Moser family.

Meet Linda Weaver Clarke, Author of the ‘Rebel’ Series

Linda Weaver Clarke is the author of 22 books: historical romances, period romances, a Lindawebromantic cozy mystery series, a mystery suspense series, a children’s book, and non-fiction. She has also traveled throughout the United States giving lectures on writing techniques. All her books are family friendly. She lives in Color Country, which is located in southern Utah among all the red mountains.

Linda  is having a Book Giveaway, which will last until Aug 21st: Every visitor will receive 7 EBOOKS FREE if they preorder the Historical Romance: The Fox of Cordovia. For these promotional giveaways, go to https://lindaweaverclarke.wordpress.com.

Welcome, Linda, and congratulations on your latest historical romance, The Fox of Cordovia. Tell us a little about this story.

In this swashbuckling romance, a sinister plot has just been uncovered and its up to a former patriot and a young nurse to discover who is behind it. Caroline is engaged to the future mayor of Laketown, a man of influence and greatly respected. But all that changes when she overhears a conspiracy behind closed doors. After being discovered, she runs for her life. Caroline needs to report her findings, but whom can she trust? When she asks Jesse Conover for help, the adventure begins.

This is part of “The Rebel” series. Did you start out with multiple books in mind or did additional books follow the first?

I started out with The Rebels of Cordovia, but then received comments from readers how much they enjoyed this story and asked if I was going to have a sequel. At the time, I was busy with another series. When that series was completed, I began thinking about those requests and decided to write two more books and make it into a trilogy. I was surprised to see how quickly readers learned to love this series.

FoxwebWhat is the theme of the series?

Freedom! Liberty! It’s also a tender love story. Romance with adventure is my favorite genre.

What inspired you to write these books? You said you had a lot of fun writing them. Why is that?

The Rebel Series was inspired by the stories of the American patriots who fought to be free from the dictatorship and tyranny of a king. It’s a theme that is dear to me. Liberty is something that I cherish. It’s a precious gift given to us by those who fought so valiantly. When I read the stories of the American Revolution, my heart swells with gratitude for those loyal patriots. When I look at our flag and pledge allegiance to it, tears well up in my eyes. When I listen to The Star Spangled Banner or God Bless the U.S.A., I get choked up. Especially when it’s sung by a choir. Why did I have fun writing these stories? Because I love romance and adventure and mystery.

Is there one main character throughout or characters that spin off from earlier books?

There are characters from book one that appear in book two. Likewise with book three.

Should a beginning writer set out to write a series or not?

If readers love a certain book and rave over it, then I would suggest writing a sequel. When I really love a story, I always wish that the author would continue with another book.

Your website/blog/link to buy books, etc.

To read a sample chapter from each of my books in The Rebel Series, go to http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com/historicalromance.html and click on the title of the book that you want to read.

Here are two book trailers to see what these books are about.

The Rebels of Cordovia

 

The Highwayman of Cordovia

 

To purchase a book, visit http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com/purchasebook.html and choose which ones you wish to buy.

 

How to Tighten Your Manuscript

writingI learned a new term recently: “Pleonasms.”

A pleonasm is a word or phrase which can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, “John walked to the chair and sat down.” Down is a pleonasm and can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Although I was not familiar with the term, I did know them when I saw them. In fact, part of my editing advice revolves around deleting extraneous words. Words such as “that,” “very,” “both,” “just,” and “there was.” Others might include “began,” “started,” or “continued.”

I also caution to watch use of “ly” words. These words are often used to prop up weak verbs. For example: “She walked quickly” can be stronger if written “She strode” (or bounded or rushed). Likewise with the “to be” verbs (was, were, had been, etc.) especially when used with an “ing” verb. “She was walking” is better as “She walked.”

Some authors like to use taglines (he said, she said) plus an action: …she said, taking a sip of coffee. The simple action is sufficient: She took a sip of coffee.

You also don’t need to describe two actions at once: She nodded and smiled. Or: He puffed himself up and took a swig...

NO symbolA writer friend of mine is looking at every sentence in her manuscript and challenging herself to remove at least one word from each. She cut 14,000 words from a 400-page manuscript.

I challenge you to go one step farther, see if you can delete an entire phrase from a sentence, an entire sentence from a paragraph, a paragraph from a scene. Exterminate those “Pesky Pleonasms.”

Sneaky Snuck

How did the word “snuck” sneak into the dictionary and into our “approved” form of language?

This word is one of my pet peeves, and if you are an editing client of mine, I will strongly suggest that you use the “proper” form “sneaked” unless it’s in dialogue.

I think my reaction stems from growing up in an isolated rural area where most people were not highly educated (no denigration intended—they were wonderful friends and neighbors and would do anything to help each other in times of need. But a word like “snuck” that was used as slang by people who also said, “The kids had their pitcher took at school today,” is an indication of that same lack of education or care about proper English.

It’s like “ain’t.” That’s in the dictionary too, but it’s still not “proper” to use, except in slang dialogue.detective

According to wiktionary.org, “snuck” is an irregular verb form that originated in the late 19th century dialect, but is now listed as the “simple past tense and past participle of sneak.” It’s considered the nonstandard past tense—basically meaning that “sneaked” is the preferred word-choice, but “snuck” is also acceptable.

Merriam-Webster’s Etymology: akin to Old English snIcan to sneak along, Old Norse snIkja.

Here’s a link to an interesting article on “Sentence First: An Irishman’s Blog About the English Language http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/snuck-sneaked-in/

And this is a snippet from The Word Detective’s Q&A, who seems to agree with me:

“Yes, ‘snuck’ is a real word, although it has always been classified as ‘substandard English.’ ‘Snuck’ first appeared in the 19th century as a regional variant of ‘sneaked,’ and is still considered colloquial English, but is apparently gaining in respectability among literate folk. Still, ‘snuck’ is not the sort of word to use on your resume, although ‘sneaked’ is usually not a big hit on resumes either, come to think of it. In general, however, my advice is to stick with ‘sneaked.’ Unless you’re talking to Elvis, of course. I happen to know he says ‘snuck’.” http://www.word-detective.com/back-c.html

What are some of your “pet peeve” words that have sneaked into the English Language?

Published in: on June 9, 2017 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sink, Sank, Sunk–Which do You Use?

I’ve been noticing more and more use of words like “sunk” as the simple past tense, by authors and even in newspaper writing. For example: I sunk into the easy chair.

Here are some other examples: I’ve heard people say I seen it, when they should say I saw it. Or they will use the past tense instead of the correct past participle: We could have went to the movie.

My editor’s hackles go up!

The simple past tense of “sink” is “sank.” The word “sunk” is used as the past participle (or past perfect) and always requires the “helper” word “has” or “had.”

Sinking shipSink: I sink the ship today.

I sank the ship yesterday.

I have sunk the ship many times.

 

See: I see it today.

I saw it yesterday.

I have seen it many times before.

 

Go: I go to the movie (or I’m going to the movie today).

I went to the movie yesterday.

I have gone to the movies many times.

Studying_4

I remember memorizing many of these verb forms when I was in grade school. Maybe they don’t teach that anymore?

Don’t even get me started on “snuck.” (A blog for another time!)

Published in: on June 2, 2017 at 6:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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