Saturday, January 27, 2007

Believe It

By Keith Fisher

We have great neighbors on our block. Each Christmas we receive wonderful goodies from them and gifts that usually help us remember Jesus and his part in our lives. This past Christmas one of them brought us a sign.

It was made of block letters cut from a piece of pine, sanded and painted. The letters are mounted on a horizontal piece of wood that help them stand vertical. The letters form the word, "Believe".

This word can have many connotations, believe Christ, believe in the Book of Mormon, or believe the sun will come up tomorrow. I want to write about a kind of believing that writers need most. Some feel they have it, others feel it is beyond their grasp and others feel it can only come through osmosis, absorbing it from another. Depending on your prospective, all of these are correct.

Mark Twain, one of my favorite classic writers said, Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

As writers we congregate with those who demonstrate the most support of our efforts. We love to hear how good we are but we tend to doubt the truth of it.

For some, belief is hard. When we put our heart and soul into our work and have it rejected only to see our peers find success, it breaks a heart. The belief is still there, but we dig a hole and bury it deep in the forgotten backyard of our cherished hopes and dreams.

I have noticed that in our Authors Incognito group there are many of them who are truly great. Those who go out of their way to build another, to help another, so that they too can believe. The great ones dig in our yard looking for our cast off hopes and dreams. They work all day and sometimes into the night planting the seeds of belief and then when one seed takes root they care for the seedling until it becomes strong and grows into greatness.

If we are graceful (and wise) we will offer words of encouragement and support for our peers. Thereby working on our quest to become really great.

I once listened to a speaker tell about a bucket of crabs that caught his attention. He watched, as one crab began to climb out of the bucket. It struggled to get the edge and almost freed itself when another crab grabbed onto it and pulled it back down into the bucket. The observer saw this occurrence repeated time and again with different crabs playing the roles. The fisherman need only to leave the bucket alone and his catch would stay in the bucket.

How wonderful it would be (but not for the fisherman) to see a crab get to the edge, turn around and start pulling his fellow crabs out of the bucket and then to see groups of crabs holding onto each other as they all climbed out together. Such is the nature of our writers group.

Thanks to all of my fellow bloggers, and especially those people who leave comments, for helping me believe. I hope I have helped you believe too.

PS If you are one of those writers for whom belief is hard, Please know this, There are millions of people on planet earth. Most of them never have a desire to write. Many cannot understand the need you feel to do so. For whatever reason, God has given you this desire. For some of us it means continual practice to become better, for others it is easier. Please do not offend the giver by shunning the gift.

If you only believe . . .

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tagged, I’m It

By Keith Fisher

I was planning to write something else this week but I got tagged in a game I didn’t know I was playing. Jeff Savage started the game on the Six LDS Writers and a Frog site. Tristi Pinkston continued it on her site and tagged me. So here I am.

OK, as I understand it, I’m supposed to write something about myself and reveal my secrets. The task may be easy because you probably don’t know anything about me. After all I’m not a famous writer like the rest of them. Then again, it may be harder than I thought to dredge up things that may be best left in the past.

1. I once spent the night with a girl who wasn’t my wife . . . it was on a freeway off ramp in Pensacola, Florida. The girl was my cousin. We became separated from our caravan and had to cross the United States by ourselves. She was sixteen and I was seventeen. Luckily, my uncle left his credit card on the dashboard. We used it for gas and didn’t dare eat. You know I still can’t figure out why, but it never occurred to us to just call home. Kids can be so stupid sometimes.

2. My wife was literally a gift from heaven. We were in a high school drama class and her friends pushed her from the stage. She landed in my lap. We dated and were forced to break up. We were reunited after a nine-year separation and we were married Four-months later.

3. I’m a Dutch oven cook.
Okay, I admit it! It looks like a fixation. I own 35-40 Dutch ovens (I don’t know the exact number because I stopped counting 5 years ago). My wife and I have spent many years in competition, teaching, and catering our family and ward events. You might say we have cast iron flowing through our veins.

4. I was arrested once for driving the car in a drive-by shooting . . . and the victim was a police officer . . . okay, actually there weren’t any bullets, and no one was really shot. My friend and I were scheduled to do a skit for drama class in high school. We had to work up a scene showing conflict and a fight. We ended the scene with my pulling a starter’s pistol from my boot and shooting my friend with blanks. On the way to school, another of my friends stuck the gun out the window, pointed it at the campus policeman and fired. The officer who was a city policeman wasn’t amused. If it had happened today instead of 1975, they would’ve locked us up and thrown away the key. We convinced the officer (who luckily was our friend) that we wouldn’t do it again, begged him to let us keep the pistol for our skit and everything worked out great. Oh, and we got an "A".

5. I can’t think of anything else that may be of interest except I still haven’t read Harry Potter and I think Mark Twain was a wise man. He was the original Will Rogers I know he said some things about Mormons but considering where he was born and raised, I’m surprised he turned
out as good as he did.

I’m going to save the rest of my story for when I’m rich and famous and I write my memoirs. If that never happens then I guess my secrets may have to go to the grave. Are there any publishers listening? Do you want to hear more? Just kidding, well maybe . . .

I am honored in the extreme to be tagged to do this challenge. I name one of my fellow bloggers for the next round. So step up Inky, I know you’re itching to give it a shot. Tell us some secrets that will knock our socks off.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Learning Curve

By Keith Fisher

I had to make a change in occupations lately. It wasn’t by choice, I assure you. I was learning to be a typesetter when they canceled our project. Now I've moved to a different position in the company, making less money and I've been banished to the early morning hours of the graveyard shift. It’s quite an adjustment to sleep during the day and adapt your lifestyle to the vampire’s realm.

I wouldn’t want you to think I’m totally inept at adapting or uninformed about the other side of the daily clock. Let me explain.

When I was younger I worked straight graveyard shifts. My wife worked days and we never saw each other except in the golden hours between five and ten each evening. I caught a few hours of sleep here and there and life was good, but I was younger then.

Besides the sleep deprivation, I have been experiencing another awakening. (Get it? No sleep . . . awakening?) Anyway, I’ve been learning yet another computer function and working at becoming proficient in another process that has nothing to do with writing or what I set out to be almost 35 years ago.

In my short fifty years on the planet I have worked at many occupations and learned many professions. I had designs that most of them would become my life’s work, my career, or my magnum opus. Now after all these years I find I am, to coin a cliché, Jack of all trades—master of none.

To make matters worse, I was told by a kid one night that people over thirty can’t understand computers. He was kidding of course but I immediately retorted, "You do realize don’t you, that everyone of those responsible for the internet and the information age, the very inventors of the microcomputer, are all over thirty. Some of them are even over sixty."
His answer was, that was before they were thirty, after thirty they got stupid and stopped keeping up. Okay, I’ll give you a minute to gasp in disbelief. Those of you under thirty can agree with him but try to keep it to yourself.

So here I stand at the crossroads to eternity with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, being forced to learn new things, resisting with every breath and hoping for and receiving divine help. I have launched yet another career and with the help of Geritol and a splash of cold water in my face. I may be able to overcome the opinions of my new peers who have pegged me as a no-nothing, over-the-hill codger with digital knowledge acquired in the dark ages. I’ll get by, and maybe I can share a little wisdom, the kind learned through hard knocks and a loving father in heaven.

Just so you don’t think I have forgotten the subject of our blogck: the magnum opus I spoke of, I decided about 15 or so years ago that my life’s work, the thing that would be the measure of my life would be my children and my writing. The job I go to each night (at ungodly hours) is a job. My career is writing fiction with a little non-fiction thrown in for good measure.

Good luck in overcoming your challenges. Some of you may recognize a quote from Red Green "Remember I’m pulling for you . . . we’re all in this together."

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Mission . . . Very Possible

By Keith Fisher

"Good Morning mister Phelps." What we will attempt today will both delight and astound you. We will enter into the realm of the unimaginable, the unbelievable, we will cross over into the . . . TWILIGHT ZONE.

But before we go where no man has gone before and listen to a story about a man named Jed, we must admit that we love Lucy and that life is a holiday on primrose lane.

Now if you were born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, or lost in space, you must realize that there is danger, Will Robinson. If we climb every mountain we can laugh at the danger with a spoon full of sugar. Don’t worry little buddy you can take great comfort in knowing that father knows best and that Darby O’Gill is holding the king captive in a sack.

So before we say goodnight John Boy, or help Alexis out of the fountain, let us remember that when you wish upon a star, all your days will be happy days. You can take comfort in knowing that there are a million stories in the naked city and suicide is painless but there will be truth or consequences. The price is right and the days of our lives will be free from a visit to the General Hospital.

When Andy whistles or Fonzie says "Ayyy," take comfort in knowing that Hoss and Ben will help Joe and Adam out of the bear trap. None of them will ever get married and break those family ties.

Before you ask, "What you talkin ‘bout, Willis?" Let me explain:

Like many of you, I was raised on media. Most of us can remember plots from Leave It To Beaver, Gilligan’s Island, and Mash, only to name a few. We remember Eddie Haskell’s classic saying: "I tell Lumpy’s mom the same thing but I don’t really mean it Mrs. Cleaver." We ask ourselves, why did the Howell’s bring luggage on a three-hour tour? We cried when Henry Blake was killed. We even felt sorry for Frank when Hot-lips married someone else.

If you are like me you have a hard drive in your head, filled to overflowing with cliches and tunes, metaphors and characters that dictate who you are and why you react the way you do to certain stimuli. When I whistle the tune to the Andy Griffith Show, I bet your mind wanders to a laid back time. A time when walking in bare feet all summer was okay and night games were played with all the neighborhood kids.

Even if you were born in a later decade, you will think of Andy and Floyd sitting on a bench watching people go by and One Bullet Barney, up to his shenanigans.

When I say Shazbot! What do you think of? When I raise my hand high into the air and say, "ew ew" who am I imitating? When I talk about Tom and Huck in the graveyard at midnight, can you tell me why they were there? Why was Romeo standing outside looking up at a window? It’s all in your head and whatever you are is a result of your programming.

As writers we are bound by what we can write. When we use a metaphor we can’t say, Adam was selfish and self-centered like JR Ewing in Dallas. But we know what the character was like. We can’t say the castle looked like Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Our metaphors must be clean with our own language but the reference is in our brain. We remember what JR was like and we know what Hogwarts looked like, so we can describe it.

We live in the 21st century with the hard-drives in our heads full of the metaphors of our youth. A lifetime of seeing things on TV and in movies. Of reading descriptions and listening to stories. We are better off than the great writers of the past. We have all those memories to draw from. Add our own personal experiences to the mix and our understanding of language, and we are invincible. We are writers, hear us roar.