Category Archives: Creativity

Nature Books

Photo Credit: P. Booher

Photo Credit: P. Booher

This post is for the nature lover, as I list different books featuring nature—either ones which help identify flora and fauna, or ones where the author draws from nature to express a deeper truth. Please note: these are all older books, but it may be possible to find them on used book sites.

  1. Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife—An Illustrated Guide to 2,000 Plants and Animals. I have spent time just looking at the beautiful pictures and illustrations in this book, let alone reading the text. The book not only shows what the plants and animals look like, it shows where they are found, and in the case of birds, it shows on maps where they are summer residents, winter residents, or live all year around. While this book is too big to take into the field, in my opinion, it’s wonderful to sit and look through and enjoy all the diversity shown. It’s also an education in environmental awareness, as the first part of the book describes various wildlife communities.
  2. Homeland: A Report from the Country by Hal Borland. I enjoyed reading this book by Mr. Borland, who was a nature columnist for the New York Times. I also have Hal Borland’s Book of Days. I must confess I haven’t read it yet, but believe I will enjoy reading it as much as Homeland. I’ve skimmed through Book of Days enough to know that, like Homeland, Mr. Borland relates nature facts as well as his thoughts about nature. Besides Homeland and Book of Days, he wrote many other books, most about nature in some way.
  3. By the River of No Return, by Don Ian Smith, is his first book about living in the mountain country of Idaho. 
  4. Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails, another book of devotionals by Don Ian Smith, celebrates living in the rugged, beautiful high country of Idaho. As with By the River of No Return, Pastor Smith does a wonderful job of using nature to illustrate eternal truths. His appreciation for the country and the animals in it shines through in this volume and By the River of No Return, and because of that, these books are a joy to read.
  5. Pathways To Understanding—Outdoor Adventures in Meditation by Harold E. Kohn, speaks about nature reflecting the Creator. Pastor Kohn also did the brush and ink drawings which illustrate his writing. 
  6. Country Chronicle by Gladys Taber, is drawn from the author’s life in New England. Gladys Taber’s columns used to appear in Family Circle or Woman’s Day magazines.

©P. Booher

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Character Study in a Movie

Lately I’ve spent some time reading different posts and articles about writing characters—how to write them to make them come alive for readers.

All that reading led me to thinking about one of my favorite movies. It’s a favorite because not only is it a Western, but it also has a subplot with a wonderful character study in it. Rio Bravo, from 1958, stars John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, and Ricky Nelson. The plot revolves around Sheriff Chance (John Wayne) defending his town of Rio Bravo against gunslingers intent on springing one of their number out of jail. Dean Martin and Walter Brennan play his deputies. Ricky Nelson plays a young man itching to prove himself by joining the deputies.

The character study centers on Dean Martin’s deputy, who’s been drinking to excess ever since a break-up with his girl. Known to everyone around as the town drunk, the deputy encounters ridicule everywhere he goes.  As the days go by and tension in the town increases with the impending arrival of the gang of outlaws, the deputy wages his own private battle with alcohol. At first, the alcohol seems to be winning. There is a long scene in which the camera shows the deputy struggling with the “shakes” of withdrawal. Eventually the deputy overcomes his enemy, just in time to lay his life on the line to defend the town.

I’ve watched a lot of movies with a lot of characters in them, but only Rio Bravo sticks out to me as having scenes I could call a “character study”—scenes which focus on one particular character and show the changes the character goes through.

Here’s a question for moviegoers: Any movie stick out to you in that way?

©P. Booher

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God Can Use Anything He Chooses

Years ago I attended a church whose minister didn’t think people should read novels and short stories because they weren’t true. Since I loved reading short stories and novels, I was surprised; I saw nothing wrong with them!

While there are particular genres of novels I’m not interested in reading, I don’t see anything wrong in reading fictional pieces. I believe God can use fiction to reveal truth. For me, it’s often easier to accept a truth when it’s presented in fiction; I discover it for myself. I experienced this afresh not long ago after I finished reading a mystery.

One of the characters in the mystery, a model wanting to get rid of competition, reaped what she sowed. She made lipstick and poisoned a tube, intending it to be used by another model. Instead, in an ironic twist, the makeup artist inadvertently used the poisoned tube on her, and she collapsed and died on the runway.

After I finished the book I realized that particular part of the plot illustrated verses in the Bible which speak of wicked people falling on their swords. “The wicked draw the sword…to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts,…” Psalm 37:14, 15 (NIV) Since the novel was not sold as a Christian novel, I’m guessing (although I have no way of knowing for sure) the author didn’t realize the Biblical lesson underlying it, but it was there.

Yes, the novel was the result of the author’s imagination, and was not true. It didn’t happen in real life. But it did reveal a portion of God’s truth. The people who plot to do harm to others end up paying for it, one way or another.

To me this shows God can use anything He wants to, whether it is “Christian” or not, to broadcast truth He wants people to know. He is not limited by labels.

©P. Booher

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A Victory Over Perfectionism

Since childhood I’ve had a perfectionistic mindset. I regret the day I picked that up. It provokes much needless anxiety.

But one day last summer I came across a technique to use against my enemy. Oddly enough it occurred when arthritis flared up during a humid, rainy spell, and I didn’t feel strong enough to fight against anything, let alone a dug-in mindset. My right hand and left knee complained loudly. A couple other body parts, in sympathy, felt tender/achy too. This, plus other concerns, upped my stress levels.

In search of something to take my mind off my achiness, I fell back on the childhood activity of coloring. The day before I’d bought an 8-pack of jumbo crayons, which are easier to handle when arthritis bothers my fingers. I took the crayons and a coloring book of nature scenes, put a bag of ice on my cranky knee, and settled back on the couch. I prayed to God about my anxiety and started coloring.

I discovered not only was I losing the stress but I was also gaining over perfectionism. In prior times, perfectionism would have demanded I use the “proper” colors, color within the lines, and generally destroyed my peace of mind. What was different that day last summer? I was able to keep my main objective in mind. What was that? To reduce stress and get my mind off my sore knee. As long as I did that, I was happy. I accomplished my objective and perfectionism took a back seat and shut up.

©P. Booher

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List of Writing Resources I’ve Found Helpful

Photo Credit: Kaitlyn-Baker

Here’s a list of writing resources I’ve found helpful, either in matters of craft, the writing life, a look into the viewpoints of editors and agents, or for prompts.

Books:

Build Your Best Writing Life by Kristen Kieffer (among other things, offers help for many common writing obstacles, such as procrastination)

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont

The Forest for the Trees–An Editor’s Advice To Writers by Betsy Lerner

The Soul Tells A Story by Vinita Hampton Wright

Overwhelmed Writer Rescue by Colleen M. Story

Edit Your Novel For Less by Sue A. Fairchild

Blogs:

Well-Storied.com (Kristen Kieffer’s website)

Books and Such Blog

Steve Laube Literary Agency Blog

Writers Write–Write to Communicate

The Christian Freelance Writing Network

Inspire Christian Writers

JPC Allen Writes

Golden May Editing

©P. Booher

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Writing Resource–Review of Edit Your Novel For Less

Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Baker

In Edit Your Novel For Less, editor, writing coach, speaker and writer Sue A. Fairchild gives information and tips on the editing process. She shares basic information, which is fine with me. Right now, I feel better dealing with the basics. I want to know the basics before going on to more advanced matters. 

Sue describes the different types of editing—content (or substantive), line, copy, and proofreading. She tells what each does, and what it doesn’t do. She also tells what to look for in an editor.

She has chapters on spelling, punctuation issues, and the most common errors she’s seen in the manuscripts she edits. Some of the material may seem mundane, but errors are bound to crop up, and the more a writer can catch, the less money the writer pays an editor.

I particularly appreciated her information on P-O-V (Point-Of-View). I’ve read other descriptions of it, but it was still on the murky side. I got a clearer understanding after reading her explanation.

Sue gives information on critique groups, along with suggestions for finding or starting one. She tells what beta readers are and gives suggestions for finding people willing to be beta readers. 

In the chapters about working with an editor, critique groups and beta readers, the author points out these are relationships with people wanting to help you with your book—so handle with respect, and courtesy. 

The author makes a good case for spending some money on having a professional edit your book, if you want your work to reach as many readers as possible.

Sue includes a list of further resources, a beta read/critique sample sheet as well as a critique checklist you can use when critiquing someone’s work.

Although Edit Your Novel For Less is brief (53 pages, including acknowledgements), it is packed with information written in a friendly, easy-to-understand style. I expect it will be on my reference shelf for quite awhile, especially as I want to try my hand at writing fiction.

Edit Your Novel For Less is available on Amazon.

©P. Booher

 

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A Surprising Benefit to My “Favorites” Notebook

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Years ago I bought an 11×8½ spiral notebook with a photograph on the cover of a creek running through woods.  I decided that notebook would be my “Favorites” notebook. On the inside I wrote, “Favorites—things I liked when I saw them”. 

My “Favorites” notebook starts off with the poem “Refuge” by Lew Sarett, and is followed with passages by Faith Baldwin from her book Living by Faith, and Robert Traver from Anatomy of a Fisherman. The notebook includes other poems; bits and pieces which stuck out as I read different books and articles; newspaper clippings about nature, history, movie reviews; song lyrics, and people stories—people following their creative muses, and people acting in commendable ways towards people and animals. 

I have a few scrapbooks, too, but those I meant to keep in order, and that order got lost in the shuffle of the years (and never taking the time to sit down and arrange photos properly). Most of the scrapbook pages are faded, and not appealing to work at. Somehow it’s easier and more pleasing to me to keep my favorites notebook going. Plus spiral notebooks are meant to be written in, so I can add my thoughts to something I read. The scrapbook pages are not good for writing on.

I found a surprising benefit to keeping a favorites notebook: when I’m in a bad mood, my nerves are on edge, or my spirits are low, taking the time to look through or work on the notebook improves my disposition, calms my nerves, and raises my spirits.

©P. Booher

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Challenges to Writing

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For the past five or six years I’ve become aware of the increasing importance writing is having in my life. Writing used to be an activity I did when the yearning was too strong to ignore. Now my writing is demanding an everyday, disciplined approach. Being a person who never followed the same schedule every day (at work and at home), this is a challenge for me–one I’m still working on. I’m confident that problem can be handled with some thought and research, as I read how other writers handle such a problem.

The other challenge is much darker, as it tries to sow seeds of doubt and despair. This slides into my mind in moments when my guard is down, after I watched, heard, or read some negative news item. The challenge is best expressed as, “Why bother to write when the news is so bad? What good will your writing do?”

I used to let such questions keep me from writing. Now, I take my cue from three ideas.

One comes from the example of the Apostle Paul. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote some of the New Testament books of the Bible (Philippians is one that comes to mind) while he was in a Roman dungeon, chained to a guard. He didn’t have the power to change his circumstances, yet he still wrote, convinced of the importance of his message and the necessity of getting it out.

Two is some words given to me several years ago in a prayer meeting. The pastor asked those who had the gift of exhortation to walk among those of us attending, and to speak to whomever needed spoken to. A husband and wife came up to me and said, “The Lord wants us to tell you: “You are too reticent. You have things to say. You need to say them.”

Three is the very fact that there is opposition means that it is important to go on, to not quit, no matter how negative things get.

©P. Booher

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Thankful For–Rejections!

Recently I heard a pastor say the opposite of thankfulness is bitterness. For a writer, rejection can certainly provoke bitterness. It’s natural to want your work to be accepted, the more so for a recovering perfectionist like me. So, how can I say I am thankful for rejections???

I am discovering that rejection of a piece gives me the opportunity to improve my writing. Rejection says, “This (whatever “this” is) needs to be changed before you can succeed!” When the rejection notice doesn’t spell out why the piece was rejected, I can sit down, put on my thinking cap and work to decipher the mystery. I can ask a writer friend for input. It’s valuable to have two sets of eyes and two brains looking at the material.

When a devotional I submitted was rejected, after the sting of disappointment eased, I sat down, read it over, and saw my devotional had issues. It wasn’t nearly as great as I thought it was. One of the Scriptures I chose didn’t go along well with my story; awkward phrasing popped out, and nonessential words bobbed to the surface.

I sent the devotional plus my critique to a writer friend and asked if she had more suggestions. She did, and I incorporated a couple of her ideas and added more of my own into the revised version. Last week I resubmitted the devotional to the magazine. I know the piece is better now for having been rejected. It’s tighter, clearer, easier to read. All that makes it closer to acceptance.

Thankful for rejection? Yes, I can be! It helps me get further along to where I want to be!

©P. Booher

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Moments of Quiet Satisfaction

I took time out one evening to “scratch an itch” and practice drawing. Two or three weeks before I picked a plant, an ordinary “weed”, from the driveway and put it in a vase of water, intending to try my hand at sketching it “soon”. By the time “soon” came, the leaves were slowly turning brown but the largest ones were green and the tiny flowers on top pinkish-purple, so the plant still served nicely as a model. I dug out my sketch pad and after some false starts, managed to make a decent (to me) representation of the plant.

Wanting to practice more, I burrowed around my tote box of art supplies and found the workbook for beginning artists. Using the sketches in the workbook for ideas, I drew some more. I practiced for maybe a half-hour to an hour. When it was time to put away the supplies, I was surprised at the sense of quiet satisfaction I experienced inside. It seemed to blanket my nerves in relaxation.

One Saturday not long after that, my mother and I had what I call a “packing party”. We gathered items we wanted to donate, and then packed them in boxes I’d collected previously. This was a little project we’d talked about doing for awhile, but never got around to it until that Saturday. As I sat there surveying the boxes packed and ready to go, I noticed that quiet sense of satisfaction flooding my soul once again.

I notice these moments came during times of outward focus–periods of creativity and working to benefit others.

In this year of so much upheaval, have you noticed any times of quiet satisfaction–times of relaxation for your nerves–and if so, when did they come?

P. Booher

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