About a DAWG

Hi, my name is Mary Lamphere and I’m a lonely writer. Even after so many, many months of very limited exposure, zero to no socialization, and hardly any work demands, I find myself struggling to finish a manuscript.

I would have thought that with ALL THAT TIME, I could have cranked out a couple of novels, short stories, and, what the heck, a few personal essays, too, just for fun and time-filler–but alas, I did not.

I have been writing for over ten years. I’ve met a few goals, achieved some personal successes, and hope to celebrate more. I have several novels in the works and come up with ideas all the time. Unfortunately, I suffer from many procrastinatory ailments such as laundry, Netflix, and Facebook. I need external deadlines. I need to be held accountable. I need to share work and exchange ideas. I need to learn and experience and expand my writing world. I need people!

I strongly believe that writers need other writers. That’s why I’m rebooting the DeKalb Area Writers Group. DAWGs was my very first collaboration of committed writers. We focused on short stories based on a shared prompt, editing of those stories to a mandated 1,000 word limit, and the reading and critiquing of these monthly flash fiction submissions. We also shared our struggles and successes as authors. DAWGs has continued in various forms since its inception, but, much like me, lost its steam during lockdown. The reception of the news and support of the new group has been wonderful. I feel reinvigorated already!

DAWGs is a dedicated community of authors who have decided to take their passion for writing seriously in pursuit of completion, submission, and/or publication.

All genres, styles, and levels of experience are invited to join. We will meet monthly to work on short stories based on a selected prompt and share literary lessons, successes, concerns, and opportunities.

DAWGs will meet the 3rd Thursday of each month in the Bilder Room at the DeKalb Public Library from 6 to 8 pm.

If you are interested in joining DAWGs, check out the website, DeKalb Area Writers Group or contact Mary at DeKalbAreaWritersGroup@gmail.com

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And that’s all she wrote…

regarding the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge.

As you may recall, or click the link to read anew, I made it through Round One with, The Bully King, incorporating the 3 requirements: Fairy Tale, Bully, and Acceleration. I advanced to Round Two where I submitted a piece called Done Deal, based on: Drama, Trustee, and Touch Screen. What?! Yeah, I found that assignment a bit more difficult to work with.

I did not make the Top 5.
*deep sigh*
I’m not surprised, but still a bit disappointed.
Deep sigh aside, drama is a hard genre for me. And also, I don’t really know what Trustees do. Based on the comments by the judges, they agree. You can read what they had to say here.

Regardless of my loss, and dramatic deficits, I am proud to share my submission with you. Click here to read Done Deal.

So that’s all I’ll write for NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge this year.
It was a great experience. I enjoyed writing the short stories. I enjoyed the challenge. I look forward to participating again.

In the meantime…
I’m seriously considering starting a DeKalb area writers’ group!
Stay tuned.

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I Advanced to the Next Round

in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge!

The first round of submissions were due back in January and results were posted last week. There were over 6000 entries in Round 1! Broken in groups of 25 or so, each group was assigned their own set of story requirements. We had one week to write a short story based on the prompts with a word limit of 2500.

The key ingredients for my group were
genre: Fairy Tale
subject: Acceleration
character: a Bully

I LOVED my requirements.

I wrote a story titled, The Bully King, about a cruel and petty ruler who makes a wish in the hopes of wreaking additional terror but when the wish doesn’t meet his expectations, he makes another with even more challenging results. The word count was under 2500, and I submitted a full day early of deadline.

I placed 3rd in my group. The top five advanced to Round 2.

The 1,090 advancing writers were placed in new groups and challenged to create stories no longer than 2,000 words in just 3 days based on a new genre, subject, and character assignment.

A brand new story in 3 DAYS?!
A brand new story based on these obligations for my group
genre: Drama
subject: a Touchscreen
character: a Trustee
IN THREE DAYS?!

Suffice it to say, I was not nearly as excited about this round’s selections. I believe they were more of a challenge, but I did finish my story under the word count and also with early submission.

(When I get to a certain point, I feel it’s better to be done than risk messing it up and prefer to submit so it’s not hanging over my head anymore!)

I’m confident in my new story whether I advance or not. I enjoyed the challenge of a genre outside my comfort zone. Round 3 begins May 21, so I imagine we will have results for Round 2 by May 19. The next round allows only two days.

I will keep you posted.

This experience has been a lot of fun. It revived my dormant desire to write short stories. I’ve been out of writerly practice and enjoyed rekindling my skills.

If you’d like to read my advance-worthy story, The Bully King, click here.
I hope you enjoy it.

I have also posted the comments from the judges regarding my story here.

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Sometimes it’s the Big Things

You may remember a post I wrote about coffee creamers. It was May of 2020, we were barely into the covid lockdown, but it was already impacting our lives. I blogged about missing the little things like restaurant meet-ups with my writer friends, laughter, hugs, and free coffee refills with a bowl full of creamers on the table.

The next day, I received a box of creamers from Amazon. Given anonymously, the gift was accompanied only by a friendly unsigned note. It was the perfect pick-me-up. A small gesture with deep impact. Delighted, I kind of suspected who the generous donor was–but mostly I liked the idea of thinking it could have been one of many. Because I want to believe that many have such potential.

The giver was my friend, Mike.
When I texted him to ask if he’d sent them, I immediately added, no, don’t tell me.
And he didn’t.
But I knew it was him.

Mike recently died unexpectedly. He went into the hospital three weeks ago. He never came home.

I sent a card a few days before his passing, to his address, not the hospital. Inside I wrote, I’m not sure when you’ll get this, but luckily well-wishes don’t expire. I hope his family opens it and reads it. They could use some well-wishes about now.

I went to high school with Mike. We had a couple of classes together, art mostly. And we shared the same initials, lol. We’d known each other a long time, but it was really only through Facebook that we got to be friends. He lived in Nebraska and owned a flower shop. He was a genuinely nice guy. Smart, funny, helpful, authentic, spiritual. Since his passing, I have discovered just how many people experienced those Mikely traits. The stories we’ve shared through social media in remembrance are touching, humorous, silly, and honest. Heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Mike is not the first friend, family, or loved one I’ve lost during the past many months. Last year, I blogged about the little things I was missing during lockdown. I assume we’ll get most little things back.
Today I write about the big things I miss–this friend and many more, the ones we’ll never get back.

My heart aches for those lost during these isolated times and, until we can hug again, those left to mourn alone.

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A Book Review

I am constantly searching for a good read. For inspiration, instruction, or just to pass the time. I appreciate recommendations in general. But I REALLY love a recommendation that comes with an, “I loved this book and I think you’ll enjoy, it, too. It reminded me of your Kimmie books.” How can I NOT be excited about that kind of referral? Especially when said book is gifted along with the recommendation.

The book is Layla by Colleen Hoover. Hoover, a multi-published New York Times #1 best-selling author, is generally a contemporary romance writer–stop the eyeroll, bite back the groan, keep reading–this title is listed as a ‘psychic thriller’. It’s a new-age kind of ghost story and although the paranormal element is familiar, the way she interprets the ‘ghost’ realm was unique to me.

From the opening line, “I placed two layers of duct tape over Layla’s mouth…” to the author’s note at the end regarding how much fun she had exploring a new genre, I enjoyed this book.

I give props to CoHo, as she is known, for expanding her literary realm. It’s sometimes difficult for successful genre authors to mix it up. The five-star fan club isn’t always accepting of change. She acknowledges that and thanks them for giving it a try.

I really enjoyed Layla, a story about soulmates Layla and Leeds and some terrifying things that happen to them, by them, and by each other for each other at a B&B vacation home. I enjoyed the author’s style of writing. I thought the characters were interesting, different yet relatable, and they lent themselves well to the plotline. I thought the plot was unprecedented and well-developed. There was a time when Hoover might be accused of taking liberties with paranormal genre rules/expectations, but that time was before Twilight and vampires who shimmer in sunlight, and I think those changes are a welcome expansion. This novel contains psychological twists, emotional turns, and a handful of scares. Also, a little romance. Honestly, I don’t want to give anything away, so trust me when I say, if my overview has you intrigued, read the book.

Of course, I have some petty criticism, too, lol. But I would let those be points of discussion after you’ve read Layla and we can thoroughly examine in conversation. Bottom line, I would recommend this book. If you like it, give my Kimmie Jillison series a try. 🙂

And, the best part of having been introduced to this new-to-me author through Layla, is now I’m eager to read Verity, another title by Colleen Hoover, a romantic suspense thriller that the author independently published. (I kinda like that last part.)

I hope you are reading. And reading well.
If you have a minute–or fifteen, I released a long short story called Wyra Goes to Hell.
99 cents on Kindle. Check it out.

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WELCOME TO THE NEW YEAR!

I’m not sure any year has been as anticipated (in my lifetime) as 2021.
Congratulations, we made it.
What that actually means remains to be seen…2020 didn’t get rough until mid-March. Not to be a pessimist, but there’s still time for this “newness” to take a startling, sharp, unprecedentedly cruel and deep dive.

Wow, that went dark fast, lol. Skeptical much?
THANKS 2020.

A new year traditionally means new opportunities. Changes in routine, ideals, etc. We adopt new habits and give up old. I’ve written before in defense of resolutions. After a lengthy 9+ months of up-close and personal uninterrupted self-evaluation, I’d guess we’re all open to improving ourselves. As much as we’re able to do considering our social limitations and restricted resources.

I have said it repeatedly and repeatedly say it–
I HAVE NEVER HAD SO MUCH TIME AND SO LITTLE MOTIVATION.
Lockdown and laziness. *sigh*
My resolution? To change that. Since sheltering in place doesn’t seem to be lifting–and for those of you who may be confused by this term, let me specify that I live in Illinois, enough said. Regardless of assent, I’m at the mercy of the former, so I hope to tackle the latter.

I VOW TO BE MOTIVATED IN 2021!

First up is a reinvigorated dedication to novel completion. Yes, I’ve said that before…but SHAME is so 2020. Let’s practice NOT using it this year, okay?

Second, in support of the first resolution, I will no longer be posting every week. No more Good Monday Morning MaryFranSays Musings.

I know, so disappointing. But, it’s for the best. I mean, YOU will certainly be dedicated to your own improved behaviors and won’t have the time to properly commit to a weekly essay. Also, I will still blog! But I’m hoping to save them for BIG NEWS! Like a new publication announcement. And eventually, reading and speaking engagements in support of said publication.

Over the past eight years, I have posted over 500 three minute reads, averaging about 550 words each. That’s roughly 275k words, a word count equal to three (of my) novels and a couple novellas. It’s time to put my motivation where my novel is.

Fear not, I shall return…the OPTIMISM of a fresh start is strong with me–I’m already fashioning my NEW BOOK RELEASE announcement (in my head).

May this NEW YEAR bring changes for the BEST in your life.
Until we Monday Meet again–

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Gifts and Gratitude

This post is about the “gifts” that stay with you, that leave an abiding and memorable impression. Just the good ones, lol. After the year we’ve had, we could use some positive and lasting inspiration.

Please take the time to read through each personal tale of Gifts and Gratitude. These stories are full of humor and heart.

A REAL GIFT

I am SO glad you decided to do this again! I submitted last year about a note my brother gave me that stopped me from running away and helped put things in a better perspective in my teenage brain. My brother read it and laughed at me. He claims he doesn’t even remember doing it. He said that doesn’t count as a “gift”. So I’m resubmitting with a literal gift. I’m glad he can’t read this until after Christmas because his GIFT this year is a framed print of the Time Man of the Year Magazine cover–1985. I used an app to put his teenage face on the cover. I think this will be both hilarious and memorable!

Sharon R.

***

There are so many gifts over the years that have meant a lot to me, especially quilts made by my mom, dish towels embroidered by my Grandma, paintings drawn by my kids. This time of year, when decorating the Christmas tree, the gifts that ping at my heart and bring tears to my eyes, are the ornaments my grown children made as kids either in school, in Scouts, or at home in secret. You know, decorations using Styrofoam, tin foil, popsicle sticks, wrapping paper, toilet paper tubes, etc. And of those, the ones that have their pictures attached are especially endearing.

Flash forward 25-30 years and the icing on the cake is seeing my four grandchildren marvel at the pictures of their mom, aunt and uncle when they were their age, because yes I still put them on the tree. And I hope when I’m long gone, my children will put them on their trees, and their children will put them on their trees. Gifts don’t have to be big and fancy to be memorable. It’s the gifts that are homemade and come from the heart that have the most value.

Debbie D.

***

So I been thinking for a week now about my most “special gift” and being older and not as materialistic as I once was, I have come to realize that those gifts were given to me roughly 40 years ago. Given to me in a big brick building on Rockton Ave. How can anything be more special than unconditional friendships. I certainly didn’t deserve them. And now 40 years later I can still call those people friends. We might not see each other more than a cpl times since we walked through the gym in our gowns and got a piece of paper but I would do almost anything for those people and like to think they would do the same for me just cause we’re friends. Tell me, short of having a child or being married…that gift of true friendship has to be close.

David B.

***

Gratitude.

Thankful, Grateful, Appreciation…

As a 16 year old junior in high school, I remember my first time hearing the word “appreciate.” I didn’t just hear it, I soaked in the meaning and it resonated deeply within me.

That first time I really listened to the word… “appreciate”… my heart felt so full. I began to realize the significance of the word. Appreciation means being deeply thankful for that which I’ve recognized to be beneficial and that which may not be as apparent.

Personally, I’ve learned that appreciation fills a void in my life. When I feel useless, or depressed, I remember how thankful I am for all that I have in my life. Gratitude keeps me grounded.

My most prized possession was given to me long ago when I was a baby. It’s a two foot tall stuffed animal – a polar bear, who I simply named “Mr. Bear.”

Although I grew up with two brothers, they are so much older than I am. I felt like an only child for a big part of my childhood, except I always had Mr. Bear. This bear has become so significant in my life that even today, it is the one comfort I have as an adult when depression and anxiety creep into my life. This seemingly insignificant childhood toy has become my saving grace during these emotionally testing times.

Gratitude is and always will be a constant part of my life. I honestly don’t think I’d have a life to live without Mr. Bear. He was my first dance partner. He keeps my heart beating. Who knew a grown woman would rely on a stuffed animal for company at night when no one else is there to hold? I appreciate you, Mr. Bear.

Ami G.

***

The best gift I ever received was my original birth certificate, the one from Illinois, which listed my genetic birth parents. 

I have always known my circumstances as an adopted child, and I was loved and raised and cared for. However, as someone very different from the family that raised me, I always wanted to know my birth origins. My nature versus my nurture. The idea that there were people in the world who looked like me; my eyes and hair color, my big ears. 

Receiving my original birth certificate was a pandora’s box of answers and problems, new relationships, and challenges. It was also the best gift I’ve ever received. 

Thanks for letting me briefly share the best gift I ever received. 

C. Deborah O.

***

OKay, so this is embarrassing and I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it to a stranger, but I saw on FB that this person recently passed away and the memory hit me like a tidal wave. When I was in junior high, I “became a woman” in the middle of Algebra class. I was totally unprepared, naïve and totally embarrassed, so when the teacher, Mrs. Joyce, asked to speak with me after class, I assumed that in addition to being embarrassed, I was also in trouble. When the room was empty she opened her closet, grabbed some stuff and came to sit in the desk next to me. She offered me her track suit jacket and two folded maxi-pads. She told me to wrap it around my waist to hide my butt and go to the bathroom. She was so cool about it. The items were great, but honestly, the ‘lasting gift’ was the advice she gave me. “First, always carry two. Also, flush the toilet as you peel the strip so no one will hear it. Your body is nobody’s business.” I think of that advice monthly, lol. Farewell, Mrs. Joyce, you will be missed.

Sarah M Q

***

Not sure if this story counts as one of Gifts and Gratitude, but the examples I read made me want to share my story. I met my wife when I was six. Her family moved into the house next door. Our moms became friends and we spent a lot of time together. She was my best friend. A few years later, my family moved away. I was really mad, sad, angry, but before we left, I gave her a note with a question and two boxes on it, one that said “yes”, one that said “no”. She marked a box and returned it to me. I tucked it away somewhere ‘safe’ and forgot about it. We were in different towns, different schools, our moms got new friends, we didn’t see each other for years! Reunited at a Freshmen dorm mixer almost eight years later, we fell right back into the friendship we had when we parted at age ten. A few years ago, my mother found that folded and smudged original note in a box of my old books and stuff. She gave it to me and I realized I had written, “Will you marry me?”. And she had put an ‘x’ in the yes box! I framed the note and gave it to my wife for our thirtieth anniversary. Thanks for letting me share our love “note”.

Todd S.

***

Across Generations

“If you never believe anything else I’ve said, believe this…”

Eighteen, holding my infant son, I sat inches away from Sister Clotilde in the Ursuline Convent’s parlor adjacent to my high school. Eight months earlier, in the secretive early 60s I’d been expelled for becoming a pregnant teen. Sister taught my older brothers and me science, philosophy and theology. To no avail, she urged my principle, a position she’d held years earlier, to allow me to complete my senior year in spite of my transgression. I knew what Sister Clotilde intended to tell me, continue your education, complete high school, go to college and graduate as your parents and older brothers did ; her words a similar message to my mother’s mantra, “Every woman must be educated and able to support herself.”

Sister Clotilde disrupted my musings, “Years go fast, faster than you can imagine.” She placed her hand on my knee. Her fingertips graced my infant’s leg. “Don’t be a parent who looks back and says, ‘I wish I had taken more time with my children.’” Her voice rose in a gentle admonition, “Your chores can wait until after they are in bed.” She soothed, “Always make time for you children.”

My family grew – no matter the challenges I shouldered – in the evenings, after dinner and when chores tempted me I settled on the floor and built block houses and forts, played Pick- up-Sticks, Tiddlywinks, Monopoly and Clue, and every night I read to my children from Golden Books, Just So Stories , Fairy Tales, Dr. Seuss books – a favorite; Green Eggs and Ham , which they memorized – Treasure Island and Mark Twains’ adventurous short stories and novels.​

I earned my high school equivalency diploma and started college at the age of twenty- eight when my children were ten, six, and four while we lived within the uncertain pressure of their father’s alcohol abuse. His absences after work and late arrivals home afforded many opportunities for shared activities with my children. Often times we sat at the kitchen table and did our home-work together. I wonder how they remember the time I brought home my Vertebrate Zoology assignment to dissect a preserved-in-formaldehyde pregnant cat. I hope I didn’t traumatize them when I placed the bagged corpse on a large cookie sheet, sliced the bag open and recoiled from the pungent fumes. My children were thirteen, nine and seven; the dissection afforded a perfect opportunity for a sex education discussion. I revealed the internal organs, identified the fertilization path, and removed the kittens from the sacs enveloping them. Even now I question the sanity of bringing home that particular home work.

When May 1978 arrived, Sister Clotilde, in her seventies, boarded a bus in Decatur, IL bound for Joliet, IL to attend my cum laude graduation from The College of St Francis. I was thirty-one and had earned a Bachelor of Science degree. My joy swelled when I heard my children, my mother, and Sister Clotilde cheering the loudest as I received my diploma and had an honor’s stole slipped over my head. Now, forty-two years later I share Sister Clotilde’s wisdom with my granddaughter, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, who joyfully handed me a pillow emblazoned with, “EXCELLENT Grandmas GET PROMOTED TO Great Grandmas .”

Catherine C.

***

THANK YOU to everyone who submitted to this post. Thank you for sharing your Gifts and Gratitude with others.

Not as many submissions this year as last, but that’s okay. It’s been a rough year and motivation may be hard to muster. As long as you are grateful, you possess the greatest of gifts.

May you all have a very Happy Healthy (and productive) New Year!

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WE HAVE A WINNER!

TODAY MAKES 500! I can’t even believe it! FIVE HUNDRED POSTS!

Thank you to the readers who submitted blog titles to the contest. I was both impressed and amazed at some of the selections.

Match Game, a post from July 2015, had the most votes! With almost–literally–500 articles to choose from, I wasn’t sure ANY would have multiple votes. I didn’t ask for a reason, just a title, so that’s all I got, repeatedly. This choice was very surprising–how surprising was it? Exactly.

There were several with multiple votes, including Permission to Cry. One person left the comment, “I find myself sharing this advice with others. Too often, it seems.”

Another that received a couple of mentions was Sweet Nellie, an emotional ode to a beloved pet. A simple one word comment accompanied one submission, *sob*.

A post with two votes was Monday the Metaphor, from 2014. “Momdays! I love it!”

There were a handful of titles that were selected individually, including the drawing winner who picked Metaphors, a recent post, and left this comment, “Excellent post about metaphors. Talented, articulate, enthusiastic Mary Lamphere clearly revealed in your post.”

But I swear, I used a random name picker for the results.

CONGRATULATIONS, CCW! Your prize is in the mail.
(please let me know when you receive it!)

This 500th post is also a final reminder to submit to next Monday’s post, Gifts and Gratitude. With your help, we are going to end this year on a thankful and appreciative note. ❤

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Easy as One, Two…

ONE
Don’t forget to leave me a message with the TITLE of one of my blog posts so you’ll be entered into a drawing for a FIFTY DOLLAR PRIZE! Simply comment wherever you see this post or email me at LiteraryMary@comcast.net. Details can be read here. The winner will be randomly selected and announced next Monday in my 500th publication!

TWO
I am currently accepting short essays for the Gifts and Gratitude collection to be published December 28th. For inspiration, click here to read last year’s entries. All are welcome to submit!

That’s it! TWO THINGS! Go now–get ’em done! And have a great day.

Peace out.

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You could WIN!

You may remember way back in June, I posted my 443rd blog.
Today’s post is #498…I’M ALMOST TO FIVE HUNDRED!

In honor of reaching this goal, I’m hosting a contest. My 500th post will feature a WINNER. That winner could be YOU!

Entering the contest is easy. All you have to do is leave a REPLY below, COMMENT on the FB or Twitter posting of this, or SEND your selection to my email, LiteraryMary@comcast.net with the TITLE of your FAVORITE of my blogs. Additional comments are welcome, and I do hope you actually READ a post or two, but only the title is necessary to be entered into the drawing.

Considering that there are eight years worth of posts, well over four hundred to wade through, I’m going to offer some navigational tips.

First:
You can connect to the MaryFranSays Blogs from the Home page of my website.

If you are reading this in your email, click on the title and it will take you to the web page.

Second:
Each post lists the previous and the next at the top. You can advance through the collection by clicking those titles.

Third:
Entries are Archived by month and also by Categories. Click on a date or a category for a list of those posts.

Fourth:
You will notice that there is a search bar on every page. You may enter a keyword and a list of articles containing that word will show up. Some recommended keywords that might interest you: BBs, Corgi, Favorite, Writers, Review, Love

Set aside an afternoon and get to browsing! Choose your favorite personal essay and let me know which one you liked. I will use a random selector app to pick a winner. The prize will be a collection of my FAVORITE things–many are listed in my essays. I haven’t completely decided yet, but I promise it will have a minimum value of $50 and be a prize worthy of this landmark achievement.

You have until December 18th to read, select, and submit. I will ‘draw’ a name and announce the WINNER on December 21st in my 500TH POST. The prize will go out in the mail, so I will require the winner’s mailing address. Limit one entry per person but feel free to share this opportunity!

I want to THANK YOU. I wouldn’t still be doing this Monday musings thing if I didn’t have your continued support. Five hundred publications! Pretty impressive.

Also, coming up on December 28 will be the Gifts and Gratitude stories. If you’d like to submit, click here for details. I would love for you to be part of my future posts.

Posted in It's all about You | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments