Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nostalgia and Traditions

Nostalgia and traditions. These words seem to be interrelated especially around the holidays. Nostalgia means a return to home, a wistful yearning for the past that is irrecoverable. While traditions are customs or patterns we repeat or are handed down year, after year. These traditions may originate through cultural, individual, religious beliefs, or created out of a sense of nostalgia. Maybe we try to hang on to those memories of events and loved ones and traditions help us to do that.

Many things can bring about that nostalgic feeling:
A song—ever hear an old song on the radio and feel instantly transported back to high school? Think of a friend you haven’t heard from in years?
A smell—baked bread remind you of your mother’s house? Your grandmother’s?
A taste—every time I eat fried clams I think of camping on Cape Cod when I was a kid.
A location-Drive through a town you haven’t been to in years and see what memories come up. All these things can strike an emotional response, a memory.

Traditions are comforting and help us feel like we belong. Create your own traditions. Since we first met, my husband and I have gone out for a special dinner to a nice restaurant on the eve of Christmas Eve.

An object—a Christmas pin I wear is nostalgic for me. This pin my college chemistry professor gave me when I worked for her for campus employment. I organized the chemical supplies, made reagents for the classes and even bent dozens of glass rods like a glass blower into special shapes. These rods were needed for particular experiments. She said no one else could make these without breaking them, but I think she knew I needed the extra hours of work. I look at the pin and remember a kind and cool professor who was also a nun and flash back to my college days.

A small tradition and also another nostalgic item is from a gift I received. A teddy bear ornament. A co-worker gave it to me about 14 years ago. His name was Jerry. He invited me and a couple friends over for dinner one evening. His mother attempted to show me how to cook the Cuban dish she was making. After dinner, Jerry passed out gifts for us. We knew he was terminally ill but he was looking pretty good. He gave me the bear Christmas ornament. What struck me about the gift was that it was August. I then had a sinking feeling that Jerry wouldn’t make it to Christmas. He didn’t. Since then, I hang the ornament on the tree every year.

Writing Tip: Can you include a nostalgic item or a tradition into your story? This can build emotion into the story and also tell us about your character's background without info. dump.

What traditions do you have? What ones would you like to start?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Operation: Touch of Home

In preparation for their son’s deployment to Fallujah, Iraq, a couple started Operation: Touch of Home in 2004 as a way for friends and family to reach out to their loved ones stationed overseas. They discovered the tremendous impact receiving essential and comfort items from home had on the soldiers’ morale.

Since 2004, this Pennsylvania-based, non-profit, completely volunteer organization has grown. This effort so far has touched the lives of 600 heroes and shipped over 80,000 pounds of items over the last six years. These individuals share these items with their whole unit so literally thousands have benefited.

In 2007, a government snafu delayed 45 servicemen returning from Afghanistan in Fort Bragg, NC. Operation: Touch of Home assisted these 45 servicemen so they could be with their families on Christmas.

This Holiday season, my company participated in a drive to collect items for our military troops through this organization. Boxes were set up in each department and we brought in a variety of items. I heard someone say, “Doesn’t the government supply the soldiers with this stuff?” And a coworker of mine whose son is stationed in Iraq, Special Forces, argued, “Probably some items, but the soldiers love getting packages from home. You have no idea how much it means to them.”

Some of the items requested on the list include: Instant coffee, protein powders, packaged candy, cookies, gum, protein bars, snacks, Soup to Go, crossword puzzles, Frisbees, Fitness magazines, new DVD movies, socks (no white), sunscreen, After Bite, lip balm, deodorant, pocket pack tissues, Tylenol packets, cough drops, cold medicines, washcloths, towels, etc.

This year 13,698 pounds of items packed in 596 boxes were shipped to our heroes. This is a Pennsylvania organization. I’m sure there are others like it if you check around in your area.

Happy New Year!!

Also can be viewed at 12/30/09

Monday, December 21, 2009

It’s the End of the World...I Mean Publishing as We Know It

I think it's safe to say this is the year that ebooks and ebook readers hit a monumental shift in the publishing world. Ebook readers have been around for years but haven’t enticed a large group of readers up until now. Kindle stirred the interest but the price still kept a good number of people away. But with the Nook and it’s lower price, Kindle was forced to drop it’s price.

Now, the sales on these two ebook readers are off the charts. I checked with my local Barnes and Noble and played with the Nook, very cool. The sales person bragged about hers. And told me if I ordered one today, it wouldn’t come in until January 15th.  A friend who works at B & N said they had no idea the Nook would take off like it has. The Sony reader is another popular reader and people are reading books on the iPhones too. Watch for technology to continue to develop new versions of these readers in the next few years. New multimedia devices are being developed. I have a feeling this is a trend that will only get more interesting and the devices more sophisticated. Take a look at this pretty amazing media device being developed:

When to sequence book releases in hard cover, paperback and ebooks:

Publishers are now having to consider these devices and ebooks in their marketing plan. In the past, hardcovers were released first, then the paperback version. With the expanding popularity of ebooks, traditional publisher are trying to decide when is the best time to work this new format into their release schedule.

On Publisher’s Lunch, Macmillan CEO John Sargent said his publishing house would handle bestsellers in a couple ways. Some bestsellers will have ebooks released at the same time as the hardcovers. These ebooks will be enhanced with additional content for a limited time (~three months or so). This enhanced material will include author interviews and readers’ guides. Those versions will be priced slightly higher than the hardcover price.

Simon & Schuster spokesman Adam Rothberg said that, “sequencing has been a common practice in other media for quite some time.” Their house’s current policy sequences the release of ebooks between the release of the hardcover and the paperback. But knowing those who use digital media tend to want instant gratification, publishers may have to adjust their policies and release ebooks sooner.

It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next year or two.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Welcome to My New Blog

Hello! I hope you like the newly redesigned website and new blog. I’ll be posting regularly with information about writing, author interviews, books and a variety of topics I’m passionate about. If you have a suggestion for a topic, please let me know. Thanks for stopping by. ~Kathy