EASTER


EASTER

By Sharon Stevens

 

Carla Stewart recently blogged with Susan Reinhardt about writing, and also about her book, “The Moses Conspiracy”. Reinhardt said something that truly touched my heart. Her words… “The novel was born from an experience I had while standing in Gettysburg Square on December 2004. Surrounded by old buildings, I “heard” the forefathers voices, but they were like fading echoes.”

Can you imagine standing in Gettysburg Square? What did Susan feel, sense, smell, hear, or touch with the echoes of the forefathers? Who was there to tug at her thoughts? I am sure she didn’t hear laughter, but then again, what if she sensed the families that strolled through the town at better times.

How many of us stop and actually listen to the voices of our characters? How does the setting change if we turn in this direction? How can we write our stories if we can’t hear what they are saying? So many times we are so afraid of losing the terrific thoughts running through our brain that we forget to forge the story within. We are petrified that if we stop for even just a moment in time, all will be lost and we will have to start all over again. But the opposite is so true. Sometimes, if we breathe with the heart of our character, OUR heart will carry on to complete the scene.

I remember how Natalie Bright told our critique group that her character would wake her up at night urging her to tell the story. Jodi Thomas spent nights at the computer only to hear the alarm go off the next morning just in time to get ready to teach school. Paul Green, who wrote the musical drama TEXAS, said that the panhandle was his thinking day and night.

Without a doubt we need to listen to our characters, but then again, not to forget they also took time out of their busy lives to celebrate life itself.

Someone left behind a desk diary from 2002, “On Writers & Writing” by Helen Sheehy & Leslie Stainton. Each page listed an author and the story of their life. To me, this was a true treasure on every level. The calendar itself had spaces to write thoughts and memories. The birth or death dates of authors were inserted at the bottom of each entry. But it was the stories of all the authors that caused my heart to leap for joy!

The March notation is the life story of Olaudah Equiano who was born sometime in 1745 and died March 31, 1797. Equiano’s life story began when he was kidnapped at age 11 and shipped to America for a life of slavery, “in a state of distraction not to be described.” He wrote an autobiography recounting the violence of being branded and beaten, but also of being taken in by an officer of the Royal Navy who taught him to read. He writes, “I had a great curiosity to talk to the books as I thought they did.” Equiano recalled. “for that purpose I have often taken up a book and have talked to it and then put my ears to it, when in hopes it would answer me.”

As writers, may you always take a moment to listen to your books as they tell their story! And may your books have a story to tell.

Happy Easter!

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CAKIES


 

CAKIES

by Sharon Stevens

Our daughter called looking for the recipe for Cakies.

She needed to take something to work for Halloween, and thought this treasured family favorite would be the perfect addition for the office celebration. She knew the basic ingredients were devil’s food cake mix, oats, brown sugar and oil, but couldn’t remember the exact ingredients and neither could I.

The recipe for Cakies was given to me years ago by Maggie Henry, a Girl Scout leader.  Once I had perfected it with trial and error, I took it to every PTA, Girl Scout, choir and fundraiser event from the get go. I also made it for Easter, Christmas, and especially Halloween. We would buy cake mixes on sale and freeze them until the next event. And we always kept everything else on hand.  If the girls came home saying they needed to take something to share I knew I couldn’t go wrong with something simple I could fix at a moment’s notice.

That evening I pulled out everything I had collected over the years trying to find what I was looking for. What a trip down memory lane! This brought up the most precious thoughts of our children, and every function we had attended together as a family. I had so much fun going through the collected memories right at my fingertips. Most of the favored ones were spattered, and stained with various and sundry long forgotten splatters.

When I finally found it, I e-mailed the recipe to my daughter, and thought I had added every piece. That evening she called and told me I had neglected to include the amount of oats which could alter the final result. After the discussion, I admitted I had made it wrong all these years or at the very least, hadn’t followed it to the letter.

Isn’t that just like writers? We take a simple basic recipe and change the story to fit our needs. No matter what genre we enjoy, we can adjust, knowing that it won’t ruin the final product, but only enhance our tale.

Our daughter called today and told me that the Cakies went over big, and several had asked for the recipe.  I had forgotten over the years how much fun I had in making this, but also in trying new things. I was never very adventuresome, and knew no matter how hard I tried it would never look like the perfect photo shoot in the magazine. No matter, I always enjoyed a good recipe.

So on the way home I stopped at the United Grocery store and picked up a copy of the November “Accent West”. I knew I would find something I could cook. And there I found it in Becky McKinley’s article about heirloom and family recipes “Cookies, Candies and Pies!” With just a quick glance I realized I had all the ingredients at home to make the Buffalo Chip Cookies.

I wonder what simple changes I can try to make it my own.

CAKIES

Cream 1 egg, ¼- ½ cup water, 1 stick of butter or margarine, ½ cup oil, ½ cup brown sugar

Stir together one box of devil’s food cake mix and 2 cups of oats

NOTE-for years I thought it was old-fashioned oats, but the recipe I founds says quick cooking

Spread into sheet cake pan

Mixture will be very thick.

May add nuts, chocolate chips, or fruit

Can use any kind of cake mix and any frosting.

Spice cake with cream cheese frosting is yummy.

Preheat oven to 375

Bake for 20-25 minutes, cool and cut into bars

VISIONS


VISIONS

by Sharon Stevens

My husband and I were readying our college bookstore for the onslaught of students we hoped would come and buy their textbooks for the fall semester. We had vacuumed and dusted the best we could, and made the store as presentable as possible in the outdated building that housed our business. We try our best to make it homey to welcome the generations of families who stream to Canyon to attend our university, WTAMU. There is always tables covered with bright tablecloths ladened with a bounty of homemade cookies and simple snacks and even popcorn donated by the Varsity Theater just down the block.

This year we had an added bonus to catch the student’s eyes.

A dear friend of ours had recently given us a four-foot tall wooden chalkboard in the shape of Santa Claus complete with cutouts of redbirds and green Christmas trees. With the attached piece of chalk you could write holiday menus, shopping list for ingredients, or count down the remaining days of Christmas.

This jolly old Saint Nick had belonged to her parents and been brought out for decoration when they hosted Christmas parties at their home. As her mother had been ill our friend knew they would never again have the opportunity to display him for holiday festivities so she gave him to us knowing that at our business he would have a good home.

As usual my husband was mortified. Why display an object that represents the END of the school term instead of the beginning. I admit I did have some misgivings with bringing him out in August during the hottest year in recorded history, in the middle of a drought where farmers and their families were loosing their crops and their livelihood.

It wasn’t Christmas for heavens sake.

And that’s where Scrooges missed the point. As the kids would come in to our sweltering store to purchase textbooks I pictured some of the them laughing and rolling their eyes, as if we were so ancient and outdated we didn’t know what day or even what season it was. I could also imagine parents writing out checks draining their life savings to pay for the books. This would give them an excuse to cry tears of fun while hiding the tears of pain not only with depleting their bank account, but also at leaving their child behind for the four or five or six years or more that they attended college.

I also put the chalkboard front and center because sometimes the students needed a reminder that even though they were leaving behind family and friends, embarking on a new adventure, they could still find the holiday spirit to swirl around them. And though the experienced students had no doubt that the semester would come to an end, this silly Santa would confirm a break was just around the corner.

To us our Santa fit right in with the environment of mismatched carpet and silly knick-knacks scattered throughout our store. But more importantly I think we provided proof for all the kids that when Christmas Eve came, our community, our town, our university would celebrate.

Not to worry that St. Nicholas would either find his way to their new home in the dorm room, or follow them back to where “visions of sugar plums would dance through their heads”.

More importantly, as we were miserable in the heat that fed wildfires and destroyed homes and life, and even though this year might remain bleak, Father Christmas would be a nudge that there would return a time where we bundled up in layers upon layers of coats and mittens, sweaters and scarves with no doubt that family is all that matters.

But I had more ulterior motives under the tree. Kris Kringle’s rosy red cheeks and cheery smile hidden within his beard was a gentle reminder to me that it was time to write Christmas memories to send to publishers to include in memoirs and stories. With a six-month lead time designating summer “the most wonderful time of the year” that magazines and publishing houses welcomed well-written articles for the upcoming holiday issues.

This fall semester our wooden Santa held court beside the table ladened with homemade cookies and goodies. His smile never wavered, not like the scowl my husband showered me with after each customer left the store. Bah humbug! I wonder what Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick has to say about that on his naughty and nice list.

Nevertheless…

After textbook rush is over I plan to place St. Nicholas in our front window for passerby’s to enjoy. I will put him on display again when we decorate our store for Christmas as the kids begin to pack up to return home for the holiday break. But I plan to dust him off and set him back up for the rush of the spring semester in January.

I believe he represents the future. A simple reminder that without commercialization the holidays will come again and again and ever again, no matter where we travel or the steps that take us farther away from home.

On second thought I just might even display him amid chocolate sweets for Valentines Day. His never ending smile will be just the thing to warm our hearts as we face the prospect of February blizzards with taxes following close behind.

And I just might bring Him out again for Easter weekend…because I know HIS spirit still lives.

Sharon Stevens