Author Jo Huddleston

Sweet Southern Romance

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Writing Journey, Part 1

Remember the scene in the movie The Princess Diaries where Mia (Anne Hathaway) sits on the low stone wall outside of her high school before classes began? A boy came along looking for room to sit there also; he sat on her lap before realizing she was there. Mia told her best friend about the incident and wailed “I’m invisible, nobody sees me,” or something like that. She didn’t fit in and felt like nobody even saw her much less paid any attention to her.

When I decided I wanted to write for publication all I had was aspiration and hope. I had not studied the craft of writing but I had loved books and reading all my life. So I sent my first stories to Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal. Those form rejection letters got back to me post haste. It didn’t take me long to learn that I needed help.

I scoured the magazine racks in the mall bookstore and found some about writing. I bought Writer’s Digest and The Writer and devoured their contents. I discovered names of books about all aspects of writing and lists of writing conferences. Who knew there were writing conferences to attend and gain knowledge?

I decided my first conference would be the Professionalism in Writing School conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a long trek from Alabama. I’d read in my new magazines that I should take samples of my writing and business cards to identify myself when I made an appointment with an editor or agent. I didn’t have business cards and was relieved when I read that I could put my information on a 3x5 card and share that with people.

My husband let me out at the front of the large hotel where the conference was held while he parked the car. The wind blew horizontally all the time we were there so while waiting for him I stepped into the area between the outer entrance doors and the doors into the lobby. A young lady came inside pulling a carrier stacked with books and paper materials. At the threshold of the first doors when she pulled her carrier into the space where I stood, everything tilted and scattered around us. I timidly helped her stack things back as best as I could. Didn’t introduce myself, didn’t recognize her.

My Writing Journey, Part 2 continues next time. While you wait breathlessly, please enjoy this beautiful rendition of the hymn,  How Great Thou Art, by clicking here.

Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Does History Change?

This month gave us several commemoration events about Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on Good Friday, April 14, 1865 at Ford’s Theater in Washington. Booth escaped the theater but later was found and shot. After 146 years we probably think we know everything about the assassination and about Mr. Lincoln. We certainly know much about his youth in Kentucky, how he studied, that he worked on a farm splitting rails for fences, that he married Mary Todd and they had four boys but only one of them lived to adulthood. 

Now Robert Redford in his film, The Conspirator, tells a story about a bit of history we’ve never heard about: the killing of President Lincoln was the result of a conspiracy among Booth and eight others, including one woman, all Confederate sympathizers. All were arrested, tried by a military commission and convicted of a conspiracy. How will Redford’s conspiracy story resound among Americans? Do we learn our history from the movies; e.g., Gone With The Wind? Only time and much discussion and digging into history will tell.

There’s another bit of history, which is factual and that few know about. President Lincoln was in the geographical area where the borders of southeast Kentucky, southwest Virginia and Tennessee meet. You might not know that he expressed concern about the people’s poverty there and wanted a school built in the area so the youth could have access to an education. He envisioned "a great university for the people of this area" in the Cumberland Gap.

In 1897, Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) became the heir of that dream. Nestled in the pristine Appalachian Mountain range, LMU's main campus is in Harrogate, TN, and the school operates 12 extended sites in surrounding areas.

In that gap in the mountains now stands the school Mr. Lincoln hoped for years before. He would be pleased to see the 1,000-acre campus that honors his memory. The school is privately endowed and offers undergraduate, master, and doctoral degrees.

I’m a proud graduate of Lincoln Memorial University. Thank goodness for President Lincoln’s vision, which is now a beautiful reality.

"The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” –Abraham Lincoln

How long have you continued to hope for something?

Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Unable to watch blog video?

If you were unable to watch the video I mentioned in today's blog, try clicking here
Scroll down to the picture and you can play the video from there. I think it will be worth your time. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Handing Out Hope

Thanks to Tamera Alexander who is our guest writer today. Tamera is a best-selling novelist whose deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots, and poignant prose resonate with readers. Having lived in Colorado for seventeen years, she and her husband now make their home in Nashville, Tennessee, along with Tamera's father, Doug, and with their two adult children who live near by. And don't forget Jack, their precious--and precocious--silky terrier.

Tamera's at work on her eighth novel, A LASTING IMPRESSION, that releases this fall.

Do you need a little dose of hope in your day today? A little reminder that no matter what you've done, no matter where you're from, that God's able to reach you? That He knows exactly where you are and what you need? Then watch this video
(Jo: "When you finish the video, please return and let me know how you liked today's blog.")
Isn't that cool! Now to live my life this week with eyes of the Spirit to help me see who I can love this way. Someone who doesn't expect that love. Maybe someone who doesn't feel worthy of love.

Something I've started carrying with me in my car are Manna Bags. A couple of weeks ago in my BSF small group study, we were discussing "small things" we could do to change a person's day and one of the gals mentioned Manna Bags that they prepare at their congregation. The concept is simple: gallon-size Ziploc bags with a bottle of water and prepackaged food that you carry in your car and then give to someone whose hungry, someone God puts in your path to love.

You can write a note inside, if you want. Tuck it in amongst the granola bars and peanuts and "pop tab" tuna cans and crackers. Any food that's non-perishable. When I see someone standing on the street corner, I want to help. Yet I don't always feel comfortable giving money. But this is something I can do, and do easily. Simply takes some forethought, then rolling down that window and handing out hope.

I really appreciated this woman sharing this idea with me. What ways has God led you to give? I'd love to know!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Win This Book!

Leave a comment on this blog post by noon Friday, April 22 and be eligible to win the book I review below.

Love Remains by Kaye Dacus
Book 1 of the new contemporary Matchmakers Series

Kaye Daucs is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances. Kaye is an author and editor who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. Romance novels were among the first books she ever read, so it was natural when she started writing as a young teen, that would be what she penned.

From the Back Cover:
Zarah Mitchell, who’s worked at the Middle Tennessee Historic Preservation Commission for more than a decade, is about to face a piece of history that could ruin the life she’s built in Nashville: Bobby Patterson—her first love and the reason her father kicked her out fourteen years ago.

Nashville native Bobby Patterson has just returned home after many years away to take a position with the Tennessee Criminal Investigations Unit. His new job: lead a task force investigating potential real estate fraud connected with the Commission.
When Bobby realizes Zarah is part of his investigation, he is tempted to use his grandmother’s not-so-subtle setup as a way to learn if Zarah is involved in the fraud.

Zarah, at her grandmother’s suggestion, tries to put the pain from the past aside to see if any love remains between her and Bobby. But when she learns he’s been investigating her, will she be able to forgive him a second time?

From Jo:
Kaye Dacus again gives us memorable characters and her flawless storytelling. Her books are a pleasure to read. I’m always sad when I have to say goodbye to her characters and must wait for her next book.

Leave a comment below by noon Friday, April 22 and be eligible to win Love Remains.
Please be sure to leave your email address with your comment so that I can contact you should you be the winner.

Till next time … keep on smiling.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Can't You Do Now?

Lately I’ve been seeing this statement online: “What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self”? With all the wisdom you’ve gained in the interim, would you tell your 20-year-old self to do anything differently? Of course, considering this question is somewhat foolish because we can’t change our past.

However, I will ask you this: what can't you do now that you wish you had learned at an earlier age? I'd answer that question with two things.

I've always been fascinated by airplanes and when I hear one overhead, my eyes turn skyward no matter what I'm doing. When I graduated from high school I wanted to join the Air Force but they required that I be 18 years old. I was only 17 and needed my parents’ signature to join. They would not sign. When I became 18 I already had a college quarter completed and the throes of "first love" had pushed away any desire to fly an airplane. Years later a pilot-friend offered me flying lessons at no charge. At that time I had two children and the risk was too high. I had to consider more than just me, so today I can't fly a plane; but I still watch them streak across the sky.

The second thing I wish I had learned earlier is to play the piano. I took lessons in elementary school and did quite well -- so the teachers said. We moved a lot during those years and I remember Daddy saying he was not moving that heavy upright piano one more time. Today I can only read the treble cleft notes and plunk them on the piano with one finger.

"So what?" you may ask. Two things I wish I could do and didn’t accomplish. My youth prevented a strong enough commitment from me; then later others dashed my hopes. Since we can’t change our past I just smile about it. Can you see me piloting an airplane or playing a piano concert? Of course not; that’s almost hilarious to imagine.

“You can turn painful situations around through laughter.
If you can find humor in anything—even poverty—you
can survive it.”

--Bill Cosby

Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Second Dream Trip

Recently I wrote that I had two dream trips I wanted to take and told you about my visiting England. Our 50th state, Hawaii, was my second dream trip.

I worked as a real estate agent for a year and where do you think the industry's national convention was that year? Yes, Hawaii. We made our plans too late to get the same flight and hotel as the others going from my agency. We did, however, get together with them once we were on the island of Oahu.

One day when the others took a helicopter tour of all the islands, my husband and I rented a car and drove around the island -- literally. We drove the circumference of Oahu, stopping wherever something caught our attention. We had plenty to choose from -- Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head looming in the background; the Dole pineapple packing plant where we were treated with juicy slices of fresh pineapple; the North Shore that lures experienced surfers; vast fields of pineapple; the Polynesian Cultural Center; and the historic Nuuanu Pali Lookout, a pass through the pinnacle of the ridge that runs almost the length of Oahu and where the strong constant wind blows across 24/7.

But then the most humbling visit was to Pearl Harbor. Situated there is the USS Arizona Memorial. At 8:06 a.m. on December 7th, 1941, the USS Arizona was hit by a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb, which ignited its forward ammunition magazine. The catastrophic explosion that resulted sank this massive battleship in nine minutes, killing 1,177 crewmen. The floating memorial is built over the sunken hull of the USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the ship’s crew. Standing on the memorial and looking from the monument into the water, the Arizona is visible where it rests on the bottom of the harbor; one of its gun turrets, rusted now, pushes above the water. A huge marble display lists the names of all those sailors on the Arizona; many remain entombed in the ship below our feet.

To date, my Hawaii trip holds top spot as my most exciting. Many of you may have been there and my gushing here bores you. If so, just enjoy the photos: the welcome to Hawaii show, Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background, the Pearl Harbor monument, and the group from our real estate agency.

The only thing today’s blog has to do with hope is that one of my big hopes was fulfilled. And that makes me smile.

“As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.”
—Donald Trump, American entrepreneur

Till next time … keep on smiling.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is It Easter Yet?

The calendar on my refrigerator sets Easter at April 24. However, I usually don't need a calendar to tell me when Easter is near. For decades my dogwood trees have managed to blossom a week or less just before Easter. Their small, identical blooms of four white leaves open in announcement that Easter is right around the corner.

To some, those blossoms, touched on each tip with a dab of red, hint about Jesus’ death and also the opening of His grave in preparation of His resurrection. Those little dogwood blooms appear in perfect replication perhaps to remind us that one perfect man—Jesus—dwelt on earth for a while.

But this year all my dogwood trees jumped the gun and blossomed an entire month before Easter, not just a few days as in past years. This picture was taken near mid-March and we’re still enjoying its beauty.

The dogwoods, azaleas, and wisteria mark the beginning of spring and all things new. I notice the neighborhood’s lawns as if time-lapse photography ran overnight and healthy green blades of grass have pushed through the browns of winter since the day before.

Spring is a time of hope, renewal, new beginnings, second chances, and smiles just from leaving behind the doldrums of winter.

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don't give up." –Ann Lamott

Till next time … keep on smiling.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How long will it take?

My recupperation is taking longer than I expected. Hope to be back with you soon.

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”
-- Christopher Reeve, actor (Superman)

Do you choose hope?

Till next time ... keep on smiling.