On the Railway

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On the Railway
Written by: Maranda Russell

On the railway,
no one studies your face.
No grief is given,
but neither is grace.

The wheels are loud,
and the engine is hot,
bringing to mind
all things better forgot.

With the changing landscapes,
and nature’s colorful hue,
remember this thought
that will always ring true:

On the long ride back
from wherever you roam,
never return the same person
as when you left home.

Things I’ve Learned Recently

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Hello everyone! This post is just a little check-in to say hi and let you all know what I’ve been up to. I figured I would make it more interesting by focusing on what I’ve learned recently from this unpredictable thing we call life.

  • After working on a book about nutrition for a freelance client, I’ve realized how much I DON’T know about what is really healthy and how much my own diet could use an overhaul. Unfortunately, I’m still a sucker for anything sweet, which throws a wrench into those plans!
  • I’ve learned how much traumatic experiences from childhood can affect our adult lives and our physical health. It is a fascinating subject, especially if you were¬†put through a lot of crap growing up. I would recommend the book “Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal” (written by Donna Jackson Nakazawa) to anyone interested in such subjects.
  • I’ve learned that it is ridiculously expensive to treat a cat for diabetes ūüė¶
  • I’ve realized that our current culture is engaged in a war on free speech and free expression in many ways. Both those from the extreme left and the extreme right often seem to want to silence dissenters. The same can be said of some companies and many governments. What I thought was once only an issue in communist, dictatorial or radical religious¬†countries is proving to be a much broader problem.
  • YouTube is full of warped trolls (ok, I didn’t really just learn that one, but I’ve been reminded of it several times recently).
  • And lastly, if you are going to date naked, have some confidence!

Those magical little moments that make life worthwhile

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For the last few days, my husband and I have been out of town, attempting to squeeze in a little vacation before summer ends. We didn’t go too far away from home, just enough to see some new sights and break up the monotony of our normal routine. While away, I bought a new book entitled “My One Line A Day”. The book is similar to a journal or diary but is set up a little differently. Each day for the next three years, I am supposed to write one line about my day in the appointed spaces in the book, leaving an interesting record to keep and reflect on after the three years are over. Honestly, I’m not sure if I will remember to write every single day, but I figured since I only had to write one line every day, that I could hopefully handle that.

I am currently on my third day writing in the book and I have noticed something interesting. First of all, it can be hard to sum up an entire day in one or two sentences! For this reason, I have decided to focus on the “highlight” or “happiest” thing I remember from each day. Interestingly, I have found that the highlights I remember are not the big things. What made me happiest the last few days wasn’t the tourist attractions, the big events or acquiring new “stuff”. Instead, I wrote about spotting a snapping turtle in a tiny runoff¬†from a nearby¬†creek and feeding sparrows bits of my bagel at an outdoor caf√©. I haven’t written my line for today yet, but again I think it will probably be one of the smaller things, such as seeing my cats again after being away for several days or the delicious decadence of enjoying a chocolate covered strawberry.

I am definitely interested to see how this little project keeps going over time. It is amazing when you truly pause to think about what made you happiest on a particular day. I would encourage everyone to try something similar and see what you come up with. You may be surprised to find out what brings you the most joy and what doesn’t seem to matter that much at all by the end of the day. If you want to get one of these books for yourself to chronicle your next three years, you may be able to pick one up at your local bookstore or you can order one from Amazon or another online retailer.

Review of Patricia Neely-Dorsey’s Poetry Books

For this post I am going to review two poetry books by Patricia Neely-Dorsey, a poet who uses her writing to show her love for Mississippi and the simple pleasures of southern living.

missmagBook #1 – Reflections of a Mississipi Magnolia: A Life in Poems

The first poetry book that Patricia Neely-Dorsey released covers a broad range of topics, from southern life¬†& country living to childhood memories, family history¬†and other¬†deeply personal¬†subjects. Although I have never lived in Mississippi or spent much time there, I felt that Ms. Dorsey was able to bring the culture to life in a way that anyone could relate to. The poet’s pride and passion for her state shines through, illustrating the importance of connecting to a place and taking the time to truly lay down roots.

Although I enjoyed the poems about southern life and country living, I must admit my favorite poems came later in the book when the author delved more deeply into her personal life and relationships. I especially related to a poem titled “Know It All (He Thinks)”, as I’m sure any parent of a teen or preteen could! Another favorite was the short poem, “Waxing Poetic”, which any creative spirit is sure to understand.¬†As I read through the collection, I¬†enjoyed the playful sense of humor in¬†many of the poems, but also¬†discovered a few poems that really made me stop and think or made me smile in wistful longing.

This is definitely a poetry collection that is heartfelt, inspiring and easily understood. Whether you are a Mississippi native or not, this is one that can be enjoyed by everyone.

imagesBook #2 – My Magnolia Memories and Musings: In Poems

Patricia Neely-Dorsey’s second poetry book looks and sounds a lot like the first one if you only look at the cover and the title, but I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh, truly new material inside its pages. As I began to read through the poems, I noticed that the poet’s style and view on life¬†had evolved and changed¬†a little¬†since the first collection. Although the subjects covered are similar in some ways to those explored in the first book, they are often tackled in a different way in this collection.

One addition to this collection that I found delightful was the small collection of¬†photographs shared throughout. The visual aids definitely make the book¬†more appealing¬†and help to make readers feel more involved as they read through the poet’s experiences and memories.

I also noticed that the author seems to embrace free verse more in this collection. Although there are still some rhyming poems for those who prefer more traditional poetry, I felt that this collection leaned heavily¬†towards freedom of expression and form, which seemed to make some of the¬†poems even more personal and hard-hitting. Many of my favorite poems were in the section that talks about loss, a subject that wasn’t covered much in the first book.

Overall, I feel that this second book of poetry naturally picks up where the first book left off and shows the growth and wisdom of an evolving poet. I would highly recommend this book to poetry and literature lovers or to anyone that simply loves great writing.

For more information about Patricia Neely-Dorsey, her books or where to order a copy for yourself, please visit the author’s website, http://patricianeelydorsey.webs.com/.

A week of good and bad…

This week has been a bit crazy.¬† On the negative side, I caught the stomach flu from hell.¬† I should have known that this virus was bad when all the people at my grandfather’s nursing home started wearing face masks to avoid catching it.¬† Unfortunately, nobody offered¬†face masks to us visitors, so both my mother and I ended up catching the crud after visiting.¬† I must say it was the sickest I have been in at least a decade.¬† However, I powered through and am now on the mend…kind of.

Now, on to the positive stuff that I would much rather dwell on.¬† First of all, I just signed a contract for a 3rd picture book!¬† It’s funny how after years of submitting manuscripts and receiving rejections, that I finally seem to have broken through.¬† Within the past year and a half, I have had three picture book manuscripts accepted by three different publishing houses.¬† I consider this a real victory, especially considering how the economy is doing right now!

Other good news:

*I will be reading my recently released picture book, “Ode to Icky”¬†to my first elementary school classroom this coming Wednesday!¬† The plans were finalized this week, so hopefully it goes well and I sell a few books there too!¬† I will be talking to a couple classes at the same school that day, so I’m excited!¬† I also have another school lined up to do an author meeting with, so I guess I need to learn to be a little more outgoing and leave the hermit side of myself at home.

*The Dayton Metro Library system is considering stocking each of their library’s childrens departments with “Ode to Icky”.¬† They also might have me come in to do some author readings/talks.¬† This is great news since the Dayton Library system is pretty big and reaches a large population here!

*Since my grandfather’s physical condition has stabilized somewhat for right now, I am slowly returning to my full workload, and just this past week decided to start doing book reviews for other children’s¬†authors again.¬† I love reading and reviewing children’s books, so I’m excited to have¬†the time to do so¬†once again.¬† I already have accepted a few author requests for reviews, but I do have a couple spots left.¬† Feel free to contact me at Shojobeatgirl@live.com¬†if you have written a children’s book and need a review (right now I am requesting physical copies rather than ebook copies whenever possible, so please keep that in mind).

The stuff that is life (or what I thought would never happen to me, but did anyway)

Do you ever wonder how in the world your life ended up where it is now?¬† I must admit, sometimes I look back on the past and scratch my head in puzzlement.¬† Ten years ago (when I was 18)¬†I was sure I would never marry, never have kids and I figured I would grow up to be an old cat lady.¬† I didn’t really have much in the way of ambitions…I had always wanted to be a writer, but felt like that dream was unrealistic and that I should face reality and get on with life.

Now, at the age of 28, I have been married for 8 years to the greatest man I have ever known…and have actually been happy!¬† I always thought I was far too independent,¬†opinionated and moody for any man to put up with me longterm, but my husband actually seems to enjoy living with me.¬† Truly, wonders never cease.

When I was 18, I was also convinced that I didn’t like children.¬† Some of you who know me now may be shocked by that fact, but I really thought I couldn’t stand the little buggers.¬† Of course, now I think that was simply because I was the baby of the family and was¬†rarely around younger children.¬† Plus, I often found that¬†my own peer groups were¬†full of dunderheads¬†and nutters.¬† Now I actually go out of my way to spend time with kids.¬† Between fostering, working with the kids at church, substitute teaching and writing for kids, I pretty much eat, sleep and breathe kids.¬† In fact, I am actually looking forward to the thought of adopting a couple of my own!

As for my work life, I thought I would live out my life working at a bookstore or some other retail joint.  An unexpected foot injury when I was 19 derailed those plans, but it actually turned out to be a good thing.  Because of that foot injury, I was forced to get office jobs (which I hated enough, that I became determined to make my dream of becoming a writer a reality).  Now I have two books on the way, have met some of the coolest writers, editors and book lovers around, have pulled in a decent amount of extra income and LOVE my day job.  Of course, I realize that if we get into another financial bind, or if the economy falls too far I will likely have to work again, but at least I know now that I can make my dreams come true (with a lot of help from above)!

So what is the point of this¬†post?¬† First of all, I am SOOOOOOOO thankful that my life didn’t turn out the way I had planned!¬† And second of all,¬†never give up on your dreams!¬†¬†It’s ok to let¬†your childhood¬†fantasies evolve into reachable goals, but¬†never give up on dreaming entirely.¬† You will miss out on so much if you do.