Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grammar Trivia: What is a Gerund?

Last week my family and I had a fun time quizzing each other with trivia questions.  My husband stuck it to us with his geographical and historical knowledge.  I admit I was floundering at times, but also able to get him with a couple grammar questions.  It made me think that it might be fun to offer occasional grammar questions here. 

As writers, most of us are familiar with the basics of grammar.  We have a good grip of what a noun, verb and adjective is, but there's a lot more to grammar than that. 

I especially appreciated my teenage daughter's guess at what a gerund is.  If you will refer to answer number three, you might get a chuckle.  Cute as Danielle's answer was, gerunds actually belong to the verbal noun family.  A verbal noun is a word or phrase created from a verb and used as a noun. 

I already defined a gerund in the above trivia question - a verbal noun ending in "ing." 

Examples of gerunds:

Running every day is her passion. 
Playing with toys keeps most three-year-old children entertained. 

Another kind of verbal noun is an infinitive.  An infinitive is usually preceded by the word to.

Examples if infinitives:

To err is human.   
The best way to learn grammar is to practice.   
Verbal nouns may also serve as a predicate noun after a linking verb, or as the direct object of a transitive verb. 

Example of predicate noun:

The most common mistake is missing the important details. 

Example of direct object of a transitive verb: 

Babies love to cuddle

So that's the lowdown on what a verbal noun is and how it functions in a sentence.  Fairly simple, but not quite as cute as a small, fuzzy animal. 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day!  Until next time! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunshine and Time Away

Today was spent finishing up a writing project in preparation for our trip.  My family and I will be leaving the not quite frigid but definitely dreary PA in search of warmer and sunnier lands.  We are actually heading to North Carolina and will return early next week. 

For me, I will be tending to small children in a new and more exciting location, but I will also be taking time to grow closer to the Lord, and bask in the glory of what our Savior did for us.

If I don't get a chance to post here while I'm away, I truly hope that you all have a wonderful Easter weekend and get to enjoy some extra time with the special people in your lives.   

Happy Easter and take care! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Survival Tips for the Sane Freelancer

When some people think of the typical freelancer, they envision the carefree days of a writer sitting at home, clad in cozy fleece pajamas while sucking down expensive cups of Starbucks coffee.  But anyone who freelances knows that, although there are certainly advantages (like wearing the cozy fleece jammies all day), it can also be extremely frustrating at times.

The problem is you never know what a new day is going to bring.  Sometimes your day can be moving along right on course and seemingly perfectly when all of the sudden something goes wrong.  Terribly wrong.   Like for example, your internet connection dies or worse yet, your computer crashes along with all of your files - right before an important deadline.

We all hope nothing that drastic ever happens to us, but even minor setbacks can slow down the most efficient of freelancers.  Difficulty finding the proper resources for a project, minor technical difficulties or a bad case of writer's block might be enough to get your writing goals off course for the day.     

Fortunately, there are a couple things you can do as a freelancer that could save you hours of time and frustration in the event of all things unexpected.

Plan for unexpected inconveniences by not procrastinating

Some people really do work better under the gun, but in the professional world, and especially in a career that relies heavily on sometimes unpredictable technology, waiting until the last minute to complete a project is not an advisable thing to do.  Losing your internet or any other such unpredictable difficulties might prevent you from completing a project that wouldn't otherwise have taken you very long to do.

Plan completion of your projects ahead of time - before the deadlines you and your client agreed upon.  This way, you are not taking any chances with potential technology woes, or any of the other aforementioned little inconveniences that might pop up.  Your clients are your bread and butter.  They're counting on you to stick to your word and deliver when you said you would. 

Save, save, save

It sounds a little silly to mention, but save your work on a regular basis.  I know I'm really harping on the technology aggravations, but if you've ever lost all your work at a crucial moment, or after spending hours on a project, then you understand why.  All it takes is a click of a, of a mouse, or a tap on the finger save yourself a lot of frustration and heartache.  

If simply saving to your hard drive doesn't offer enough security for those extra special projects, then you might want to consider free online backup sites like Dropbox, or Mozy.  Most offer 2GB of free storage with an option to purchase more if necessary.  Plus, for those who have Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail, you can always attach your files to an email and send it to yourself.  A lot of times, I even do this instead of file sharing when I'm going from laptop to PC or vice versa.   

A little extra planning and a few extra precautions with your work might literally save your projects, your business, and quite possibly even your sanity.

What little things do you do as a freelancer that helps keep your sanity intact?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Inspiration for the Muse

Right now my windows are wide open and one of my favorite sounds fills the house: it's the song of spring sung by so many birds belting out their beautiful chorus.  I am thankful for our taste of spring yesterday.  By late afternoon, it was nearly 75 degrees, and although it's supposed to get chilly again, it's still warm enough to have the windows open.

I love spring.  It's one of my favorite times of the year.  Waking up to fresh air and the sound of birds on days like today really is a pleasure.  But what I love most is the transformation.  I love watching the grass go from brown and listless to vibrant green and lush in a matter of days.  I enjoy seeing the daffodils and tulips grow taller every day.  I know that before long, they'll be erupting in color all over the country - along with new foliage on once naked trees.

It's new life, and like the birth of a baby, it's always remarkable.  Forever inspiring.  In fact, I think I'll let it inspire my muse today, and try to get some good writing in.  I hope you all had an amazing weekend and find some inspiration in your own day!    

Friday, April 08, 2011

Surmountable Barriers

The other day, I was surfing around on some of my favorite blogs when I came across an entry by Lori Widmer at Words on the Page about what she accomplished in the month of March.  The 38+ query letters that she sent out was enough in itself to impress me, but that was only a drop in the bucket of her freelancing accomplishments for last month. 

What Lori's post got me to wondering was what are the barriers in my life that keep me from that level of productivity.  Although the last couple months have been the most productive I've had in a while, I've definitely not sent out nearly 40 query letters.

What I'm working on now
  • Posting on my blog on a regular
  • Researching markets and querying magazines for articles (I say again, not 40.  I promise you!)
  • A couple small freelance projects
  • Networking/marketing
  • Always stretching myself by reading and learning about my craft
  • Outlining and beginning my first book
As for barriers, I can give you a list of 40+ of them with ease.  Family (children, spouse, pets), chores, lack of time, hobbies and other interests, but when it comes right down to it, I think I've learned what my ultimate barrier is: myself.

I know that I'm not sitting around making excuse after excuse to not write.  I'm getting "stuff" done, just not quite as much as I'd like.  I must not make excuses.  Do you think Lori is?  I sincerely doubt that!

One of my biggest problems is that I always worry I'm not giving my children enough of my time.  After all, being with my girls and giving them my best is the reason I am home right now.  But what I've learned is that sometimes giving them "my best" looks different than I expect. Instead of thinking I am depriving my children of my time, I must keep in mind that I am doing more than something I enjoy.  I am showing them that mama's goals and ambitions are important, and so are theirs - they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.  I must continue to press on and reach all my writing goals.  

Yes, it's a juggling act.  No, it's not impossible.  Those barriers are surmountable and so are yours.

What are some of  the barriers in your life? 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Book Review: Heaven is for Real

The last couple weeks of my life have been consumed with caring for sick children.  Of course, in a household of multiples, sickness doesn't usually occur all at once, but rather it drags out slowly - one feverish, sometimes whiny, drippy-nosed child at a time.

Experience has shown me that holding a sick baby or toddler on my lap while trying to tap away on my laptop is difficult to do.  Reading a book while tending to babies is not as complicated. I resolved to do some extra pleasure reading during my temporary "time off" from writing and I had the perfect book in mind.

A couple weeks ago, my mom surprised me by ordering and having delivered to my home Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent.  Thanks for a great read mom!  Friday night I began reading it and I finished it up Monday. 

Heaven is for Real is the true story of a three-year-old boy's experience of going to Heaven.  The first half of the book describes how Todd and Sonja Burpo almost lost their precious son, Colton, to a life-threatening case of appendicitis.  Todd Burpo's description of his child's sickness leaves readers on the edge of their seat. While doctors initially struggle to figure out what's wrong with their child, Burpo very heart-wrenchingly captures the emotion of a parent whose child is dying right before their eyes.  The pain, frustration, anger, and helplessness he and Sonja felt during that period of their lives was described in such a way that any loving parent could to relate to it.    

The remainder of the book was a description of the period of years following that traumatic experience.  Colton's account of going to Heaven casually emerged in honest conversations with his parents.  He revealed personal family and Biblical facts that no one had ever shared with him or that he couldn't possibly have known otherwise.

A prime example of this occurred when he offhandedly mentioned to his mother that he met his sister in Heaven.  This was the baby Sonja had miscarried one year prior to giving birth to Colton.  Because he was only three, they never shared that loss with him, and because Sonja was only two months along in that pregnancy, they never even knew the sex.  Imagine their surprise when their three-year-old son says he met her.     

Colton shocked his parents time and again with his simple expressions of what he learned, things he saw and the people he met in Heaven.  He shared details that matched scripture on the simplistic level of a child.  Although at times overwhelming to Todd and Sonja, details like what Jesus and Heaven look like, and who else was up in Heaven filled them with wonder and amazement.

"It dawned on me that maybe we'd been given a gift and our job was to unwrap it, slowly, carefully and see what was inside," said Todd when he realized that Colton's experience was not just the wild imaginings of a creative three-year-old.   

My Thoughts:

Overall, I think Heaven is for Real is a memorable read for both Christians and seekers alike who want to catch a glimpse into Heaven.  Really, who among us has never wondered what it would be like to look into the loving eyes of Christ, or even daydreamed about whether the streets of Heaven really are paved in gold?  I remember wondering about those things when I was a very little girl. 

One of my favorite passages takes place in the chapter where Colton describes what Jesus looks like.  Colton talks of his hair color and mentions a beard, and then says, "...And his eyes...oh, Dad, his eyes are so pretty." 

I can only think that all the love in Jesus' heart must have been conveyed through the beauty of his eyes to that small child.  It only makes sense.  After all, it was Jesus who said, "The eyes are the window to the soul." Matthew 6:22.  Whose soul could be more pure or perfect than that of Jesus? 

Don't get me wrong though.  I didn't exactly read this book with an open mind all the way through.  After finishing the first half (which I felt was very compelling), I began to feel some amount of skepticism as I then read about Colton's experience in the second half.  Questions popped into my head like are the Burpo's feeding this information to their child in order to make a capital gain?  Are they twisting it ever-so-slightly to suit the needs of the story and what would their motivation be to share this story with us? 

Forgive me for my "humanness."  Even as a believer, it's sometimes difficult to understand all the questions I have about God and Heaven.  Blind faith is hard.  Faith is not tangible.  It can't be seen, touched, smelled or experienced through any of the senses.  But all that aside, for me, it still makes sense.  God is in the small stuff - in the miracles that surround us, the birth of a baby, the budding of new life in spring- and the big stuff, like as in Colton's survival and experience. 

But to answer my questions above, I really believe the answers are no, no, and for question number three, the Burpo's motivation seems genuine.  Their desire is to give others - those who believe and those who still seek - a sense of security that there really is a God, and as the name suggests, Heaven is for Real.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Gotta Love a Good Quote!

This takes me back to eighth grade English class.  Very basic, yet incredibly useful.  How can a writer of any genre go wrong when keeping this in mind?

"I keep six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When
and How and Where and Who."

                                                                                                        ~ Rudyard Kipling

Thank you Mr. Kipling.