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Recognizing Great Writing

 

Literature is amazing and the world is filled with it. The written word – whether handwritten, typed, printed or transported electronically – can consume a reader’s conscious thoughts, redirect their paths, and open their minds to fantasies that are beyond their own imagination. Word by word inventions, recounts, and the sharing of stories, both real and fantastically unreal, fills the halls and shelves of libraries and most of the Internet. There are so many categories and types that there is surely something for everyone. From literary classics to comic blogs, writers carry their readers to a place where only the two exist; the two, of course, being the writer and the reader. Literature is a historic form of expression, communication, and entertainment that, even today, is used for those same purposes, yet has evolved and elevated itself to a level that can hardly be tracked.

With that said, what makes a written work worthy of being read? What makes a classic a classic, or a bestseller a massive crossover success? There are so many qualities to a writer’s work that draw us in, keep us in, and call us prisoner. But what makes that writing stay with us? Could it be the title? Maybe the first page, the last page, or the character list? Is it the plot, the unexpected twist, or the way a particular work of fiction mimics our own lives? Could it be the vocabulary, the wit, or the absurdity?

Some writers write for themselves, others write for their readers. Whomever their audience, writers are capable of producing something grandiose, infectious, effective, and (hopefully) legendary.

Title and cover art work are the fragrant aromatics that catch a reader’s attention, like the wafting smell of just fired fajitas or fresh baked brownies. Void the concept that the reader has a preference for author, genre, or publishing company. While perusing a bookshelf, the title and artwork are the perfume trails that grab our attention, either attracting or offending us as the potential reader. A title can be intriguing, straightforward, or abstract. The reader doesn’t get to discern which until they read the work. Artwork can be explanatory, provocative, or irrelevant. The combination between the two can draw the attention of an unsuspecting reader and lure them into picking up the work, surveying it, and in less than ten seconds deciding whether it’s what they are looking for. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an acceptable and realistic idiom.

Just inside the cover, a writer transforms a reader’s mind with their words. They paint pictures of scenery, situations, and characters by creatively weaving their words throughout hundreds of pages, consuming hours upon hours of a person’s time. There are many items that contribute to the grandiosity and staying power of a piece of literature. Some of the most important categories that separate “great writing” from basic reading material include subject matter, relatability, literary voice, and a formidable vocabulary. As well, a great piece of writing will draw it’s reader in and captivate them quickly and efficiently. Some readers feel that if reading the first page entices them to peek at the last – with that last page inciting questions, wonderings, and wide-eyed bewilderment – then the book is a keeper. Other readers just want to be sucked in. Their desire is for the first few pages and chapters to be so enthralling, their only choice is to make a pot of coffee and read from cover to cover.

Whatever genre, subject, or author fascinates the reader, the relationship that ensues is paramount. Each participant relies on the other, and that is the basic foundation and premise of the author -reader relationship. They need each other. The author needs the reader (even if the reader is the writer) to be open and accepting of their message, and the reader is dependent upon the author to provide them with something that opens their mind and exposes them to something new. One does not exist without the other, and coincidentally, they do not want to exist without the other.

Great writing permeates and pickles the being of its reader, leaving behind the perfume of its characters and scenes. The reader wreaks of literary tone, voice, and phrase. They are often drunk with the heart-wrenching prose designed by their favorite author, only to suffer the most intense and draining book hangover when they’ve read the last paragraph. Neither the reader, nor the writer would have it any other way. And that is just part of what makes it great.
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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

me.

i write for my pleasure, not yours

my friend called me and challenged me to explain exactly what it is that keeps me from writing. in writing. i’m sure she’s not the only person to notice that I write less and less. i’d love to hide behind the fact that I work full-time and I have three kids, two of which are twin toddlers, and that I’ve just stepped to the other side of a most harrowing personal battle, but why? none of those things really matter in the scheme of things. while discussing all of this with my friend, I discovered my true feelings. i’m scared of success, and always have been. if I do what i’m doing, then there’s no pressure, no expectations, and no disappointments. if I just keep truckin’ along at my whatever-pace-I-feel pace, then the only thing I have to top is myself. selfish, huh?

therein lies the key! I am selfish when it comes to my writing. I write for myself. I write to get the words and phrases out of my head. I write for therapy and closure. and at the core of it all is the fact that I write so that I can see my thoughts. does that make sense? I write, so I can better understand myself. don’t get me wrong, I adore my readers, my fans, and my avid encouragers, but I write for me. I revel in the fact that someone finds my thoughts interesting enough to read, enjoy, laugh at, and comment on. without that validation, i’m certain that I would feel a twinge of rejection, but for every post I’ve written and shared, there are two more just like it that remain private.

thus far my posts have remained non-fiction glimpses into my personal life. i’m not ashamed or embarrassed about any of it. I did share a few things that I chose to withdraw at a later date, but that’s not because I was scared, nervous, or disgraced. I withdrew them because they contained information about other people and they aren’t as open as I am. c’est la vie, no?

another REAL reason that I have slowed in my writing is because as much as I have already shared, and want to continue to share, I feel that my children deserve a certain level of anonymity. I would like for them to grow up and make their own mistakes, publish their own stories, and not have the reputation, fame, or stigma as a blog post legend or celebrity. I want them to create their own pen name, secure their own web/blog site, and carve their own little place in the world wide web.

so, in retrospect, I have a few tangible and a few not-so-tangible reasons not to write. but they’re total malarkey in the grand scheme, even if they happen to be valid. i’ll just have to resort to writing nonfiction works about people not related to me or in my social circle. perhaps my grand hiatus is due to those very facts. perhaps I find it less entertaining and less pleasing to write because I want to write about my life and my kids, but at the same time I don’t…? quite the literary conundrum. I guess i’ll just have to get over it.

or give up on it.

(you know i’m not doing that).

me.

me.

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Armina and Evince Forward

Love for the Bereaved

Losing a loved one is nothing shy of being punched in the face. By someone bigger than you. Repeatedly. It’s a pain that strikes fast and hard and weighs heavy. Under the wrong circumstances, it can weigh a person down like an anchor and drag them to the depths of the bottomless ocean that is grief. In years past, I would have said that only “time” could heal the scar left by the death of a loved one. I know now, that while it certainly takes time, it also requires an insurmountable amount of Love and just as much Faith.

I met Armina in the summer of 2012. We worked for the same company, and coincidentally had a mutual friend. It was only a few months later that Armina told me that she wasn’t happy in California and that she and her husband: Kenny; would be relocating back to Philadelphia. I was a little shocked, but I wished her well and told her to stay in contact. We were soon Facebook friends, able to interact from a cyber distance. I don’t know exactly how long after we became Facebook friends, that Armina’s Facebook took me by surprise. I hadn’t been stalking her well enough and was confused by what I was seeing. It appeared that she was in grief, someone had passed away. I clicked onto her page directly and was immediately crushed by what I was reading. It brought tears to my eyes and I sobbed as I scrolled her timeline. Armina’s husband had died. Three weeks prior. I was devastated. I was devastated for her. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do or how I was supposed to respond.

Armina is a woman of faith. A Godly woman; who reads and follows the Good Book to the best of her ability. Each week after her husband passed away, Armina wrote a very eloquent homage to her husband, to her pain, about her Journey into and through grief. I am certain that her unabashed love for God himself manifested itself in her weekly updates. Sometimes it hurt to read, but it was insightful, inspiring, and lovely. With her permission I will share a post or two so that can read for yourself just how amazing she is.

• Armina Johnson
January 08, 2013 • Philadelphia, PA
It’s been one week since I lost the love of my heart. My heart is bleeding but I find comfort in God and his tender love for me. I have been blessed by so many ppl who have been by to sit with me for a while, bring me food, do my laundry, make sure I fall asleep and have been in the same spot when I wake. Have bought groceries for my fridge, and brought ingredients and cooked while talking to me about how much they loved Ken McElveen and the great memories that [they] have of him. These days are hard because I have come to the realization that he is truly asleep in the Lord and that this is not a dream. I have read all of your condolences over and over. I want to thank you all for such kind words of encouragement. I am asking that you continue to pray for me and my family. It is not easy loving a husband, son, brother and friend. Ken was loved by EVERYONE who knew him. Be blessed…

• Armina Johnson
February 18, 2013 • Blue Bell, PA
Week 7- Not getting better but placing my hand in the Master’s hand as I express how angry I am with Him. As I take a walk through this journey, my emotions are occurring spontaneously, and sometimes two or three at the same time. I’m learning that whatever my emotions lead me to feel, it’s okay to feel how I’m feeling. I think there are several emotions that I’m going to go through that are beyond my control. — with Ken McElveen.

• Armina Johnson
February 28, 2013 • Norristown, PA
Woke up this morning with a heavy heart. Going through grief is like going through a tunnel. The bad news is the tunnel is dark. I can appreciate that the good news is that once you enter into that tunnel, you are already on your way out. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2). How long, Lord, how long? This tunnel is so dark. My prayer today is for God to show me His light.

• Armina Johnson
March 6, 2013 • Norristown, PA
“Just give it time,” people say. That is misleading. Time alone will not heal my grief. God is the source of all healing. Making the decision to remain close to Him despite my emotional struggles is critical in my journey. Are you still praying with me? “I am the LORD, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).

• Armina Johnson
March 25, 2013 • Norristown, PA
Week 12: In the 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul said he felt great pressure and confusion, but God set a limit as to how far this would go: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). 12 weeks late…the pressure continues to seems unbearable at times but it has not crushed me. I am utterly confused and overwhelmed, but I have not given up. My distress is constant, but so is God. I have been forcefully struck down, but I am not destroyed. Keep praying. — with Ken McElveen.

• Armina Johnson
May 20, 2013 • Philadelphia, PA
Week 20: Ken McElveen This has been an AMAZING week thus far in this process. Seven straight days with constant HAPPINESS. However, depression is real and is a part of the process of grief. It is a normal feeling in a chaotic situation. Knowing when to seek help is key.

I understand that therapy is not for everyone but we have to, at some point, come to grips [when] this feeling is too much and I need to share it with someone. If one’s depression persists for months and becomes a way of life, it is no longer normal grieving. You do not have to live with this. If it goes on and on, get help. Talk to a Christian counselor or your pastor or a doctor. This type of depression is what doctors would call clinical depression, and there is help for that.

Dr. Ray Pritchard says, “Don’t give up. Pick up the phone. Call a friend. If that friend can’t help you, call another friend. If the people at one church cannot help you, call another Christian church.” Take action to find help for your depression. And if that fails, try again.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

Father, it is only by Your grace that I can stand through this trial. Open the doors of help for me and strengthen me to walk through them. Amen.

Don’t you want to just hug her? Having shared that, it’s imperative that you understand that Armina took a very deliberate approach to dealing with the loss of her husband. She felt her feelings, she shared her feelings, and she made no excuses for her bad days. She walked her walk and invited all of us to hold her hand. I was so very appreciative, but more, I was amazed. And through it all, she never took her eye off the Lord. Her Love of the Lord reigned supreme. At a time when most people question and forsake the Lord, Armina held fast and strong. A most commendable gesture, indeed. The kicker is that she meant it. She wasn’t going through the motions, or adhering to what she thought she was supposed to do. God is her Savior, and she held on to Him in her time of need. He didn’t let her down.

Someone else was equally amazed with her and his name is Evince. From their introduction, Evince was aware of Armina’s emotional state and he gave her what she needed. Whether it was an ear to bend, a hug to support her, words of encouragement or space; if she asked for it, he gave it to her. Their relationship started with a date to Cracker Barrel and has blossomed into a beautiful romance. Their courtship grew and matured before our Facebook eyes as it appeared that he not only swept her off her feet, but that she was open, receptive, and accepting.

• Armina Johnson
May 21, 2014
I Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.— with Evince Domingue.

• Armina Johnson
May 29, 2014
Good morning. I am Armina. I am not “the woman who lost her husband.” I refuse to allow my situation to determine”WHO” I am. Enjoy your day FB. ‪#‎100daysofhappiness‬

In September of 2014 Evince surprised Armina with a marriage proposal in front of close friends and family. Armina and Evince are now engaged and due to marry in August of this year!  What a testimony!!

• Armina Johnson
September 21, 2014
A few days ago my mom: Jontarr, challenged me to 3 days of thanksgiving…on the last day of the challenge, he asked and I said YES!— with Evince Domingue and 13 others.

Armina Johnson's photo. Armina Johnson's photo.
Armina Johnson's photo. Armina Johnson's photo. Armina Johnson's photo.
You, Rolanda, Imelda, Kenya and 325 others like this.

• Armina Johnson
September 22, 2014
Good morning. When I woke this morning, I had to triple check my finger. It seemed like a fairy tale that ends well. I was so over joyed to wake up to all these well wishes(and they are still coming). Thank you all for the warm wishes and your continue support. We are elated! Looking fwd to every moment. Our God is hmm hmm good. ‪#‎wontHedoit‬ ‪#‎prayerworks‬ ‪#‎thereishopefortheweary‬ ‪#‎Helovesmeenoughtoblessme‬ ‪#‎teamdj2015‬

Armina and Evince Forward

• Armina Johnson
November 27, 2014 • Philadelphia, PA
Good morning. If it is not a daily practice to express your gratitude, let today be the start of something new. I am a witness that it will change your life. Be safe today, and enjoy great fellowship with family and friends. IF you have nowhere to go today…let me know…we have plenty of food and love to share…NY see you soon.

Armina and Evince Future

• Armina Johnson
December 25, 2014
It’s been a bumpy road this week. Evince Domingue I am the pen and you are the highlighter. I draw the world, you make it brighter…Thanks for being my BFF and making my world brighter. ‪#‎iamcornyinlovewithhim‬‪ #‎teamdj2015‬ ‪#‎dare2loveIdid

imageArmina and Evince Stuntin
If you’ve never stepped out on faith, take it from me, now is the time to do it. if you’ve never believed, never trusted or never felt the hand of God in your life, now is the time to change your thoughts and feel His power. If He can do all of this for Armina, He can do it for you too. And if you need a bit of inspiration, read over Armina’s Facebook posts and see for yourself that she not only kept her eye on the Lord, she continued to remind us all to be blessed, to be grateful, and thankful. And she always wished us well.
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Armina, you are a walking testament to the mercy and power of the Lord! I know you don’t need to hear it from me to know, but honey, YOU. ARE. BLESSED. Thank you for blessing me with your friendship, your vision for our coincidental futures, and most importantly, thank you for entrusting me with your beautiful story. Congratulations on having the will to share, the power to struggle through, the discernment to open and receptive to God and His love allowing Evince and his love into your life and heart. Cheers!!! To a scintillating future.
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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Baking Blog 3: Product Review of Baking Buddies

Recently, I received an email that caught me off guard. It was a proposal. The New York Baking Company asked me to review their silicone baking cups (me? really? OMG!). After a few email exchanges, I received the silicone baking cups and after a few-too-many delays, I used them. Here is my review.

These are Baking Buddies silicone baking cups by the New York Baking Company:

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I will start my review with the package listed facts:

~ Standard Size
~ 100% Food Grade Silicone
~ Non Stick
~ BPA Free
~ Oven safe up to 475° / 250°C
~ Freezer / Microwave / Dishwasher Safe

Here is the link to the product:
http://www.amazon.com/Baking-Buddies-Reusable-Silicone-Guarantee/dp/B00EVQ167A

Here are the website listed features:

~ Never have to use environmentally damaging paper cups ever again! All our silicone baking cups are made from BPA free, FDA approved, eco-friendly, nonporous and stain proof silicone!
~ Flexible and easy release silicone! Perfect for dinner parties, just peel the side to pop out your muffin, cupcake, dessert….!
~ Nonstick silicone means cupcakes; muffins or other scrummy treats you knock up won’t fall apart when you pop them out! But what about all that mess? No need to worry, all our silicone bake ware products are dishwasher safe!

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I have used a few different silicone baking items in the past. I was not satisfied. The other brand of baking cups were thicker and heavier, but turned out to be flimsy. When they were filled with cupcake batter, the sides began to bow outward and the sides buckled when the heat of the oven softened the silicone. To worsen matters, the other brand of baking cups was not non-stick. The cakes had to be pried out, leaving sizable remnants of crumbs that then had to be scrubbed out. No. Benefits. Found.

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I can confidently admit that the New York Baking Company Baking Buddy Silicone Baking Cups are fantastic! They are brighter, lighter, thinner and more supportive than the others. The Baking Buddies held their shape when filled with heavy cornbread batter. They also maintained their perfect shape through baking and cooling.

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And to end, they proved to be 99% non-stick!

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In conclusion, I find Baking Buddies to be an awesome product! If you’re a baker and you make muffins, cupcakes, breads, or other individually proportioned desserts, you will appreciate the quality of this product. In an environment that’s riddled with side effects, toxicity and illness-inducing concerns; finding a reusable BPA free, FDA approved, eco-friendly product is a bonus.

I’m going to be a Baking Buddy for life! I wonder what other awesome products they might have!!🙂