Archive for June, 2012


June 29, 2012

I have read a lot of poetry.  Don’t know how things are now (must ask friends who are teachers) but when I was in school, we read a lot of English and American poets, beginning with Chaucer and a bit of Beowulf, traveling up to Shakespeare, and bouncing through Burns, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson and many more.  We read American poets, too, including Edgar Allen Poe,  Robert Frost and Emily Dickenson.  Poems written by some of these moved me greatly as a teen, and some still do–when I have time to read them.  I suspect they had a big part in birthing my love of what one could create with the written word.   Words from people you never knew and never would know could make your heart beat faster. They could make you sigh, cry, smile, and even laugh.  They could paint word pictures on your soul!

As an adult and a writer, I added current day American poets to my reading list, several of whom I’ve met–Maya Angelou being a special favorite. (Delightful woman who is, as you may know, Arkansas born.)  A current favorite is Miller Williams, who lives down the road a piece (well, actually about 40 miles) in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

One thing these people have in common is that their work speaks to me.  Not all poetry does that.  We used to live in Tulsa, OK, and for a time neighbors across the streets were English professors at the University of Tulsa. Both were poets.  I remember so well attending a launch party for a poetry chapbook published by the husband.  The Nehrings, of course, bought a copy, as did most of our neighbors.   Comparing notes later, we were all in agreement.  We didn’t understand a single poem in that book.  Wish I still had it, I’d give you an example.   Maybe the words made sense to  people who were part of an “in group” this poet gifted with his presence, or perhaps his students fawned over the writing.  Don’t know.  The book did give those of us who weren’t “in” the giggles.  I guess that was worth the price of the book.

So, as you can see, I can’t claim to be a connoisseur of the poet’s art.  Dare I say (stand back!) that I do know what I like?

When, as a mature adult, I began my writing career I enrolled in a two-week poetry writing class. I had already sold quite a few essays about the Ozarks to national publications, and decided I’d “upgrade” my abilities to include poetry.  Classes were held in Tulsa’s Philbrook Art Center, and one of our assignments was to write a poem about a work of art in the museum’s permanent collection.  Well now, I had, as a teen, worked at Philbrook, was certainly at home there, and ended up writing all my class poems about art or the museum itself.  I even had the clever idea that I would eventually create a chapbook of these Philbrook poems, and the museum would happily sell it in their gift shop.  (See, I was promotion-oriented, even then, but nothing came of the idea.)

The training as a poet still serves me well, however.  It did, indeed, give me more of a feeling for the power of words and, even to this day, I will re-work a prose sentence until, to me, it sings much as a line of poetry would.  I eventually sold a book of essays with many lines that were poetic (the evaluation of others, though I felt it myself) and, as a genre writer today, still spend time on singing sentences here and there.

One of my Philbrook Art Center poems eventually sold to The Christian Science Monitor and was published on their Home Forum page.  Since this is an international newspaper, a publisher in Germany saw the poem and, through the paper, contacted me.  He eventually published my poem in a book for advanced students of the English language in Germany.

So, brace yourself.  Here is that poem :   (You’ll find it written in paragraph form here since I can’t figure out how to put it in the form poetry usually takes without skipping two lines throughout.  Instead, I’ll simply put / where a line break should go.)

ART CENTER SONG, copyright 1987 by Radine Trees Nehring

Why is it so quiet?

An awed hush echoes in marble halls . . . /steps softly on gallery floors. / People nod heads, looking wise/ before images on stands and walls…/ sharing only the few words that viewing calls for!

Should it be this quiet?

Does the look of history and its art,/ or present paint and clay/ so awe us that we cannot speak aloud?/ Do we lack in knowing what to say/ or fear disturbing others/ who are meditating?

Are we quiet here

Because we think the world itself / would fall apart/ if we shouted, or danced, or/  spoke out loud, and from the heart/ praised the wonder of this art/ and laughed at seeing so much beauty!

The silence in these galleries is a song!



June 22, 2012

The story below this post, CHEERING FOR OTHERS, leads into this:

How many of you have mentoring stories?   Will you share them with us?

Writers tend to be self-focused, and often must be to properly tend to their profession.  (MY writing, MY work toward publication, MY book promotion, and so on.)  But is this the whole story?  Writers know it is not.

Because, as I have become increasingly aware over the years, writers are a community of mentors and helpers.

In meetings, get-togethers, conferences, magazine articles, on the Internet and through various web sites, blogs, groups, and lists, we share ideas on, not only basic writing and promotion, but on how to figure out this web site; how to work out this Internet problem; how to submit to X, Y, or Z; where to find a cover artist, a web designer, an editor.

And we support, we encourage, we mentor.

Did/do you have a special mentor?   I sure did and do.  Back in the late 1980’s after many of my essays and feature articles had been published, I enrolled in an adult no-credit writing class on book writing and publishing at what was then Tulsa Junior College.  The teacher, Peggy Fielding, sat on a stool in front of a room full of true novices and had us laughing in a couple of minutes. “And,” she told us, “I am assuming that every one of you knows how to write a simple, correct sentence in English.”  Then she went on to pour information, examples, and rules into our heads.  There were a lot of rules:  how to prepare a manuscript page, how to address the editor or agent whose name, in Peggy’s example, was always “Ms Poo-Poo.”  (And we darn sure better know that name and spell it correctly.)  On and on, in bits and pieces we learned the writing business.  We heard, over and over, “write every day.”  She so firmly believed in this that, at the beginning of each class, every single person present was called on and asked, “Did you write every day?”  We soon learned that we had better be ready to answer “yes” honestly, or at least lie about it.  Being  sick was no excuse.  “Fevered brains come up with some magnificent ideas.”  (Peggy lived up to this years later when, recovering from a serious illness, she wrote in her hospital bed.)

In her class, she somehow, magically,  made us believe we could do it.  We could, and would, be published.  By the end of that class each member had written a query letter that passed muster with Peggy and the rest of the class.  Each member had begun writing his or her book.  Each of us finished that class with a firm can-do feeling that (for me at least) lasted through future trials and rejections until–finally–I DID do it!  And so did many of my classmates.

Peggy and I became friends and fellow members of Tulsa Nightwriters, a support group for writers at all stages of their careers.  I am still a member of that group.  And, I ended up taking every single writing class Peggy offered, no matter what the subject.  I took the final classes after we had moved to Arkansas, commuting to Tulsa for every class session. Why?  Thinking back–beyond the knowledge, she was an almost constant cheer-leader in my writing life.  (And, in fact, still is.  I even have a photo of her on my desk, a serious, black and white picture of a stern-looking woman I can hear saying “Get busy, you can do it!”)

Okay, that’s my mentoring story.   Will you share your’s?



June 15, 2012

Frequently, on one or another of the on-line groups of writers and readers I take part in, someone will announce good news — a review full of praise,  good publicity, or, perhaps most important of all, the acceptance of a book manuscript by a publisher.  And other authors in the group cheer, sometimes publicly, sometimes only in our own thoughts, but we are happy for the happy author.

Because we know what it’s like.  I do.  I remember very well the phone call from New York that came to our home on a Sunday evening in 1993.  The voice said:  “Radine, I want to talk to you about your lovely book.”

Exhultation!  The long wait, the letters of rejection were done with.  My words were going to become a REAL BOOK.

Around sixteen years ago, just after that first published book of mine had come out, the chamber of commerce in our small town asked me to teach a writing class.  In fear and trembling I accepted, and, a month or so later, faced a class of beginning writers. One member of the class was a woman named Lou, and, like the others, she had come to find out what possibilities there might be for her in the world of writing.

The class went well, thank goodness, and after it was over, my students wanted to stay together, so we formed a writing critique group and began meeting regularly.

Over the years, members came and went.  A couple of sincere ones achieved publication, others moved away, some decided the writing world wasn’t for them.  But in the group, a constant, were my husband and myself.  And Lou.

At some time during this period, Lou found out she would soon be deaf.  She learned sign language and began helping deaf children in school and elsewhere. She decided to write a book featuring a deaf child.  She wanted hearing children to know what being deaf was like, and also to learn that, except in just one way, deaf children were just like children everywhere.

Over the years, her book about Ricki moved from a simple sharing of mild events in a young girls’ life to a story about challenges and victories, about sharing and caring.  She was finally ready to  send queries to agents and publishers. She began accumulating rejections. Eventually she became discouraged, wanted to give up. I told her that the Ricki  book was too important to give up on!

And, in the meantime, the writing group continued, a constant in her life and mine.  (During those years I wrote and sold seven additional books to publishers.)

Others in the group wrote books, completed them, began sending submissions to publishers.

And then . . . then . . .  last night, Lou, and one other member of our group, announced, in surprisingly quiet and shy tones, that they had received contract offers from publishers.

I already knew.  Both told me days before. I had already done my grinning and cheering and happy dancing.

So we can believe in ourselves, in writing, and in miracles, can’t we?   After hard work, of course.  After, perhaps, dozens of rejections, after discouragement and doubt, and, well, after sixteen long years, the miracle happens.

What about you?  Could you stick to a dream for sixteen years?  Or longer?


June 9, 2012

Most of you have probably read about Nature Deficit Disorder, or seen programs about it on television.  (Maybe it’s too bad we’ve come to identify so many problems as a “disorder” of one type or another, but at least that’s less negative than something like “Nature Deficit Illness” or “Attention Deficit Illness.” )  In any case, nature deficit is aligned with obese children–and fat adults, too.

The English word “nature” comes from Latin “nasci,” to be born. I guess that suggests  our roots in nature go back to our birth, beginning, and awakening.  But, the human body itself did not evolve amid concrete, asphalt, and steel.  Those things did not  exist when our distant ancestors roamed the land in search of food and shelter.  Our background is in nature, our “natural” tendency is to awaken and be more fully alive in nature.  Even today, many people who live in paved-over city areas head out into nature whenever the opportunity is offered.  Good for them!  Children are being encouraged to head outdoors for periods of running, climbing, and exploring, at least when wary parents can manage to allow this.  In fact those wary parents  would do well to spend more time in nature themselves.

I have lived outside some of the time for most of my life, and I survived and thrived.  (See my non-fiction book, “DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow,” for more information.)

Until recently, when the demands of a full-time writing career took over both our lives, my husband and I grew most of our food, climbed our hills, roamed the forest we live in and,  on vacation, camped out in living nature.

My first published works as a writer were all about nature. They were non-fiction; and essays and articles about outdoor life in the Ozarks–everything from making a garden on rocks and clay, to confronting snakes, ticks, and chiggers without trauma–appeared in magazines and newspapers around the United States, and even in some other countries, for many years. I was identified fully as a nature writer, and DEAR EARTH is made up almost wholly of my experiences among wild things.

Then my career evolved into news broadcasting, and I spent more and more time in meetings, and interviews. Nature appeared in my fifteen-minute news programs only rarely.

Another evolution came when I began writing fiction.  But, instead of continuing the evolution away from the natural world, it took me right back into it.  Plots in most of my mystery novels involve activities and events among Ozarks trees, hills and hollows.  Nature even provides clues in several of the stories.  (Most strongly in A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, and A RIVER TO DIE FOR.

As I write this, I have decided my next series novel will have to take Carrie, Henry,  some of their friends–along with this author–back out into the woods!  I hope you can join me.

So, how do you feel about “nature writing?”   If you are a writer, what place does the natural world– the world of wild things–have in your work?