Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rictameter of the Day: Failure Fear

Failure Fear

Things undone or
Unattempted, large or
Small dreams unfulfilled or left to
Be replaced by realistic goals that
Take the place of grander daydreams.
Does that mean we failed? No,
That's not really

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, May 30, 2008

Rictameter of the Day: Eating Joy

Eating Joy

Joy of life or
Challenge? All that time to
Buy and cook, perhaps, or find the
Perfect place to eat fast food or great meals
Cooked by others while we chat with
Friends or view the scene or
Muse alone while

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rictameter of the Day: Daylight Renewal

Daylight Renewal

Creeping slowly
Over darkened buildings
Ready to awaken, face a
New day, new activities, new challenge,
New problems. Only a new day
Can bring new answers, hope.
Bright future looms,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rictameter of the Day: Closet Clutter

Closet Clutter

Neat and clean? No,
Dark abyss, hole where things
Unwanted go, forgotten 'til
It's moving day, that dreaded moment when
Our messy lives are opened up
To reveal past errors,
Hidden chamber,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rictameter of the Day: Book Fair

Book Fair, Printers' Row June 7-8

Book fair:
Fun for all, but
How I wish I were a
Famous, featured auth0r, one who
Brings large crowds to buy, admire, sing praises
For golden words of wisdom. Still,
I'm satisfied t0 sell
My few, enjoy,
Book fair.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Monday, May 26, 2008

More Exercise for the Mind: A Rictameter About Awards

Suddenly, I had the urge to write another rictameter. Until I come up with another crazy idea, I think I'll return to the old one. This time, I think I'll try using the letters of the alphabet for inspiration. I more or less got the idea from, at least the alphabet part. As usual, I invite you to try the same thing in any form you choose, poetic or otherwise.

About Awards

Major, minor,
Contests, honors, trophies,
Silly, serious, monetary,
Feel-good gestures, self-promotion, surprise:
No matter what the source of praise
We all love accolades,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Power of Writing

"Hungry Minds: Tales from a Chelsea soup kitchen" is an article in the May 26, 2008, issue of The New Yorker by Ian Frazier. This is a fascinating story about "the largest soup kitchen" in New York City, at The Church of the Holy Apostles at Twenty-eighth Street and Ninth Avenue in Manhattan.

For fourteen springs, Frazier and others have conducted a weekly writers' workshop there after lunch. In those fourteen years, about four hundred soup kitchen guests have participated. Using optional topics such as "How I Came to New York," "The Other Me," and "My Best Mistake," workshop participants write for about forty-five minutes and then read their pieces aloud: standard writing workshop precedure in a non-standard setting. The groups held public readings each year for audiences of seventy-five to one hundred.

Frazier relates the substance of some memorable workshop writings, including one man's most important moment: his attempting suicide by jumping into the East River. A former backup dancer wrote a song about the soup kitchen.

This article is not only about the writers' workshop. It is also about the history of The Church of the Holy Apostles, its leaders, and its struggles to survive, as well as a history of a Manhattan neighborhood. While Frazier's article is well worth reading for those interested in any of those topics, the part that interested me most included this line:

"Somehow, writing even a few lines makes the person who does it more substantial and real." Their writing makes the soup kitchen guests memorable, and on a mild late May evening, when the church doors are open, "For a moment, the whole city seems to flow in with the air." What a marvelous way to express the power of diversity and compassion--and of writing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My New Book is Now Available!

Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters (Lulu, 2008), which got its start right here on this blog, is now available from the publisher. It's a little book, just 56 pages, and it sells for $9.95.

I've had a lot of fun writing my rictameters; if you haven't tried writing poetry yet, why not? Anyway, this is a quick read. I'd appreciate any reviews anyone cares to write.

This book won't appear on or other web sites for some time (it will show up eventually), but for now, it's available from Lulu. There's a link in the sidebar to the left.

Update 6/18/08:

Elder Expectations is now available at as well.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Good News on the Writing Front!

Yesterday I attended the Illinois Woman's Press Association's annual awards luncheon at the Union League Club in Chicago. Again I was pleased to receive two first-place awards, this time for my second book, Seniorwriting: A Guide for Seniors Who Want to Write and for one of my eGenerations columns, "Sharing your Experiences, Memories, and Stories."

I also received a second place award and an honorable mention, respectively, for two of my "Never too Late!" blog posts: a book review, "Retirement Planning: Looking Beyond the Money" and my post, "On Laundry and 'Going Green.'"

Here are the judges' comments on the first-place winners:

On Seniorwriting: "A very fine step by step guide for any senior who has a story to tell and who wants to write it down. Practical, interesting, engaging."

On "Sharing you Experiences, Memories, and Stories": "This is a terrific guide to self-publishing that sets out to answer the question 'What should I do with my writing? How can I preserve and share it?' In a crisply organized, smoothly written column, Styne takes her readers on a quick tour of publishing options ranging from blogging and participating in online communities, to personal printing and distribution of written pieces, to Web sites that manufacture books on order and a company that makes an audio kit for recording one's life story. Filled with good advice, this highly readable column offers writers a variety of ways to publish their writing."

The judges had good things to say about my other winners, too. About the book review, they said, "This review of the book "Your Retirement, Your Way," by Alan Bernstein and John Trauth (McGraw-Hill, 2007) raises a number of important issues that should be considered by people planning to reitre. It's not only about whether one has saved enough money, says Styne, noting the book's subtitle: 'Why it takes more than money to live your dream.' Savings and financial issues aside, Styne reflects on chapters about the importance of setting new life goals and planning the next phase of one's life, 'Preparing Psychologically for Change,' and 'Determining How You Want to be Remembered.' The soon-to-be-retired reader will find a number of helpful ideas on how to make the transition smoother and more rewarding."

On the blog post "On Laundry and 'Going Green'": "Mulling the inconveniences of being green, the author considers the suggestion to hang laundry outside to dry in order to save the energy used by clothes driers. In her humorous, unsentimental voice, this Chicago retiree draws a line in the sand. 'Those who grew up on farms (as I did) or in small towns,' she says, 'often remember sweet-smelling, right-off-the-clothesline garments fondly, but not me. To me, hanging clothes out on the line was a chore, just another of my mother's tedious responsibilities.'"

Thank you, judges, for your kind comments. Now the first-place winners go on to the National Federation of Press Women's national contest. I doubt that I'll win at that level (I did win one first there for my blog, "Never too Late!" last year and a third for my book Reinventing Myself).

These may strike some among you as minor awards, but to me they represent welcome recognition of my writing in 2007. I've never expected to become a famous, best-selling author, but I delight in these small triumphs. They support my basic belief that seniors should follow their passions, whatever they are. Mine is writing.

To read my winning entries:

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Photo by Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas: Seniorwriter at the luncheon, with fellow Chicago Cultural Center volunteer Joyce Dunn (left).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Few Thoughts About Travel Writing

Every time I take a trip, and I've taken many of them, someone asks me to report on it or write about it. I've never been sure how to respond. I plan to study the art of travel writing more sometime, but as of now, I don't do much of it.

Travel writers seem to lead interesting lives: they sometimes enjoy free trips in exchange for articles designed to encourage others to visit certain places. That's fine, but for me, travel is about experiencing and enjoying--and as I grow older, sometimes about enduring physical hardship.

I have enjoyed many travel books and articles, especially those with fabulous photos of exotic places. However, I have never aspired to write such a book or article. My only real travel writing experience involved my husband's and my motorcycle journey in the former Soviet Union in 1990. I wrote about it for a Wright College publication, and I reprinted it in my first book, Reinventing Myself. At the time, motorcycle touring in Russia was unusual, and I kept good notes during the trip.

Today, when it seems that almost everyone travels everywhere, I have come to realize that there's little I can add to the fine travel writing that appears regularly. I have resolved to blog a bit about my trips in an impressionistic way. For my recent South Africa trip, for example, I have already posted a few pictures of the impressive animals in their natural habitat. Soon, I intend to write a bit about South Africa as a country today, and then I'll discuss the problems of elder travel. I'll share a few more photographs as well.

If any of this interests you, see my other blog, "Never too Late!" (There are various links here.) Meanwhile, what are your thoughts on travel and travel writing?

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photo by the author

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I'm Back!

Hello again. I returned from my trip to South Africa (and Swaziland) late yesterday, and I need a recovery period. One of the things I'm thinking about is how and what to write about my trip, which was wonderful but physically taxing.

As a preview, one of my favorite features of the trip was an open-vehicle safari through Kruger National Park (followed by another on a tour bus, but it wasn't quite the same). I was actually able to see all of Africa's "Big Five" animals: Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Cape Buffalo, and Rhinoceros. Of course you can see all or most of the above in any zoo, but somehow it isn't quite the same. In Kruger, the animals have all the rights and the right of way. It's as close as I'll ever get to their natural habitat.

Since I use an instant digital camera, I'm not confident of having good photos of all of the big five, but you'll see a few photos here anyway, as soon as I can sort them out.

Check out my other blog, "Never too Late!" in a few days. I'll have a lot to say there about the difficulties of travel for elders who aren't very agile. Still, I'm glad I went!