Category Archives: History/Genealogy

Write Anywhere #74

We’ve reached the last part of my August travels. It’s been a wonderful journey that I’ve enjoyed reliving by sharing it with you here on the blog. I know most of you have probably caught up with me at this point, but just in case, here is how the adventure went down:

Driving down Interstate 44 towards Tulsa, I reflected upon all my experiences over the past week. No matter how much you want to shield your children from hurt in this world, it’s going to happen in one form or another. As devastating as their experience was, I was proud of how the kids were handling it. I knew they would be okay.

I also discovered  Continue reading

Write Anywhere #56

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Write Anywhere Venues have been a great way to continue to challenge myself to find creativity in all kinds of places, both mundane and unusual. For me, it has helped with my sometimes crushing procrastination by helping me to realize I don’t have to have ‘just perfect’ conditions to write. It’s also shown me that I am creative even when I don’t feel it so much. I love how being intentional about finding different places to write has helped me to mine my own emotional and creative depths.

I found myself experiencing a lot of emotion at this week’s Write Anywhere venue. In honor of Veteran’s Day, I wanted to find a place that symbolized the honor and appreciation we as a country feel for our veterans. I didn’t realize how it would affect me personally.

Write Anywhere#56: Submarine

U.S.S. Batfish

A half hour’s drive south on the turnpike brought me to one of the most unusual attractions in Oklahoma and the most unusual place I’ve written thus far. Right after you cross over the Arkansas River heading towards Muskogee is the War Memorial Park and Military Museum featuring the U.S.S. Batfish, a World War II submarine.

Memorial plaques for submarines that never made it home leading to the U.S.S. Batfish

The museum is a great collection of memorabilia from virtually all the wars the U.S. has been involved with, from the Revolutionary War to San Juan Hill to Afghanistan.

On the grounds you can see the rusted mast of the U.S.S. Oklahoma. The Oklahoma was one of three battleships, along with the U.S.S. Arizona and U.S.S. Utah that were sunk at Pearl Harbor and never returned to sea duty.

It’s an interesting story how a submarine came to settle in landlocked Oklahoma. After veterans worked with the government to sponsor a decommissioned submarine to bring to Oklahoma for memorial/educational purposes, they had to tow it from New Orleans up the Mississippi River through the McClellan-Kerr Navigation Channel to the Arkansas River to the Port of Muskogee and flood the field where it now sits. It’s still near the river and it’s moored, I suppose in case the river rises.

The U.S.S. Batfish is a Baleo-class submarine over 300 feet long, weighing in at just about 700 tons, and fully armed carried 24 torpedoes. She had a proud history serving in the World War II Pacific theatre and brought her crew home.

Many other submarines were not as fortunate. The war memorial features a bronze plaque for each of the 52 submarines lost at sea during World War II, listing its accomplishments, the circumstances of its sinking, and those that know eternally stand duty. I decided to read the majority of them, and it was a sobering experience.

Especially poignant were several stories of subs blown out of the water, a group of sailors somehow surviving that, only to find themselves floating in the middle of the Pacific with no supplies and no way of contact. Of those sailors, a scant few survived to be picked up by the enemy and put in prisoner of war camps. Of those only one or two lived to tell the tale.

After reading about all these brave men, I boarded the Batfish. What is so unique about the sub is that they have kept it pretty much the way it was. There are no signs telling you about what things are or what occurred in which area. (You can take a virtual tour on their website to get more detailed information.) No video mini-documentaries like they have in many museums. It’s just the sub. It still smells of machine oil.

I was the only one on the sub for the majority of my visit. Hauntingly quiet but for the creaks of your own footsteps and the groaning of the metal in the Oklahoma wind, it was like descending to another world.

view as you begin your descent into the submarine

I have trouble imagining how a crew of a hundred+ men lived and worked in such a small and poorly-lit space. It must have been perpetually hot and stuffy.

cramped quarters

Stepping through a hatch, I had to duck and in some of the spaces I couldn’t hold my purse next to me and make it through.

sleep tight

The men must have become so close, counting on one another for survival, for literally the air they breathed.

It is quiet now but there must have never been a lack of noise with the engines, the instruments, and the men themselves. Men worked in shifts and many of them shared the same bunk, but at different shift times, because there was not enough room for a bed for every sailor.

Every moment was shared, there was no helping it, even the most private ones.

One of the biggest spaces was the galley and the crew’s mess. The tables and benches were built-in, as well as the checker boards.

galley

crew’s mess hall

Something I wouldn’t have thought of had a place of its own.

songs of home

What songs played on that record player? Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, The Andrews Sisters?  What did the sailors, deep in the depths of the ocean, far away from all they knew, waiting for confrontation with the enemy, think of when they listened to songs from home?

maneuvering room

aft torpedo bay

I sat down at one of the galley tables. I imagined sailors writing to their sweethearts or their mothers or their children at these tables. Writing lines to loved ones they might never see again. It seemed like a sacred place as I scribbled some lines in my notebook:

Patrolling the black ocean night
Both predator and prey
Alert to the sounds of war
Sharing the sweat of their brow
Prepared to sacrifice blood
Secret tears shed for heart’s sorrow
While patrolling the black ocean night

If you want to read some poignant words from soldiers, I suggest this article:

If You’re Reading This…

My grandfather served in World War II as an aviation mechanic aboard the U.S.S. San Jacinto. Visiting the U.S.S. Batfish helped me gain a greater appreciation for him, my Keeper Hubby Marine and all those who have served our country. I hope it’s inspired you as well.

Thank you to all veterans.

Where did you write this week?

Question: Did you or a relative serve our country in the military? Tell us about it.

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Election Day 2012 Poll Results

“We the People…”

Has this election cycle gotten you in a tizzy? I made a point not to comment on all the hubbub. I wasn’t doing too bad until today. Today I must respond…

*****

Dear Complainers, Whiners, and People Being Rude to The VOLUNTEER Poll Workers on this Election Day 2012 because you stood in line for 15 minutes and they took too long to look up your name and you had to get your driver’s license out of your wallet and you couldn’t get your regular seat in Starbucks because of it:

I voted. I was in line behind several of you. I had to make time in my day to do it just like you did.

I took time to study the candidates and the issues. I endured insufferable commercials, a tree’s worth of candidates’ mail flyers and hateful rhetoric at the speed of social media for months.

I stood in line for a few minutes. It took a little effort. I voted.

I prayed for wisdom before I voted. I wasn’t forced to. I chose to. I could choose to gather with others who wanted to pray if I wanted. We would pray and worship, unmolested. We wouldn’t be dragged into the street to be beaten or killed.

My polling place is so close to my house I could walk there in ten minutes. I can also drive if I wanted. My polling place is inside a beautiful, warm senior care facility. It used to be in a large church. In the past my polling place has been in public school buildings and grocery stores. I didn’t have to walk over unpaved roads or through jungles or deserts for days to get to my polling place. I voted.

I wasn’t prevented from voting because of my gender. My great-grandmother couldn’t vote on her 18th birthday or her 21st or her 25th. That was only 92 years ago.

I wasn’t stopped from voting because of my race or what ethnic group I belong to or what part of the country I live in. I didn’t have to worry my neighbors would slaughter me and my family because I was in the minority and the government encouraged them to.

I didn’t have to bribe anyone to get a ballot. I only had to show proof I was me and sign my name on a dotted line. I wasn’t stopped from voting because I lack a certain amount of education. No one asked me if I had a grasp on all the issues or made me take a test. I voted.

I wasn’t stopped by machine guns or machetes or mobs with fists who didn’t agree with my vote. I wasn’t worried my vote put my family in danger, to be carried off in the dead of night.

I could wear whatever I wanted to my polling place. Makeup or no makeup. High heels or jeans. Straight hair or curls. I could show my head and face in the light of day without fear.

I read a book while I waited in line. I could read any book I wanted. I could read and no one would shoot me in the head because I could.

I could share publicly who I was voting for without worrying my house would be burned down or my livelihood taken away.

My children are old enough to vote. They will vote (or not) as they choose. I could have one or ten children, or no children, not as a government tells me I must. And those children may vote.

I voted because I can.

I voted because of Jefferson and Adams and Lincoln and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Frederick Douglass and Theodore Roosevelt and Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul and Rosa Parks and Ellis Island and sod busters and 49′ers and coal miners and assembly line workers and hash slingers and Woody Guthrie and Elvis and Bessie Smith and Bob Dylan and Steve Jobs and Billy Graham.

I voted because of San Francisco and Joplin and the Lower Ninth Ward and Times Square. I voted because of Lexington and Concord, Vicksburg, the Alamo, San Juan Hill, Pearl Harbor, and Normandy. I voted because of the Beirut Barracks, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the U.S.S. Cole, the Twin Towers, and Benghazi.

I voted because of Sarina Butcher and Anthony Del Mar Peterson and men and women who volunteer to protect my right to, with their lives if need be.

I voted for my 15-month old grandson, in the hope that government of the people, for the people, and by the people will not perish from the earth and he will be able to have this privilege. I voted.

I’m sorry you felt so put-upon and inconvenienced today.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Signed, A Grateful American

*****

My only political rant this year. Thank you for your patience.

Did you vote today? Want to get your political frustrations out one final time? Feel free to post in the comments.

Working Moms, Wrinkles and What Makes A Strong Woman

We’re taking a little side trip on the blog today.

It’s been an interesting news week for women. Some of the stories include:

CNN Commentator says Ann Romney Shouldn’t Advise Husband Because She’s Never Worked Outside of the Home

Ashley Judd Writes Op-Ed Responding to the Obsession with her ‘Puffy Face’ and the Objectification of Women

Pregnant Jessica Simpson Called Fat On The Today Show by Expert Doctor

Military Rape Victims Discharged Because They Have a ‘Personality Disorder’

Romney Claims 92% of Job Losses in the Economy Affect Women

How Hilary Clinton Got Hot After Years of Being Stuck with a Cold Image  (I didn’t make that headline up)

Do you think the media might consider Harry Reid’s hotness factor? Sigh.

I thought it might be a good time to dig in the archives and share this post about what makes a strong woman.

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The protagonist in my WIP is a German-American woman living in the 1890’s who overcomes several obstacles in her life. (What would a good novel be without a few obstacles?) Death, disaster and betrayal are just a few. She rises above this to do something extraordinary for the times in which she lives. As the story shapes itself on the page, I’ve been thinking about the attributes of what society considers a ‘strong woman’. What are they?

Is it self-sacrifice?

Mother Teresa, image courtesy Evert Odekerken, Creative Commons

Is it physical strength?

image courtesy United States Air Force, public domain

Is it the ability to succeed in a man’s world?

Supreme Court of the United States, 2005, public domain

Is it being a leader?

Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King, 1955, public domain

Is it facing sorrow with grace?

image courtesy Oxfam East Africa, Creative Commons

Is it living life her way instead of society’s way?

Lady Gaga, Italy, June 2011, image courtesy Sricsi, Creative Commons

Is it living life in the face of death?

image courtesy mav, Creative Commons

Is it living ordinary life?

mother and child in Mumbai, Creative Commons

Question: What character traits would you list to describe a ‘strong woman’? Why do you think we are still struggling with how women are represented in today’s culture?

Start Your Week Off Write: Writing Characters with Accents

Hugh Laurie, image courtesy Kristin Dos Santos, Creative Commons

I’m not a big House fan. In fact I’m not big on medical dramas in general, but I admit I do tune in to House periodically just to hear the dialogue. I think Hugh Laurie does a flawless American accent. Many people in America don’t know he is British, although he’s had a long and brilliant career there. His speaking pattern is also perfect for his character, Dr. Gregory House. Flippant, snarky, grating and growling, Laurie nails the character vocally and we are captivated. You don’t get taken out of the story when Laurie lapses into his native accent because he never does.

This is not the case with a lot of other film accents.  Some notables include Sean Connery in The Wind and The Lion where he plays a Middle Eastern Berber mufti with his obligatory Scottish accent. Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson played Russians in K19: The Widowmaker sounding like an American and an Irishman and it distracts from the intense storyline. The crown princes of distracting accents in film are Kevin Costner and Keanu Reeves. Even the stellar Robert DeNiro has an accent issue in the film The Mission. An eighteenth-century Spanish Jesuit speaking like a Bronx native? But we forgive because hey, it’s DeNiro.

"All I want is 'Enry 'Iggins 'ead."

Why am I thinking about accents? My historical fiction has several and I’m working on keeping the flavor of the characters’ speech without throwing the reader out of the story. My protagonist is a daughter of German immigrants. Her nemesis, her sister-in-law, is lower class Irish. The protagonist’s mentor is a Kentucky woman of pioneer stock and the protag’s husband is a German/Russian immigrant who grew up in New Orleans. Later on she’ll run into college-educated New Englanders, Native Americans and a family of Chinese immigrants. What a cast of accents! Their differing backgrounds are a subplot of the story, so I need to show their mastery of English or lack thereof without getting so phonetically crazy or stereotypically offensive that it becomes hard to read.

Mark Twain was a master of dialect, and in the forward of Huckleberry Finn explains that the use of approximately six dialects was purposeful. Harper Lee reflects the dialectic variations of her Southern characters in To Kill a Mockingbird and the reader is drawn into the story rather than being rattled out by distracting bits of dialogue. If not handled correctly, you can have a dialectic hot mess, as in a novel I recently read about Italian immigrants in New York at the turn of the century. The accents were so overdone in the writing that it took away from the story, and had the added effect of making tragic parts of the story seem comical.

Margo L. Dill gives a great piece of advice, saying you can use key vocabulary that give a flavor of a time or accent without resorting to phonetic accents. “If your character is from England, you write his English accent without spelling out his accent. Instead of your English character saying, “I have to call my attorney immediately.” He would say, “I must ring my solicitor.” In the first example, you hear an American accent. In the second, you hear the English accent – just by using key vocabulary words.” Read Margo’s entire post: 5 Historical Fiction Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them.

Want some more advice for writing character accents and dialects? Check out:

Question: What’s the worst movie accent you’ve heard?