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Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pittsburgh Magazine wants a review copy of Stories of Strength

I just received an e-mail from the book review editor for Pittsburgh Magazine. She wants a review copy of Stories of Strength for consideration in the February issue. She said, “I feel that this book is something that our readers would enjoy, as well as appreciate because the proceeds are for a good cause.”

I requested a review copy from Jenna and she’s ordered a copy to be sent Priority Mail. Keep your fingers crossed. Pittsburgh Magazine has a circulation of 75,000 in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, Northern West Virginia, and Western Maryland. Keep your fingers crossed.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Don't Waste Precious Life

The holiday season is quickly approaching and what better way to share my thoughts than with a blast from the past. While sorting through the many essays and articles I’ve written over the years, I stumbled across one I had written 20 years ago. Two decades may have gone by, but the sentiment is still there.

Don’t Waste Precious Life
By Joanne Markle (Kiggins) © 1985

More than $30 billion is spent on food, gifts, and decorations each year during the holiday season. That is what a commentary stated on a Pennsylvania television station. Thirty billion dollars for one day of the year! Christmas should be celebrated every day of the year. Not the commercialized Christmas most everyone has fallen into--the pattern of the Christmas tree, buying gifts that over exceed spending limits (gifts you’re not sure the other person needs, or even wants, for that matter), and eating until your stomach bursts.

Don’t get me wrong, all this is fine, if you’re extremely wealthy and could stand to gain a few pounds, but what happened to the old-fashioned Christmas spirit? Lately it seems hard to come by. What is the old-fashioned Christmas you may ask? Well, to me, and probably the eons of generations before me, it means love, peace and good health. What really makes Christmas special is that it is the time of the year that everyone remembers these few simple values of life. It’s just a shame these values cannot be sealed in the heart for renewal each and every day.

Maybe that sounds crazy from someone of my generation, but as far back as I can remember, people celebrated holidays much differently when I was a youngster.

With snow falling outside, as I cuddle up on my couch next to the warmth of my fireplace, watching the bright flames flicker shadows on my living room wall, I get a feeling of peace and it reminds me of how things used to be--chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all that mushy nonsense I enjoy so much, but most people have seemed to lay aside. I think how lucky I am to be here, and how, too often, many people take advantage of the fact that tomorrow is another day, because you really never know if tomorrow will come.

The Christmas season seems to have the same effect on people, as does the crackling fire in a fireplace. It reminds them that it is a time of joy, peace, love, and giving. Unfortunately, for most people, the hypnotic effect lasts only until the hangover relents on New Year’s Day.

Many years ago, I came very close to death. After several extensive surgeries and many months in the hospital, I was told by my doctor not to hold back my feelings. At the time, I was 18. It was at that time I began writing a novel. I would write every chance I had: lunch hours, breaks and every opportunity that came about to have a pen in my hand. I had one goal in mind: To reach into the reader’s mind and soul and touch their heart in a way that may help them understand themselves and others around them. Silly you say? Maybe.

A coworker once asked me what I was writing. She laughed at me when I told her that I was writing a book.

“What could you possibly have to write about? You’re only eighteen,” she said. I handed her the first three chapters of my book and said, “I have probably had more happen to me in my eighteen years than you could ever dream of in your entire life.”
With tears running down her cheeks, she handed the handwritten pages back to me and said, “For as young as you are, you’ve sure learned a lot about life the hard way.”

To be frank with you, my life had not exactly turned for the better after that brief discussion. I had stomach cancer at eighteen and was only given six months to live. But I’m still here. I’ve gone through two bad marriages and am now disabled from a stroke and Fibromyalgia. Young you say? Yes, too young to have so many problems. I agree. I don’t dwell on my life’s problems and won’t go into the many aspects of them here. I didn’t ask for the life I’ve had. I didn’t cause the life I’ve had, but I did learn that I could change each and every day for the rest of my life.

In a way, both my own life’s experiences and my doctor’s advice years ago made me a better person. I would like to think that in the past thirty-five years, I have had a different attitude about life and because of that, I am able to see things just a little more optimistically than most people. In addition, because of that, I’ve learned to appreciate the world and the people in it for what they are and not for what they could be. I’ve found that people, for the most part, are very friendly and understanding, and would like to think that they would open their hearts any day of the year, not just on holidays.

John Wesley wrote: “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

This short, but sweet phrase is tacked safely on my bulletin board to remind me everyday that everyone in the world has a reason to be on this earth. It tells me that if I follow these simple suggestions each and every day of my life that I will be a better person, not for what I’ve accomplished, but for the good I may have done and the hearts I may have touched throughout my life. Today, I still write with that same enthusiasm and that same goal. If I can touch even one heart, then I have succeeded as a writer. That, to me, is worth more than any material gift I could ever give or receive. That, to me, in not only the spirit of Christmas, but also the spirit of life.

I can only hope that I have followed the lines carefully each day--for life is short and you never know when, where or how your tomorrow will end.

Don’t waste precious life. For those who “put off until tomorrow” because tomorrow’s another day, my advice to you is: Do it now, for tomorrow may never come. Celebrate life everyday! Extend a helping hand to a stranger in need, care for a child who has no family, visit someone in a nursing home, but do it on days other than holidays. You’ll not only feel better, but you also could be doing all the good you can for someone in more ways than you can imagine. You may be giving them a gift they have always needed...Love. And isn’t that the true meaning of life?

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Stories of Strength Anthology Still Strong.

Stories of Strength is now available through
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and BN.com!

Stories of Strength is getting great reviews everywhere! This review on "Compulsive Reader" is just one of many. I was in tears reading this review and nearly flooded the room when I’d seen my name and my essay “Perseverance” mentioned.

The holidays are just around the corner. Please help us help others. Those struck by Hurricane Katrina and other disasters are still in need. Or order your copy here.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Euphoric and Melancholy Moods

Today is one of those days I’d like to snuggle into a warm blanket, fall asleep beside the warm glow of the fire in the fireplace and not worry if I sleep straight through the day until morning. My weather update says it’s 27 degrees and feels like 17. Ha! Those weather station people are not standing on my porch! It feels more to me like below zero. I think I have molasses in my veins.

At 7:00 a.m. snow fell on this little mountain. The first snow always puts me in a euphoric and melancholy mood. Happy, yet sad, you ask? Yes. Happy because I enjoy the season changes and choose to live in a region where each is as breathtaking as the next.

I love the sweet fresh spring air, the soft pitter pat of spring showers and the new life spring brings forth.

Summer never seems long enough to me; I live for the sweltering heat of summer days, which warms my heart and my bones and opens the beauty of the perennials.

Fall is breathtaking here; the golden orange, yellow and crimson colors of the autumn foliage are more beautiful than a Thomas Kincaid painting.

And winter, though I don’t take well to cold, there is nothing like the picturesque beauty of a heavy snow tugging at pine branches or the fluffy light snow piling on the outreached limbs of proud strong oaks.

This picture yet to come. I need to find it in my archives. ;)
But here's one to hold you over.

This morning, by the time I grabbed my camera, the snow melted. The ground and trees aren’t cold enough yet for the snow to stick. In the few minutes it took to pull out the camera and take off the lens cap, the sun peeked through the clouds and I missed my shot. So yes, I’m a bit sad that I’d lost the opportunity. First snow shots, along with first spring blooms, first summer blooms and birthday cakes are the many things my daughters make fun of me about. “Mom, how many pictures of birthday cakes do you need?” Angel asks me every year. I respond with a chuckle, “Every cake is different. And besides, who asked me for all my old pictures from my album?” That’s another whole story I don’t even want to get into. I knew I should have made triples of pictures taken years ago. I do now, just in case.

Anyway, back to the picturesque beauty and my euphoric and melancholy mood. Here are a few pictures of the past I thought I’d share with my friends. These were taken while on vacation in October 2003.

This hawk visited us at the campground every day.

Along with the hawk, we watched bald eagles soaring above us each day

and listened to this owl screech each night. Isn't he beautiful!

Two more breathtaking scenes from that vacation and last trip I'd taken.
This is the beautiful Mingo Falls in Cherokee, North Carolina.

And this is along the Oconaluftee River. Absolutely beautiful!
The scenery...not the crazy lady in the picture.

I'll be back soon with more exciting walks into my past.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It Got Me! Flu...Bronchitis...Pneumonia. BLAH!!

It got me! The flu turned into bronchitis and now it’s pneumonia. Sort of explains why I haven’t been hanging around here and AW for the past week. I’ll be back, ready to roll after this third antibiotic kicks in. See you all soon.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Stories of Strength--A gift that keeps on giving.

Stories of Strength anthology raised $1000 in 3 days for disaster relief charities. It's #1 Bestseller at Lulu.

The anthology, born in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, shares stories about what it takes to beat the odds. More than 100 writers contributed these essays, fiction and poetry to raise money for disaster relief efforts in the region. Featuring writing from Orson Scott Card, Wil Wheaton, and Robin Lee Hatcher.

Do you have a number of “hard to buy for” people on your Christmas list? You know what I’m talking about…the one’s who say, “Oh you don’t need to buy me anything for Christmas. I really don’t need anything.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have the perfect gift for you! The Stories of Strength anthology is a gift that will keep on giving. Not only will it touch the heart of the person you buy it for, each copy purchased will add $5.09 to disaster relief charities.

The Stories of Strength anthology is the brainchild of Jenna Glatzer. I’d met Jenna online when I’d run across her AbsoluteWrite newsletter announcing a call for submissions from writers all over the world to contribute to the 911 America tribute.

Four years ago, my first impression of Jenna was this girl’s going to go far, and she has. Jenna is the author of numerous magazine articles and several books including: Conquering Panic and Anxiety Discorders Make a Real Living as a Freelance WriterOutwitting Writer’s Block and Other Problems of the PenHattie, Get A Haircut -Celine Dion: For Keeps and others.

She’s young, intelligent, exuberant, and along with all those wonderful qualities, she’s one of the most genuine people I know. It’s not often when a person you’ve never met personally can touch your heart in a way you know he or she always will be a part of your life. Jenna reached into my heart and she continues to daily.

A few years ago, when she hadn’t received a monthly column for her newsletter, she took time from her busy schedule to send a note to the author she’d only met through e-mail. How do I know? Because I was the recipient of the thoughtful and caring e-mail asking if I was okay and if there was anything she could do for me. I have the utmost respect for Jenna Glatzer and she always will hold a place in my heart. She continues to touch hearts each and every day and I know her latest venture Stories of Strength will touch your heart as well.

Stories of Strength is a gift that keeps on giving. Help us help others by ordering your copy today.

Thank you, Jenna for being the wonderful person you are. I’m proud to have met you and honored to be part of your wonderful project.

Here’s the official press release for Stories of Strength.

Writing Community Unites to Write “Stories of Strength” for Disaster Relief
As they watched the coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, writers who had gathered on the AbsoluteWrite.com message boards decided not to sit by helplessly any longer. Instead, they set their pens and keyboards to work-- writing uplifting essays, short fiction, and poetry on the theme of “strength.” The result is the 316-page anthology Stories of Strength, with 100 percent of the proceeds to go to disaster relief charities, including the Red Cross, Americares, and the Salvation Army.

Headed by Jenna Glatzer, author of acclaimed Celine Dion biography For Keeps, this project attracted contributions from many well-known writers, including a story and an original hymn by award-winning science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card, an essay by famed actor Wil Wheaton (Star Trek, Stand By Me), and a short story from Christian romance author Robin Lee Hatcher.

With more than 100 pieces from writers all over the world, and the gracious efforts of prominent editors and graphic designers, Stories of Strength is a tribute to the human spirit: celebrating true stories of courage and endurance in challenging situations that range from the death of a child to living through natural disasters, to smaller-scale trials, like dealing with returning an overdue book to the local Library Troll.

Alternating between tear-jerking and humorous, Stories of Strength is guaranteed to inspire and remind readers that the human spirit knows no boundaries.

“Many people have said they plan to order copies for everyone on their holiday list,” says Jenna Glatzer. “What a fantastic way to give a present that also helps people rebuild their lives.”

The writers hope to turn their words into sizeable long-term contributions to disaster relief charities. In addition to the writers’ donations, publishing company Lulu (http://www.lulu.com/) is generously donating its profits from the project. Lulu will also donate several media review copies.

Most writers are available for interviews, readings, and book signings.

Ordering details are at http://www.storiesofstrength.com/.

The book became available direct from Lulu on November 1, 2005. On the first day of sales, proceeds totaled over $500. Stories of Strength will be available to order from bookstores worldwide soon.

Book details:Stories of Strength
Editor/Publisher: Jenna Glatzer
Publishing services provided by Lulu
ISBN: 1-4116-5503-6
Release date: November 1, 2005
316 pages
Price: $15.95
6.0 x 9.0 in., Perfect-bound, 60# cream interior paper, black and white interior ink, 100# white exterior paper, full-color (CMYK) exterior

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

NaNoWriMo Report

Hi everyone! I’ve been writing my fool head off. I mentioned that I’d joined the National Novel Writing Month competition. NaNoWriMo is a competition where writers all over the world challenge themselves to write at least 50,000 words in a month. With that in mind, each writer should have a 1667 daily goal in order to complete and win the competition. I’ve chosen to work diligently at writing my horror novel Unearthed. I had 19 pages of notes collecting dust in a file folder. Now the story is unfolding.

I once spent all day and half the night at my computer and my daily word count averaged anywhere from 2,000 to 6,500 words a day. My goal each day was to write at least 2,000 words, and normally I hit that goal.

Life has taken a few twists and turns and added a few challenges other than writing competitions, so my writing time is limited. I sneak in writing time between 5:00-9:00 a.m. and again from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. to get my words either on paper or on the screen.

Writing is my life, but as I take care of Mom, I’m finding out that my life and my writing will sometimes wait. She is the center of my life at the moment and when the time comes, I know my life and my writing will flourish once more. What I write during this time is simply practice for the future.

The NaNoWriMo competition began Tuesday, November 1.
Here’s my report so far.
November 1, 2005 – 1622 words
November 2, 2005 – 1753 words
November 3, 2005 – 1790 words
November 4, 2005 – 190 words
November 5, 2005 – 0 words

As you can see, I have a lot of catching up to do. Just for the first five days I’m behind 2980 words. With that in mind I must write at least 4,700 words by midnight tomorrow. But that’s okay. I know I’ll make my 50,000-word goal or more before the end of November.

How are all you other NaNoer’s doing?

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

1st Place in Week Four KIA marathon

I nearly fainted when I opened the thread at RWAOnline to read the winners of week four of the marathon. Our Nookie Ninja team took first place. Woo Hoo! I was even more shocked to see that I’d managed to win first place title for Individual writers. Hey all you romance writers out there, if you’re looking for a site packed full of information about romance writing, RWAOnline is the place to be.

Another competition complete, now I’m ready to roll for the NaNoWriMo!

Part Time Week Four Individual Winners

With a total of 238 points Joanne Kiggins from the Nookie Ninjas
With a total of 126 points Judy Soifer from the Ladies of Legend
With a total of 118 points Stacy Brutger from the Historical Hotties

Part Time Week Four Team Winners

Nookie Ninjas (with an average of 111 pages)
Chick Litters (with an average of 58.6 pages)
Historical Hotties (with an average of 57.5 pages)

The KIA Marathon is an annual writing marathon named after and held in honor of Kia Cochran, a RWA member and author of contemporary romance.

Just prior to her death, she'd turned her hand to attempting mystery romances. She passed away in August of 2000, but she left a memory of her caring and a reminder that the most important thing a writer can do is tell a story that will touch the readers' hearts.

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Everett L. Gracey--A truly kind man. Author, Publisher and Entrepreneur

Today I just got around to opening my e-mail after four days and found that my inbox was loaded with 135 e-mails. It didn’t take long to delete all the spam and send to folders what I wanted to save.

Before I’d attemped sorting out any of the mail, I spotted an e-mail that required immediate attention. The name of the sender was Everett L. Gracey. I’m sure you remember him from me speaking of my article entry, From One Side of the Tracks To the Other, in the Absolute Write Idol contest. It spoke of his book entitled, From a 13 year old Hobo to an Entrepreneur.

Not only was I flattered that Mr. Gracey e-mailed me, I was also honored that he’d placed a link on his website to my site and my blog.

As I stated in the article I’d written, Everett L. Gracey will always hold a special place in my heart.

If you find time, please visit Everett L. Gracey’s site and purchase his book. I’m sure you’ll find the touching story of his life will hold a place in your heart as he does in mine.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

So Much To Do In So Little Time

October is gone and I’m not ready for November to be here! Real life with Mom and the month long KIA writing marathon left me wondering where October had gone. Here we are, one hour into the month of November, and I’m already dizzy.

Click here to order your copy today.

The Stories of Strength anthology will be ready for purchase today through Lulu. The official press release has been posted and bookmarks and posters are available and I’m out of ink. ARGGG!!!

I have to run to Office Depot and get color ink and additional card stock, get online in the morning and purchase my copy of Stories of Strength and order extras for gifts. Still need to write my local press releases, and then make copies of posters and bookmarks to distribute to local libraries. But before I do all that, I must send a few blurbs from my review of The Pacific Between, to my wonderful friend Raymond Wong, so he can finish his press release for his book, which will be released by Behler Publications in January 2006.

Of course I need to type the review into my computer first. It’s handwritten at the moment. Love you, Ray. You're a great friend. Honest, I’ll get this to you before noon.

After all of the above, I must get my butt in my chair, either in front of my desktop or with laptop in lap, and start writing. I joined the NaNoWriMo this year in order to transform lots of handwritten notes for Unearthed into novel form. I have the book idea, character names and plenty of motivation. One thought, back in March, turned into 700 words for the initial entry of the Absolute Write Idol contest. Since then, I’ve jotted down 19 pages of notes for the book Unearthed. Now it’s time to write it!

If I’m lucky, time will be on my side this month and I’ll make the 50,000 words by the end of November. Somewhere in between taking care of Mom and writing, I have to continue to publicize Stories of Strength, send out The Pacific Between book review, write my monthly columns, make sure I don’t forget my granddaughter’s sixth birthday and celebrate my birthday. Oh yeah, I have to get some Christmas shopping done, too!

HA! Let’s see what this month’s progress reports will bring.

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