Archive for the ‘Cindy Strandvold, Writer’ Category

Back to the Drawing Board

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Hi, itís me, Flash. Cindy is catching up today after being away from home for a week. Writing this blog was WAY down on her to-do list, so I thought Iíd use this opportunity to get something off my chest.

See, last week after dropping off a group of kids at church camp, she used the time as a writing retreat. Seeing as Iím her favorite main character, I knew Iíd be needed. Plus, an exotic vacation away from our little bay window writing nook sounded like just the ticket.

BUT, this retreat was not held in the mountains, near a gurgling brook, like I expected. It wasnít held at the beach, either. No, Cindy never bothered to mention our plush accommodations were going to be at the Super 8 in York, NE. Donít worry, though, it was better than it sounds. We scored a nice corner room with a viewóof the parking lot.

Now, York itself is a nice little town. American flags line the main street and big old houses overlook the charming brick streets. Cindy was so enchanted by some of these houses, she probably would have spent the week in jail for trying to peek in the windows if it wasnít for me keeping her in line.

But we werenít there for houses and brick streets and walks on the trail along the river. No, we were there to write. So when Cindy fired up her laptop, I was surprised to find her starting a new storyóminus yours truly. At first I thought maybe Iíd appear a little further in, but by Friday and page 72, I was still nowhere to be seen. Needless to say, I was ticked. Iíd come all this way and spent a week in a dumpy motel for nothing?

About this time Cindy started to have doubts. The story wasnít panning out like sheíd hoped. She didnít buy the main characterís motivations, the whole thing seemed like too much of a stretch.

Well, duh. You tell me, if you were eight years old, who would you rather read about? Milly, the perky kitten, or FLASH, Feline Extraordinaire?


Just because Iím a figment of her imagination doesnít mean Iím stupid. If she had only listened to me to start with she wouldnít have wasted a whole week of undivided writing time.

Next time Iím insisting on the beach!

Location, Location, Location

Monday, May 17th, 2010

If realtors are correct saying that location is the most important aspect of where you choose to live, then Iíve got it made. At first glance, you might not think living on the edge of downtown would be ideal.

But I love it.

Within mere blocks of my house I can find restaurants, shops, a museum, the post office and the library. Not to mention some of our cityís world-renowned sculptures. During the summer, I can even hear the Thursday night outdoor concerts from my own backyard.

But my favorite thing about where I live is the proximity to the recreation trail where I take my daily walks. Not far from my house are several county enclaves where I can hear roosters and turkeys greeting the new day. Goats contentedly munch green grass and new calves bask in the sunshine. A little further down, next to the river Iíve seen elk, great blue herons, raccoons, and muskrats. This time of year, I eagerly await the hatching of the seasonís first mallard ducklings. Watching them grow entertains me all summer.

Whatís the best thing about where you live?

It's My Turn

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Cindyís been a little busy lately, so I thought I would help out and take her turn on the blog this week. See, she won second place in the big Pikes Peak Writing Contest and all she can think about is what she should wear to the awards ceremony.

Now that I think about it, you should say I won second place in the contest. After all, Iím the main character in ìThe Secret of the Legacy.î Without me, her little story wouldnít stand a chance. In case you donít know, my name is Flash and Iím a cat. Himalayan to be exact. Personally, I wouldnít have a bit a trouble with what to wear to an awards banquet. My bright blue eyes, chocolate brown fur and seal point markings are elegant enough for any occasion.

I understand Cindyís dilemma, though. Being a human, she lacks even a marginally adequate fur coat. Have you ever seen a naked human? Exactly. No wonder they wear clothes!

Anyway, sheíd better hurry up and get her mind back on writing my adventures. Weíre working on the sequel and Iíve still got super-villains to defeat, inventions to protect, and bloodhounds to outsmart. Donít worry, I can handle it. Itís all in a dayís work for a multi-talented Feline Extraordinaire like myself.

You know, if I put my mind to it, I bet I could write the sequel myself. I mean, how hard could it be? I whipped out this blog easily enough, didnít I?

Why should Cindy get all the glory anyway? Just because sheís real and Iím a figment of her imagination? How unfair is that? Maybe Iíll crash this whole awards ceremony thing and insist on more recognition for us main characters. Actually thatís not a bad idea, Iíve already got the outfit. Thereís only one teensy weensy problem . . . be honestódoes this collar make me look fat?

Drat. Thatís what I was afraid of.


Monday, March 15th, 2010

Ever since my son started kindergarten, weíve lived in that hazy area that was too close to qualify for the school bus, but really too far for a kid to walk. Since my husband leaves for work very early, Iíve been the one responsible for taxi duty twice a day, five times a week, for the past fourteen years.†

Oh, there was the odd carpool here and there, and for two years my son could drive his younger sister on some days. But with their different schedules I was still driving at least several times a week. This year, with him away at college, Iíve been back on full-time duty.

Until now.

My daughter got her driverís license last week. Now she can drive herself the three miles to school every day. And Iím not sure how I feel about that. Part of me is rubbing my hands in glee, plotting what to do with those precious extra minutes I suddenly have in my day. But another part is feeling a bit obsolete.

Something tells me Iíd better get used to that feeling.

The Book Aunt

Monday, February 15th, 2010

When I was a little girl, my Great-aunt Thelma always sent me books as gifts. Now I know to some kids this might rate up there with underwear for Christmas, but to me it was heaven. Aunt Thelma had no children of her own, but she had an uncanny knack of choosing books I loved. To this day I have the well-worn, first-edition copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach with her neat cursive inscription and the date of 1973. I was eight.

In my life I have read thousands of books, but Roald Dahl still heads the list as one of my favorite authors ever. As a childrenís writer myself, I aspire to his extraordinary ability to invent completely ridiculous situations and characters that are somehow totally believable. What kid could resist this opening scene from James and the Giant Peach?

"Here is James Henry Trotter when he was about four years old. (illustration)

Up until this time, he had had a happy life, living peacefully with his mother and father in a beautiful house beside the sea. There were always plenty of other children for him to play with, and there was the sandy beach for him to run about on, and the ocean to paddle in. It was the perfect life for a small boy.

Then, one day, Jamesís mother and father went to London to do some shopping, and there a terrible thing happened. Both of them suddenly got eaten up (in full daylight, mind you, and on a crowded street) by an enormous angry rhinoceros which had escaped from the London Zoo."

See what I mean? So, what books do you remember from your childhood?

Good Enough

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

My name is Cindy and Iím an perfectionist. My whole life Iíve held myself to ridiculously high standards, agonized over mistakes real and imagined, and endured entirely too much stress over things that donít matter.

Did you notice the typo in the first sentence? Believe me, itís killing me to leave it there. But in my ongoing fight against being smothered by perfectionism sometimes I have to do things like that.

Iíve found perfectionism is like the kudzu vine engulfing the southeastern United States. It digs in its roots and insidiously takes over your life. You can hack it down, but when youíre not looking, it grows right back.

Thatís when I make a deliberate effort to cut myself some slack, try something new, or make a mistakes on purpose. Who needs perfection anyway? Good enough lasts a lot longer!

Life is Good

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Sometimes I think about the woman who lived in my house when it was built in 1897. One hundred and thirteen years ago, my house sported state-of-the-art dead air space insulation and single-paned windows. The first winter we lived here, when we were just starting our renovations, the temperature dipped into the 40ís in our bedrooms at night. And that was with a gas forced-air furnace! How cold would it have gotten with only wood and coal for heat?

Not only that, but she had no hot running water. No microwave. No dishwasher. No washer and dryer. No electric lights at the flick of a switch. The woman who lived in my house in 1897 would have used an outhouse, and it wasnít stocked with 3-ply Charmin.

If this woman wanted chicken for dinner, she didnít hop in her car and tootle over to the grocery store for a bag of individually frozen chicken breasts like I do. No, she took an axe to the chicken house and killed her own. Then she had to pluck it before she could cook it. She didnít buy her milk in gallon containers and she couldnít eat fresh strawberries in December.

You can say what you want about the state of the world we live in today, but Iím thinking maybe we donít have it so bad here in 2010. I resolve to think more often of the woman whose life was so different from mine even though we both†spent years within the same four walls; to not take my blessings for granted and cut out the complaining. Good grief, I have an electric blanket and donít have to haul water or kill chickens. Life is good!

Everyone Needs A Goal

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

My husband is training for an ultra-marathon. In case youíre not up on your running terminology, an ìultraî is anything over the standard 26.2 mile course. Usually they come in 50 or 100 mile varieties and theyíre often run on trails through woods, over mountains, or across deserts just to add to the fun.

No, I do not join my dear husband on his runs. Yes, I think heís nuts.

If you ask him why he perseveres in all kinds of weather, pushing himself ever harder, his answer basically boils down to, ìI want to prove that I can do it.î

See? Crazy.

"You think Iíve lost it?î my husband shoots back. ìWhat about you? Youíve been writing for 10 years and have yet to get one of your books published. Why do you persevere day in and day out through the rejections and disappointments?î

ìWell . . .î I say. ìI guess I want to prove that I can do it.î

Okay. Maybe weíre both crazy. Or maybe not.

This quote by Benjamin Mays hangs near my computer. ìThe tragedy in life doesnít lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.î

So, whatís your goal?

What If?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

On a recent sunny afternoon, my neighbor swore she saw the ghost of my dead cat sitting in my driveway. I donít believe in ghosts, feline or otherwise. But donít you love when something happens to make the Twilight Zone music play in your head and you ask yourself, ìWhat if?î

Maybe youíve wondered ìwhat ifî about Stonehenge, time travel, or Area 51. How about the Easter Island statues, telepathic communication, or long lost pirate treasures?

Hereís my personal favorite: getting up in the middle of the night to find my computer screen lit up. Is it a coincidence that one of my cats sits nearby, looking guilty?

Thatís what I love so much about books. For as long as you linger between their pages, you can teeter on the edge of infinite possibility. Ghosts are real, cats watch YouTube videos when weíre not around, and aliens live among us.

All you have to do is fire up your imagination and keep turning the pages!

Inspiration Extraordinaire

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

A little over nineteen years ago I invited a scraggly, abandoned cat into my life. Little did I know the profound effect that decision would have on me.†

I wanted Snickers as soon as I saw his picture in the newspaper as the local Humane Societyís featured pet of the week. Besides convincing my husband I had to have this cat, I needed written permission from our landlord. All this took time. Time in which I feared someone else would adopt him before I could.

Once the hurdles were finally cleared, I dragged my husband out the door. The short drive to the animal shelter seemed to take forever. I rushed inside and scanned the cages. ìWeíre too late!î I wailed.

The woman at the front desk assured us Snickers was still in residence. We looked again and found the enclosure with his name. The dirty, matted creature huddled in the cage did not look anything like the picture Iíd seen in the newspaper. Turns out, the photo had been a close-up of his face, strategically taken not to show the bedraggled state of the rest of his body.

ìAre you sure you want this cat?î my husband asked. ìWe could get a different one.î

I stuck my fingers between the wire bars. Snickers rubbed up against them and purred. He had a gravelly meow, bright blue eyes, and beautiful seal-point coloring beneath all the dirt. ìIím sure,î I answered. We filled out the paperwork and took him home.

Our new cat was all weíd hoped for: intelligent, playful, and affectionate. He was also bossy, opinionated, and continually voiced his viewpoint in a loud insistent meow that virtually ensured he always got his way.

When I decided to write a childrenís novel, Snickers helped by curling up on my lap and rubbing his chin on my pencil while I wrote. It soon became our tradition. Heíd hop on the couch as soon as he saw me settle in to work. Somehow, staring into his deep blue eyes seemed to help the ideas flow. Not surprisingly, my main character had a cat who tagged along throughout the story.

ìCut the cat,î my critique group said.

ìI canít. Heís important,î I argued.

ìWhy? He doesnít do anything for the story.î

Why indeed? They were right, of course. But the cat didnít want to be cut. In fact, the cat wanted to take over. He was bossy and opinionated. His cocky personality seemed familiar. Then it hit me . . . He was Snickers!

Any cat lover can tell you the sum of their cat is more than its parts. Their aura of mystery is legendary. I found myself completely captivated by imagining my catís secret life.

I ditched my first book and started over. The main character of my new adventure story is Snickers, the hero who saves the feline way of life.

Not long after Snickersís twenty-first birthday, he stopped eating. After a phone call to our vet who is also a personal friend, I knew it was time. That night she came to our house and put Snickers to sleep on my lap while silent tears streamed down my face.

I canít help but think he lived so long because he was holding out for our book to hit the shelves. Like me, he fantasized it would be a run-away best seller and he wanted to see his name in print alongside of mine. Because of course, he knew that without his influence, Iíd never have found my story.

Someday our book will be published and Snickers will live on through all the children who read his story. But for now, the dedication page is only written in my heart. ìTo the real Snickers, my old friend and Inspiration Extraordinaire. Rest in peace.î