Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's Called Stalling

In rehearsals, dancers will go over a section of a ballet endlessly, repeating the same steps over and over and over again until the ballet master is satisfied with the finished product. To save their legs, dancers will often “mark” a percentage of the run-throughs.

Marking is when a dancer just goes through the motions by walking the steps, counting the beats out with their hands, or not performing the jumps or turns completely. Different dancers mark a piece in different ways, but everyone does it at some point.

The problem with marking is that it can become a habit, and a dancer might think that marking a piece is as good as dancing a piece. It’s not. Nothing can take the place of dancing a number as hard and as fast as its supposed to be danced. Nothing.

While marking has its place, marking can never be dancing.

The same is true of writing. You can talk about writing. You can read about writing. You can dream of writing, but nothing can take the place of writing—tens of thousands of words written as hard and as fast as you can write them, full out and breathing hard. Writing that never stops, not in the daytime, not in the nighttime, not even in the dream times.

In dancing, it’s called marking. In writing, it’s called stalling.    

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sherwood Zern's Ten Tips For Hobby Farmers

Sweat dripped off the end of my husband’s nose as he filled in the hole. Water gushed up from the ground. There’d been a lot of rain. A smear of muck marred his cheek.

“Don’t be discouraged,” I said.

“I’m not,” he muttered, “but while I was digging I thought up a list of tips for hobby farmers.”

“Okay. Let me hear it.”

He began:

1. Buy the best livestock available.
2. Buy the best feed you can afford.
3. Construct shelters and jungle gyms for the animal’s health and wellbeing.
4. Know your vet well enough to invite them to Sunday dinner.
5. Purchase the best shovel you can.
6. Have the backhoe man on speed dial.
7. Don’t buy property with any trees. Roots are right out when you’re digging holes.
8. Keep your shovel handy.
9. Keep your backhoe man handy.
10. Dig deep.

“Or you can buy a shovel, dig a hole, throw money into hole, cover hole, and you’ll be left with a good shovel and a close relationship with your backhoe man.”

Not discouraged much? 

I would add to that list this advice. Don’t look at your neighbor’s goats—that live in the wild, give birth in the wild, nurse their babies in the wild, and haven’t seen a vet in their lifetimes. 

Here’s to farmers and farming everywhere. Good luck and God bless. 

Linda (Heartbreak Hotel) Zern 

Monday, March 14, 2016


Recently, I have responded to a couple of political comments, posts, thoughts, memes, and flaming crosses on Facebook. I’ve learned something. Diversity killed unity.

And now we (I mean society, not you personally, unless it is you personally) can’t agree on anything—not even what constitutes name-calling. What’s name calling in your village might be terms of endearment in mine. 

Diversity. Live with it.

Name-calling is a time-honored tactic in many villages used to cause spluttering, spitting, and/or high blood pressure. It’s the lowest common denominator in the argument pointy triangle. 

Name-calling is a word or condition that can be inserted into the sentence, “You are a (fill in the blank) as in: You are a brat, rat, gnat, or you are silly, slippery, stupefying. 

The worst name-calling offenders, in my experience, are those that claim the moral high ground like folks who say, “I believe in unconditional love . . . you brat, rat, gnat.” Unconditional love is simply love that has no conditions. Examples of this kind of love without rules, conditions, or standards include:

You just smashed me in the face with an axe; I love you anyway.

You just rolled me in cornflakes and poured motor oil all over me. I love you regardless.

She just lied, cheated, stole, betrayed, and blew her family to tiny, bloody emotional bits. I’m in love.

Sure. Sure. It’s all about love but LIKE, that’s a different story. I love you fine, but I wouldn’t recommend you for the job of dog walker, because I don’t LIKE the way you tie cat’s tails together and sling them over a clothesline so they can fight. 

You are a creep. This is name-calling—also judging. I love you fine, but you’re a creep. 

Names are descriptive. Names highlight diversity (always a good thing.) Names help us find birds with feathers like our own. Names keep us honest.

So, in the spirit of do as I do, I shall now call myself a name; I am a FLIBBERTIGIBBET. 

A flibbertigibbet is a Middle English word referring to a flighty or whimsical person, usually a young woman. In modern use, it is used as a slang term, especially in Yorkshire, for a gossipy or overly talkative person.

Cool. I own it, and I’m calling for all flibbertigibbets to unite, unless they’re too busy being flighty. 

And unless you are an insecure, flakey flibbertigibbet—who needs constant re-enforcement and self-esteem stroking—you understand that names truly cannot hurt you . . . not like sticks and stones.

Get a clue, maroon.

Linda (Short Stuff) Zern 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


As soon as I registered my business name [Linwood House Publishing] the game was afoot and the emails started rolling in: buy this, sell that, take my classes, invest here, download that, purchase podcast hours of someone talking, talking, talking. 

I quickly realized; business was a game. Everyone is selling something or everything and the first one to buy something or anything from anyone—loses. 

Writers are, in our heart of hearts, artists. Making money for our art feels like grubby fingers around our elegant creative, swan-like necks, squeezing . . . squeezing . . . and yet . . .

I have never seen or met a single “world famous” writer that gave their books away for no money, not even to poor college students who had come to worship at their world famous feet. There was a lot of talk of fairness and equality and re-distribution for $12.99, and then they move to Florida where there’s no state income tax. 

Ah . . . art!

Money. I want some. Unfortunately, making money from selling books is as challenging as figuring out how to get your characters out of that tree you’re supposed to chase them up into. 

Note: It’s a writing strategy. A writer is supposed to run their characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them. Then the writer is supposed to figure out how to get them out of that tree. And that’s why the above paragraph is funny.

Money. I want some. Unfortunately, there are a few obstacles.

Tabletop publishing and print on demand have swamped the market. SWAMPED IT—1.17 trillion new titles are published every 6.9 seconds. These statistics could be slightly fabricated.

Erotica is keeping the big publishing houses going. It’s jazzy. It’s addictive. It’s like potato chips. I don’t write erotica. I could. I’m jazzy. I’m addictive. But I’m more like fried chicken than potato chips.

I don’t know any heavy hitters like Oprah. But I do wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me, “Your books are great. You should send them to Oprah or the Queen of England.” Yeah. Great idea. You wouldn’t have the queen’s private cell number, would you?

There is a learning curve shaped like a roller coaster to building a platform. A platform is your social media presence on the fiber optic, satellite generated, router pumped world that is ONLINE. No matter how many sites you have (Facebook, Website, Blog, Email, Pinterest, Instant Message, Dating Profile) there are at least sixteen more you SHOULD have. Unfortunately, for every new Internet gadget you have there is the time it takes to figure it out, password it tight, and get it ramped up. And then they want to upgrade you—for money—which takes us back to the beginning.

Business is a game. Everyone is selling something or everything and the first one to buy something or anything from anyone—loses.

And the game is afoot . . .

Linda (Feet First) Zern 

From Shakespeare's King Henry IV Part I, 1597:

"Before the game is afoot, thou still let'st slip."

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Stuff I Can't Make Up

The day starts like any other. The sun comes up. Clouds sail by. Goats meet me at the door because they’ve jumped the fence—again. 

Sherwood and I start to plot ways to construct a goat prison.

The grandchildren come over to visit the goats and to hang from trees off of ropes, and then a tree frog got the jump on me, the horses stampeded, and a strawberry faked me out.

It’s winter here in Florida. We put sweaters on and walk fast to our cars. However, winter is challenging for the amphibian living in the door handle of our front door. The amphibian is a tree frog about the size of a goat’s nose. He snuggles up in the handle, turns a sickly gray/yellow, and looks like I feel when the air turns a bit nippy.

On the day in question, I had to run outside to wrangle goats/kids/a sprinkler after which I rushed back, grabbed the door handle, squashed the squishy frog living there, and screamed. Not that big a deal you say. Ahhh . . . but then I did it three more times . . . in a row. I screamed each and every time. Frog – four. Linda – gross. And then . . .

“Tramp the Goat jumped the fence. He’s wrestling with Mr. Medina’s girl goats,” a random grandkid screamed.

I sent yet another random kid over the fence to goat wrestle Tramp the Tramp back to our house.

“Stampede!!!!” still another random grandkid suddenly yelled. Someone had left the pasture gate open. The sound of pounding hooves skipped through the air. Children screamed. Mothers screamed. Children scattered. Mothers screamed and scattered. The horses thundered around the corner of the house.

Kip (aged 7) made a valiant effort to outrun our horses, lost the battle, and threw himself into a hedge next to the house. 

We train for this. We call it home school P.E. or how to outrun stampeding horses, bison, and goats. 

Because of the stampede, I wet my pants. It’s a self defense mechanism I’ve developed when snatched up by predators or giants or experience intense panic. Just like snakes and frogs, I pee on my enemies, hoping they’ll be startled enough to drop me.

I rounded up the herd, checked the bushes for survivors, walked inside, sat down, and heard the unmistakable sound of kid screaming. Reagan had smacked Scout in the cheek with a door handle. The screams grew in decibel and horror level. Sadie joined in.

“Her tongue. Her tongue is gone,” Sadie shrieked. 

I raced to Scout’s head to pry her jaws open and saw that her tongue was indeed rolled up in two wads—one blood red wad in each cheek. I screamed. “Her tongue is gone. Dial 9 1 . . .”

Scout’s mother joined the hysteria, pried the kid’s mouth farther open and said, “It’s a strawberry. It’s two wads of chewed up strawberry in her cheeks. Her tongue is fine.” 

“Okay, well in that case don’t dial anything.” I went to change my pants—again.

And that, my friends, is some of the stuff I couldn’t make up if they paid me or gave me to a giant to sit on enormous golden eggs for a year.

Linda (What Now?) Zern 

Saturday, March 5, 2016


When I realized that my third and second graders could not read, write, or compute basic mathematics, I took them out of public school and began homeschooling. No one seemed worried that they were growing up to be illiterate dunces, but a lot of people were very concerned that they would not be “socialized” properly or get to go to the prom. As their mother, I was more concerned about phonics than cummerbunds.

Over the years, I have found the socialization arguments . . . well . . . muddled. What exactly is socialization? And will I recognize it when I see it?

“I hate my family,” the young college student said, flipping a trendy fringe of hair out of his eyes. “But they’re paying for my college so I’ve got to go home for Thanksgiving. What a pisser.”

Wanting to be social, I tried to figure out how to respond, because being curious and interested in others is my favorite social strategy.

“Maybe you should pay for your own college?” 

“Are you nuts?” he spluttered.

I thought it might be possible.

In a moment of companionable socialization, I shared with some of my classmates that college algebra was giving me hives and panic attacks.

A highly social young man offered to help. He whipped out his cell phone.

“Just put this,” he said, holding up his phone, “in your sock and then I’ll show you how to get the answers for the test by texting.”

“You’re assuming I can text,” I said. 

“Are you nuts?” he said.

No! Just arthritic—and honest.

Recently, before class, I was chatting socially with a few of my young college classmates. One highly social young man (I know he was social because he NEVER stopped talking about himself) began regaling us with tales of his high school cheating years.

“Yeah, so I had the answers written on my arm, from my wrist to my juggler vein.” He laughed. “When the teacher got wise to it, I smeared the answers off, destroying the evidence.” 

Everyone joined in his clever, social laughing.

“Don’t you feel bad about cheating your way through high school?” I asked.

“Are you nuts?”


When my wildly educated professors use the “F” word in class or hilariously cop to having smoked dope once, twice, or always, I realize that they’re just trying to be hip and social and one with the organism known as “the group.” I get it. I was a social creature once. 

Now, I’m just nuts, because I don’t care what the group thinks about my being a drug free, sober, religious, monogamous, honest chick. It’s not social. I know. But it does allow me to sleep better at night. 

Besides, I’m the one those people try to cheat off of . . . the jerks.

Linda (Eyes On Your Own Paper) Zern 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A QUICKIE: Posts that are short and sweetly short.

Coming across some old homework of Conner's, I asked what the hole in his paper was. He said, "It's a tear hole. That's right. A hole made by my tears."
His smart aleck (God bless her) older sister suggested that we put a hashtag in front of the words "The Struggle is Real."

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...