Writers Must Learn a Lot!

Nine Best Poems1. (989x1280)I am grateful to have the opportunities to learn fun skills during this time of life.  Some weeks I seem to vegetate and not care if I finish anything.  This week I published two e-books.

Here are some of the things I learned this week.

  • How to upload e-books with images.  Although artwork and color make print books more expensive, they don’t add to the cost of e-books.
  • That one must reload the entire book to correct entering the title wrong (and that Amazon answers Author Central calls quickly).
  • That I can make myself reformat a 70-page book when necessary..
  • That downloaded data files are less apt to crash a program if you hit the “extract all files” button first.
  • How to open a google doc all the way so others can enter data (thank you, Brian Perkins).
  •  That new software does make extracting an image from its background so easy that I can do it.
  • That ciipart.com is fun and can make creating e-book covers a snap.
  • How to access the two blog sites that will get the most results when promoting free books (thank you, Garth Wright)
  • How a professional must feel when one has an editorial due and nothing to say.

Of course, I also discovered some things I don’t know.

  • How to get the correct formatting to show up on an I-phone or i-book.
  • How to format a cast list with names against one margin and description against the other for an e-book.
  • How to change margins for an entire book when Word indicates it has done so but has changed nothing.

I love life as an author in control of producing my own books. And it is great to be a member of the Idaho Authors’ Community and have the help and friendship of forty other authors facing the same challenges.

Now if I just had time to write!





One for the Money, Two for the Show

Act III, Scene 4

(In the ballroom.  MUSICIANS are in the background.  GUESTS mingle and converse.  ELIZABETH and DIANA, KARL and KARL’S MOMMA, ULRICH and GUNDA, MARKUS and STEFAN are all on stage. Jugglers, mimes and others may entertain between conversations.)

(Spotlight on DIANA and ELIZABETH, stage right front.)

DIANA:  Markus sounded as though everything is going to be the same as before Lea left.  The marriage to Lanzo will be anulled and Lea will come back to Ritter House.

ELIZABETH:  Markus cannot expecting everything to be the same—not with Lea and Karina under the same roof.

DIANA:  I wonder if Lea has changed?  I will just die if she’s boring.

ELISABETH: I wonder…a summer of hardships had to change her.

(Spotlight on KARL and KARL’S MOMMA, stage left front.)

KARL’S MOMMA: A boat!  I can’t believe you said “a boat.”  What have I done to deserve a simpleton for a son?

KARL:  But Momma….

KARL’S MOMMA: Maybe it’s all for the better.  I imagine a summer of peasant life has silenced that shrew’s tongue.

KARL: But Momma..

KARL’S MOMMA: Well, she should appreciate you more now. (Straightens Karl’s collar.)

KARL: But, Momma, I don’t like Lea.

KARL’S MOMMA: So?  You like villas and horses and cattle, don’t you? 

KARL:  (Sighs) Yes, Momma.

(Spotlight on Karina, center front.)

KARINA: Why did I ever listen to Markus?  We’ll get Lea married, he said.  She’ll be out of the house by Christmas, he said.  You alone will be mistress of Ritter House, he said.  Well, now all I hear is “Poor Lea, she has been hungry.” “Poor Lea, she has walked for weeks.”  Well, I’m poor Lea’d out!” 

(Spotlight on ULRICH and GUNDA,  left of KARINA at center front.)

GUNDA:  I’ve heard that Lea is coming to the ball.

ULRICH: I’m sure you’re looking forward to seeing her.

GUNDA.  Hmph.  I’ve heard that Markus is having her marriage annulled.

ULRICH:  Really?

GUNDA: (Eyes ULRICH carefully)  Strange you didn’t know.  I’ve heard that you and Markus have come to agreement about her dowry. 

ULRICH: Me?  You know I’m devoted to you.

GUNDA: (Takes off a ring and gives it to Ulrich) I’d love to see her rejected once more.

ULRICH:  (Eyes ring, then puts it in a pocket) As good as done, my dear.

(MARKUS and LEA enter stage right.  DIANA and ELISABETH rush to her.)


DIANA:  (Throws arms around LEA)  We’ve missed you so much!

ELISABETH: You’re moving back to Ritter House?

DIANA:  And living with dear, sweet Karina.

ELISABETH: Diana.  Don’t goad her.

LEA:  I’ve missed Karina. 

MARKUS: And Karina’s so relieved to know we’ve found our Lea.

(KARINA approaches, takes MARKUS’s arm and eyes Lea.)

KARINA: As you said, Markus, Lea looks well.

LEA:  Why thank you, Karina.  You look well yourself. 

KARINA:  What do you mean by that? 

LEA: Why, just that marriage seems to agree with you.

KARINA: Well, remember, I am mistress of Ritter House now.

MARKUS: And looking forward to having Lea come to visit.

KARINA:  Yes, visit.  I’d love to help you plan a real wedding, dear.

LEA:  How nice of you, Karina.

DIANA: (To Elisabeth) It’s worse than I feared.

ELISABETH: She did seem to let Karina walk right over her.

(ALL move to center.  KARL approaches.)

KARL:  Lea.  Momma told me to say how glad we are to see you.

LEA:  Why, thank you, Karl.

KARL:  Momma said your hardships have probably tamed your tongue.

LEA:  So kind of her to think of me.

KARL: Momma says that later I have to ask you to dance.

LEA:  I’ll look forward to it.

KARL:  Really?  I’ll tell Momma.  (Returns to stage left)

DIANA: (To Elisabeth) Oh, no!

ELISABETH:  It won’t last.  It just can’t.

(DIANA, ELISABETH and LEA move left toward GUNDA and ULRICH.  KARINA holds MARKUS back and talks to him seriously.)

ULRICH:  Lea, how lovely you look.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you looking more lovely.

LEA:  How nice of you to say so.

ULRICH: It’s nice to have you back.  We’ve missed you.

LEA:  Lovely of you to say so.

ULRICH:  Markus and I will be talking tomorrow.

LEA:  You are interested in marriage then?

ULRICH:  Of course, my dearest.

LEA:  So nice to hear you say that.

ULRICH:  And so lovely to hear you say that.

LEA: So lovely..(Pauses.  Looks at Ulrich. Shrieks.)  I sound like a bit of puffery.  (Points at Ulrich.)  You two-faced, spineless, money-grubbing excuse for a man.  You deserve (points to Gunda) that pompous, pretentious Gorgon.

   (ALL turn to watch.  Some horrified.  Some amused.)

   And, Karl, (hesitates until she sees him) are you ever going to muzzle your mother?  I’d rather scrub every floor in this house than dance with you.

    And, Karina (turns toward her), you silly and insecure and you…you..you deserve my dullard brother.

(ALL gasp.)

STEFAN:  And me, my sweet?

(LEA turns.  STEFAN hums “Greensleeves.”  LEA’s eyes grow big and she runs off stage right.  Lights dim.)

One for the Money, Two for the Show Act I, Scene 1

Zummara_MedievalAct I


Scene 1 

(In the gray, dimly lit anteroom before the Ritter House’s front door.  Spotlight follows as Karina enters stage right carrying a heavy carpetbag and walks to front center.) 

KARINA:  (Setting bag down) I am getting out and I am never coming back.  It’s bad enough that the musicians played “Barbara Allen” eight times this evening. Markus is overdoing  the life-is-fleeting bit.

He’ll find out how fleeting if I have to stay under the same roof as his she-witch of a sister one for nght.

Where is that carriage?  It should be here.. 

MARKUS: (Entering stage right).  Karina!  There you are.  Why did you leave dinner?  It’s time to announce our engagement. (Grabs and swirls with her.) 

KARINA:  (Stops abruptly and adjusts her skirts). I left, my dearest Markus, so you could not announce our engagement. 

MARKUS:  Karina, sweetie, I thought we’d agreed that we’d announce our engagement as soon as the mourning period for my father was over. 

KARINA:  (Shakes head.  Walks left to peer out door.  Turns back.)  That was a mistake. 

MARKUS: What is the matter? 

KARINA:  You don’t know? 

MARKUS: (Suddenly angry)  So it is Lea.  What did she say this time? 

KARINA:  More insults than I can remember.  I cannot stay here, Markus. 

MARKUS:  But you will be mistress of Ritter House, not Lea.  I’ll make her stay in her room.  I’ll forbid her to speak in your presence.  Just don’t let her ruin our future.

Besides, Lea will marry soon and plague some other household. 

KARINA:  Lea may never marry.  She’ll never meet anyone who is a match for her.  

MARKUS:  She will marry—soon. 

KARINA:  If I could only believe that. 

MARKUS:  I’ve made her dowry immense—Blackbird Villa, 100 sheep, 20 horses, and 20 head of cattle. 

KARINA:  You think a man would marry a witch for that? 

MARKUS:  Then I’ll make it more.  Trust me, Katrina, I will invite every eligible man to a ball soon and have this settled by Christmas.  I promise.  

KARINA:  By Christmas.  (Pause.)  And I need not spend a day in this house until she is gone? 

(Barbara Allen plays backstage.) 

MARKUS:  Not a day.  Come with me now.  (Takes her arm.)  The musicians are playig our song.  (Hums.) 

KARINA:  (Sigh.)  How nice.  

   (Pair exits stage right. )


One for the Money, Two for the Show

A Play in Three Acts

Adapted from a folk tale

by Judy Ferro

NOTE:  This play is designed for presentations to schools and performances by student groups can be included.  The songs referenced may be accessed on-line in a variety of formats. 

The manuscript will be available in both printed and electronic forms.  Reasonable terms for acquiring performance rights will be posted following the final scene. 


LEA    ………… Spoiled, bored maiden

LANZO/………. Vagabond minstrel

STEFAN……… Duke of Trommler 

MARKUS……… Lea’s brother, master of Ritter Hall 

ULRICH……….. Money-hungry young noble 

GUNDA……….. Wealthy widow who desires to marry Ulrich

KARINA………. Markus’s fiance

ELISABETH, DIANA….. Cousins and friends of Lea


KARL’S MOMMA…………Mother of Karl of Grunwald

GRAM….......…….. Elderly villager

MARY…….........……Head cook at Trommler Hall

TISH…........……….Scullery maid at Trommler Hall

VILLAGERS........Friendly folk at seven different sites

Teaching Reading (1)

Somewhere out there is an article titled “Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science.”  Well, the

Borrowed from www.dyslexiaa2z.com

Borrowed from www.dyslexiaa2z.com

fact that kids learn in so many different ways may make it even more complicated though, fortunately, most people catch on.   

               Few kids in my family learned though phonics; in fact, I never knew phonics until I had to teach it.  Yes, I could sound out b’s and d’s but the vowels and accents were a mystery—and dipthongs?  Often you have to know the country of a word’s origin to know which rule to use. 

               Motivation is a big factor.  Adults enjoy reading.  It’s mysterious and fun.  I remember reading a book with French words to my granddaughters and seeing the older one catch on that I didn’t know any of this stuff, that all these thoughts were on the page.  I could feel myself falling from a pedestal, but I had sensed her resolve to learn to read for herself and was glad.

               Her mother had been even younger when she started scowling whenever Sesame Street featured letters—she didn’t like not understanding.  I showed that her name had letters and helped her learn the “c”.  Before long she asked her Dad what y-o-b-y-a-l-p spelled. She had learned letters from Sesame Street, but hadn’t yet figured out we read left-to-right.

               Repetition is also important.  When my seventh grade class doubted my statement that most kids memorized books before they read, I started reciting “Green Eggs and Ham” and enjoyed the amazed faces as half the class chimed in.  Young children love repetition.  They are wired to learn that way—and that learning sticks with them.

               The hardest kids to teach are those who have not been exposed to story young.  I can teach a kid whose parents told him marvelous stories in Spanish to read easier than I can an English-speaking kid who has not been raised surrounded by story.  The wonder of story is a strong motivator. For kids raised without it, todays’ colorful books on the natural world can help.  Curiosity about the world is also a good motivator.

               Then there are the skills.  The brain is actually reforming and reprioritizing as we learn to decode and form mental pictures.  Kids can learn a fact on Tuesday and recite it on Friday, but reading is a skill—like bicycle riding or swimming—and requires time and patience. 

               Here are some of the letter games I played with my kids while we were in the car.

               One, make up words that end in the sounds “-at” or “-an” or “-ed.”  A kid who can’t say “cat, bat, fat, rat” will have a harder time learning letters. 

               Two, once kids know letters, they can call out combinations for mom to pronounce. (I think we made this game up).  A girl would say “b-d-t” or “r-c-g” and laugh wildly at the weird sounds mom would make.  One day one said “a-r-m” and there was awe and pride when mom said a real world.  She had spelled. 

               Three, once kids know the alphabet, they can work from “a” to “z” by spotting items that start with the sound or by spotting the written letters.  (You can choose to skip “q”, “x” and a few others.)  You can do this cooperatively by all working through the alphabet together and graduate to a more competitive version where each kid works through the alphabet and only the first to spot an item gets to count it.

               Play is a child’s work.