Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Merit Badges Four

Sharon Wildwind

Today we conclude our summer series of merit badges for writers.

Writers of a Certain Age

This one is for writers who have been around a while. Who began their writing careers writing in longhand or using a manual typewriter. Who remember the smell of mimeograph ink and the way it turned fingers purple. Who erased on carbon copies with a small brass stencil and a crumbly erasing pencil, which had a white eraser on one end and a stiff blue brush on the other end.Who can remember sending an SASE with their submissions and getting International Reply Coupons if their submission was going to another country. Who had to look up words on a dictionary and bits of data by going down to the library in person.

We’ve been around for a long time and this badge celebrates our persistence! You go, girls and guys!

Writers of the Purple Page

Award this badge to yourself if you’ve ever written—well, let’s just say anything involving parts of the body or clothing, which throbbed, heaved, ripped, or enlarged, or characters blessed with milk-white skin and raven locks. If you’ve ever written anything that would embarrass an elderly, conservative relative. If you’ve ever written under your burlesque name.

Burlesque, for those of you who don’t yet qualify for the Writers of a Certain Age badge, was a form of entertainment popular in Britain and the United States from approximately 1880 to 1920. It involved ribald humor and dances that would embarrass an elderly, conservative relative. The women who danced in burlesque theaters worked under pseudonyms, sort of nom-de-danse names.

To find your own burlesque name, take the name of your first pet combined with the street you lived on when you were ten years old. My burlesque name is Blackie Freemont, which has a nice ring to it. I may name a character that one day.

Of course, this formula doesn’t always work, especially if you lived on a numbered instead of a named street. In that case, try this alternate formula: combine an object that is either sweet or has a lovely odor with the name of a bird. Rose Nightengale? Robin Cinnamon? Hey, those beat out Bowser 68th Avenue.

What better symbol for writers of the purple page than a Mardi Gras mask? As they say where I come from, Laissez les bon temps roulier—Let the good times roll. If you're a little hesitant about going public with having written purple prose, you have my permission to keep this badge in a drawer instead of displaying it on your badge sash.

Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again

I don’t have to explain this one. Those of you who have earned know who you are. Even though your contributions are hugely appreciated it's okay to stop volunteering! Why not spend the next few months at your word processor instead? A new novel is a good thing, too.

You can’t burn the candle at both ends forever.

I hope everyone has a lovely fall.
Writing quote of the week:

I love myself when I am laughing.
~Zora Neale Hurston, American novelist (1903-1960)


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love the "Stop Me from Volunteering" one! I'll take that. Thanks!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I qualify for Writers of A Certain Age, and I might need a do-over of the coursework for Stop Me from Volunteering. I recently broke my vow not to volunteer, accepting a post on the board of a certain organization--and within ONE MINUTE of my saying Yes, they asked me to be recording secretary. (I managed to say No, but...Sharon, do you take badges away for backsliding?)

Anonymous said...

I think we can all relate to the Stop Me Before I Volunteer one. No, Elizabeth, once you earn a badge, it's yours.

Here's you're coursework for the volunteering badge. One sentence.

"Let me think about it for 24 hours."

Susan D said...

Wow, I get all three.

Are you sure that's a Mardi Gras mask? I thought it was a bodice. As in you-know-what.

Rattles Beech

Sandra Parshall said...

The hardest thing for me to learn was that when I volunteer for something new, I have to give up something old -- or maybe several somethings. I've had to choose the one volunteer post I care about the most and surrender the others. Not always easy -- when you've been doing a job for a while, the people who have to find your replacement don't want you to go!

I do think it's important for writers to be actively involved in the professional organizations they belong to. You get out of it what you put into it. You can't simply sit back and wait to be served, then complain if the group isn't giving you what you want.

Marilynne said...

I love your awards. They do hit home, don't they.

I believe it was another process that left your fingers purple. You wrote with a pen on a gel surface, then took the result and just laid the paper on the top. You got purple fingers from touching the wet pages or the gel.

Mimeograph ink was the color you were going to print. Mimeograph looked nicer, but was harder to get right. It was better for lots of copies.


Suzanne Adair said...

I qualify for all three badges. Kinda scary.

My Burlesque name is Sugar Wyoming.

Thanks for the pre-dawn laugh.


kathy d. said...

I remember mimeo machines; got purple hands for years. Oh, so grateful for computers and printers and email and attachments of documents.
I do volunteer; it's part of my life but I have boundaries. When I'm done, I'm done no matter who is talking about what for next week. I do not run around, I do things within my neighborhood. I worship phones and computers...great inventions.
If I need to say NO, I say it. I have said I'm not able to do that often lately. Or I can say I can do a part of that, not the whole thing, not have the master list, no, no, no. Just a part. I'll give my information to someone else; I won't be the centralizer of it. Oh, I have learned. And I'm tough (usually).

Lyn said...

I love the badges! Ah, yes, the mimeo. Loved the smell when I was a kid. Hated typing contracts on them when a few years later. Argh! Great minds think alike--the opening paragraph of my blog from the 29th also includes a nod to the typewriter eraser. Some things make a very strong impression on us.

So, how do I collect my badge?

Anonymous said...

Sorry for not responding sooner. I've just had a 30-hour computer outage courtesy of our phone company, who didn't tell our internet provider that they had rerouted our telephone line.

I think the volunteer thing hits all of us.

If the purple ink wasn't a mimeograph machine, perhaps it was a Gestetner? (That spelling may be way off, but if you sound it out, it sounds right.

Lyn, you can collect your badges by doing a right mouse click on the badge image. One of your choices should be to download to your desktop. Feel free to do that. If you're really ambitious and want to actually make cloth or paper badges, go to my web site. Instructions there on how to make them. Of course, if you do cloth, you'll have to embroider the designs yourself, so paper might be a little easier.