Book Review: Thank You, Omu!

Omu

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019 

Thank you, Omu, is a story about a single, grandmotherly lady with a giving heart, though I’m afraid this book might teach my child that it is acceptable for random strangers (after all, Omu refers to her visitors as Ms. Police Officer, Mr. Hot Dog Vendor, etc.) to just show up at one’s door, unannounced and asking for free food.  Lucky for Omu that in a Capra-esque way, they return her generosity tenfold.  

However, the story would’ve been more believable had it centered on Omu’s apartment neighbors rather than nameless strangers.  

The illustrations aren’t that great, yet I liked them.  The inside of the book is printed with a birds-eye view of the city; the collaging medium using newspapers (in part) fit the big city vibe, though some of the cutouts (like the faceless people in the bus) seemed thrown in to fill space.  Some finer detail work would’ve added depth and interest–like a title on the book Omu was reading. The colors are muted and the paper almost has a recycled feel, the look making me think of brown paper bags–as humble and heartwarming as Omu’s stew.  

I didn’t like the font changing back and forth; font should always be kept plain when it’s part of the text.  (However, when it’s part of the art, anything goes.) Furthermore, I didn’t care for the giant “Knock” words as they came across as loud banging rather than polite knocking.

I’m glad the author included a policewoman but not a woman construction worker in the attempt to be politically correct at the expense of believability.  

What I got from this story is that food, made with love–including self-love–brings people together.  It was almost a Biblical allegory in that there was no way Omu made that much stew for herself yet had enough to feed everyone who came.

This was a nice effort, and one I will read to my daughter again.  Also check out the author’s website–very sleek and comprehensive.  

The little thank you card at the end was perfect–it brought me back to the days when my parents and I would invite the Mormon missionaries over for dinner, and they’d always leave one as a surprise.

Don’t let thank you cards become a thing of the past.

My note to the author:  “A thick red stew” was repeated so much, I wish the recipe had been included.  Little extras like that are like a lagniappe, and such would be a great addition to your site.

Suggested activity:  Go over the list of vocations mentioned in the book.  Ask what a cop does, a baker, a mayor, etc. Convey to your child that by working, we make the world work.  As a child, I loved dreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up, which was everything from a “beauty shopper” (i.e. beautician) to a chocolate cake baker.  Let your child dream and imagine, showing them that working with your hands as well as your mind can help solve at least one of the world’s problems somewhere, and that a trade school certification is just as honorable as a college degree.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34642482-thank-you-omu

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The Grammar Girl Returns

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Today is the day I start my Baccalaureate program as a Creative Writing major.  I was fortunate to be able to take two months off from work to read, write, and spend time with my family; I even got to catch up with friends.  I got back into the habit of strength training (as weightlifting doesn’t sound very feminine) and took up water aerobics; I’ve also focused on updating all my online presences (including my portfolio), professionalizing them for potential employers as well as uploading my resumes to all the usual suspects (e.g. Indeed, Glassdoor, etc.).  The university I am attending also provided invaluable feedback on my resume and cover letters.  

After refreshing my Upwork account, I was hired as an independent contractor to proofread documents submitted by Grammarly clients.  Even though I work from home, the job has a very Silicon Valley startup feel, which I love.  I am learning so much already; it’s a great gig.  Though there is nothing quite like being able to set your own hours, walk into the next room to go to work, and never answer a telephone, I will always be the type of person who has to have an outside job where I communicate face-to-face.  I’m a people person who also happens to be an introvert.

In addition to my jobs as an office assistant at uni and as a professional writing tutor, my plate will be full, but it will be full of things I enjoy, and that makes all the difference.  

Writerly and Grammarly,
Sarah Richards, Class of 2022

She’d graduated a Titan
before The New Millennium,
watching her training grounds
as a gladiator
in the public school arena
disappear.
Loosely prepared
to become a Pirate,
she laid down
her educational armor,
only to pick it up again
with eyes wide open,
diving head first
into the land of magnolias,
with their spinach green leaves
& mascarpone white petals.
Now, well-prepared
to become an Argonaut,
her armor fortified
with precious mettle,
she dove once more,
under graying canopies
of Spanish moss.
As a Titan,
she had brought home
the bronze medallion;
as a Pirate,
the silver chest;
but as an Argonaut,
she would put upon herself
the Golden Fleece
& battle with her wits
that had no end.

My 1000th blog post! Then & Now

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Sarah Lea Stories was born in the blogosphere as sarahleastories@wordpress.com, eventually graduating to https://sarahleastories.com/

My first blog post was published on October 24, 2013:  https://sarahleastories.com/2013/10/24/the-treasury-of-the-sara-madre/.  I was a new mom, practically a newlywed, and hadn’t even started college yet. 

Since 2013, SLS has gone through many incarnations.  I was actually pretentious enough, once upon a time, to call myself The Populist Poetess; now I’m The Post-It Poet, bridging brevity with gender neutrality (I still prefer the terms actress and sculptress, but no one uses poetess).  Now, my concentration is on getting my B.A. in Creative Writing in three years (or less) and editing everything I’ve written thus far.

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It’s rather serendipitous that my 1000th blog post would fall on this day–as I finally made it to the local writer’s group I belong to–reconnecting (outside of Facebook and one-on-one chats over lunch or coffee) with friends I’ve known since before I started this blog (and making a new one).  It’s been at least two years since I’ve attended a meeting.  Throughout the months, perhaps even years, I’ve sort of kept up with the group through the monthly group emails, not realizing how much I’d missed it, missed them, till I went back today.

I’d gotten acquainted with the group through a Facebook political page in 2012 (the page’s administrator was a local woman).  No dues, only kind critiques were required.  It was perfect.

I always learn something from each of the members, who generally share their news and a piece they’ve written; sometimes we do a writing exercise.  This month’s prompt was to create a Twitter account for a deceased person (their handle, bio, and maybe even a web address), which became homework.  I’m not on Twitter anymore (it’s so impersonal, and there’s a lot of ugliness), but I love fun, short challenges like this.

We’re a diverse group–writing everything from magazine nonfiction to children’s books to blog posts to creative writing.   Today, I read a piece I’m submitting to Shutterfly for a $500 gift card contest, writing from the perspective of the giver rather than the receiver.  

It was just so good to be able to share something in my own voice.

Every book I’ve created through Shutterfly has had special significance, and I don’t just give them to anyone.  So many hours, I’d be in the Writing Lab with its giant monitors, perfecting them, reading them aloud where no one would hear me.  That Lab was where I spent most of my lunches for the several months I worked at the college after graduation. 

I am practically the unofficial brand ambassador for Shutterfly and am finalizing my ninth and tenth book through the site.  

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Writing is what I want to do more than anything else, and if it’s in technical writing, so be it.  It is still writing and every experience I have, whether it be writing press releases, biographies for an event program, articles for a newspaper, etc., it all helps me become a better writer.  Even when I worked for my alma mater’s Writing Lab, I learned so much.  It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

Practicality is what compelled me to major in Health Information Technology, but the only class I enjoyed (and I enjoyed it quite a lot) was Medical Terminology.  I still have a medical dictionary one of my professors gave me, but beyond that, it was excruciatingly painful to sit through those courses.  About halfway through the program, I realized I liked the idea of wearing scrubs and working evenings (not being an early morning person) in a big hospital more than I would like the work.  I could write about those things, but I could never be those things.  

I am finally pursuing what I’ve always wanted to do full-time.  I’ve never been much of a risk taker, and I am blessed to be able to do that now.  It just took four years of surviving, of barely making it financially, to get to that point.  

That said, no matter where life takes me careerwise, I will always blog at least twice weekly; I’ve learned a lot through blogging process:  how to schedule posts in advance, increase my SEO (by using key words), and add share buttons for Facebook, LinkedIn, et cetera–all basic but useful things.  Now if WordPress would just put more attractive ads on my page (without me having to pay to take them off), that would be the cats.

As I prepare for uni, I realize I’ve been writing so much that I haven’t been taking the time to edit anything, including my Southern Gothic horror novel, which I “advertise” on Fiction Fridays:  https://sarahleastories.com/category/fiction-fridays/.

While in school, I’m going to read a lot more nonfiction (about writing), finalize my book, and wrap up all my unfinished writing projects–not to mention all the writing I’ll be doing for class.  I have the prolific thing down; I just need the perfecting, the polish.   

My biggest advice to other bloggers is that you need readers who aren’t writers–people who won’t expect anything in return except great content.  Keep cranking it out, but always bank your marketable works to submit for paying opportunities.  That is why I only post poetry (i.e. my streams of consciousness with line breaks), book reviews, and the occasional personal essay (by the time most of my essays got published, it would be old news)–never chapters of my novel, short stories, or any portion of my children’s nursery rhyme collection, which I plan on hiring a student to illustrate (same goes for my book cover).  

 By the time I reach my 2000th post, I want to have:

  • Finished editing my novel, Because of Mindy Wiley, and have it ready to publish:  https://sarahleastories.com/because-of-mindy-wiley/
  • Finished my second collection of children’s nursery rhymes, Golden Plates and Silver Spoons
  • Been published in the print (or online) edition of The Saturday Evening Post
  • Making a good living writing (or where writing is part of the job) 
  • Graphically designing all my blog post images myself, eliminating the need for stock photos (and using my own photos whenever possible).  I became aware of just how awful stock photography was (not the quality of the image but the lack of originality on my part) when I saw an image I’d used for one of my posts elsewhere (in three different places)
  • Read at least 100 books on writing (and reviewed them)
  • And, most importantly, developed a lifelong love of books in my daughter–she already requests “Punch and Judy” every night, which is a delight

And, by my 2000th post, I will have graduated from college a second time.  For a while, I had considered being a polysomnographer (my dad has sleep apnea) or doing something with hearing aids (I have unilateral hearing loss), but being honest with myself and true to myself led me on the path that I should’ve taken all those years ago.

Writerly and Grammarly,
Sarah Richards, Class of 2022

#Micropoetry Monday: Strong Women

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She was Miss before she married
& took,
upon herself,
by her own free will & choice,
her husband’s name.
When people called her Ms.,
she didn’t bother correcting them,
for her husband had been a Mr.
before her,
& was a Mr. still.
But when someone addressed her
as Mrs. Jameson Adamson,
she did not answer to it,
for her identity was not
in who her husband was—
it was in who she was.

She was stripped of her pride,
but not of her dignity,
which she wore like a mink coat.

The graduate learned in her thirty-seventh year
that life was not about balance but priorities,
for the former was an unattainable ideal;
she learned that there was a season for everything,
for everything was beautiful in its time.
There was a time to learn
& a time to apply what one had learned.
There was a time to read
& a time to write about what one had read–
just as there was always a time to write,
a time to edit,
a time to share,
& a time to read what others shared.
There was a time to speak what she knew
& a time to listen to what she did not.
There was a time to go
& a time to stay,
a time to be something,
but more importantly,
a time to be someone.
There was a time to rise up
& a time to be content,
& it was in that latter time she would stay
until she mastered the tasks entrusted her
so that she could move on
to master
something else.

#Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

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Her poetic license had no expiration date,
for she went around putting line breaks
where she thought they should be,
inserting the Oxford comma wherever she went,
omitting needless words,
adverbs,
& clichés,
for just as brevity was literary minimalism,
clarity was literary purity.

When she brainstormed,
her fingers were like lightning
across the keyboard,
her words like thunder
as she hammered away at a clump of words
to create a viable human-interest story.

It was reading, writing, & arithmetic
in grammar school,
academics, arts, & athletics
in college.
Sara Lee Storey excelled in the arts,
writing about the academics, 
& editing the words of those
who wrote about athletics.

The Ten O’Clock Scholar

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She was Sarah Lea Richards,
the wife of Brian,
the mom of Hannah,
the daughter of Phil & Betty–
an accidental scholar,
a poet who read novels,
a poet who wrote short stories.

She was the blogger,
the humorist,
the bookmaker,
the pink-collar worker
in crimped hair & red lipstick–
a hot mess sometimes,
but never a cold dish.

She was a punster
who loved the Oxford comma,
the em dash,
& sometimes semicolons;
she was a wordsmith
who hated adverbs &
needless words,
but loved words like topsy-turvy &
helter-skelter–
just because they made her smile.

She was a mathematician when she had to be,
who, if ever in Rome,
would write in Roman numerals.
She was a poor person’s philosopher,
an even poorer person’s astronomer,
& the kind of statistician one would get
if they were being served by a public defender.

She was one of Jamey’s angels
who had yet to earn her wings.
She was the newspaper jefe,
whose sense of humor
sometimes rankled her adviser.

She was the Writing Lab tutor,
who knew that subjects & verbs
had disagreements,
but what about?
She was the boomerang child of Building 4,
the work-study gal
who made good.

She was a reliable narrator only
when on the beat,
but in the realm of fiction,
she was as unreliable as they came.

She was the family historian & documentarian,
for as everyone was the hero of their own story,
they were characters in hers.

She read people like books,
judging them not by their cover,
but by their content.

She was a woman of liberal arts &
conservative values.

She was a Health Info Tech major,
who saw it as a means to an end–
an end which would come in words,
rather than the alphanumerics
that comprised medical codes.

But such an endeavor,
so against her sense & sensibilities,
had not all been a waste,
for it had led her to here,
which would get her there–
even if there was still here.

The Year in Review: 2018

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Twenty-eighteen was the best of years and the worst of years.

This year was my first Christmas without my mom.  I think of all the conversations that we never had about all the good things that were happening in my life, all the stories of mine she had yet to read, all the books and meals and time with Hannah we had yet to share, all the Christmas shows we had yet to binge-watch together (like the “Bob’s Jelly Doughnut” episode of “Wings”)…

But I know she was there–I just wish I could see her being there.

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This December, I graduated with my A.A. and my A.S. and got a full-time job I enjoy at the college just before graduation–a job where my creativity is not only appreciated but encouraged.

The A.A. was what I wanted, the A.S., what I felt I was supposed to want.  I will go for my Bachelor’s in Business (with a concentration in Graphic Design) in the fall at the college that has been like my second home (as well as my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing at The University of West Florida when I can swing it).

It was my work on The Corsair designing recruitment ads, as well as making Shutterfly books for Christmas gifts, that led me to seeking a degree in the graphic arts.  (Besides, I can also use whatever I learn to make this blog better.)

My “passion for the college” was what got me the job (my supervisor actually said I had this thing called a “skill set”–something no one has ever said to me before), and it did not go unnoticed by me when I went in for my first day of work and saw a few or more copies of the newspaper scattered, opened to my farewell letter: http://ecorsair.com/letter-from-the-editor-in-chief/

How easy it is to have passion for something that has given me so much:  friendships, scholarships, a quality education, and numerous opportunities to become a better writer (and not always with a grade attached).

I put everything I have into everything I do.  There’s a quote by Mark Cuban I came across once–“Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you”–and maybe that’s why I am the way I am.  I almost lost nearly everything or had it taken away, and the thought of that happening again terrifies me so much, I am hyper-vigilant about being the absolute best at everything I do (except for maybe astronomy or statistics), but it’s also more than that:  I care.

I don’t half-ass things (though the amateur lexicographer in me wonders if the opposite would be “whole-ass”?).  I don’t even read my own work once it’s been published–I just sort of glance over it, afraid I will find a mistake, only to obsess over it. 

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On Christmas Eve, my husband and I accepted an invitation to a church where we could have a fresh start. There was a woman pastor–something that used to seem strange to me, but not anymore.

That is not a change in values but in perception.

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I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions (I prefer to look back and note my accomplishments); however, I’m always making To-Do Lists (as well as goal lists, be they weekly, monthly, or lifetime) because if I didn’t, I’d simply forget it all.

Because this year has been crazy, and I’ve been spending so much time finishing college while applying for jobs and trying to make a living, I haven’t been taking care of myself or spending as much time with my family as I should.  I’ve still done a lot of writing, but more for this blog and the newspaper than submitting to magazines.

It’s time to read more, sleep more, and even play more (like with dumbbells, if not barbells).  Managing my stress is going to be a large part of my New Year’s health goals, for once I do that, my mind will be clearer to focus on other areas of wellness.  

I drained my batteries dry this past year but was able to sally forth because the light at the end of the tunnel just kept getting bigger.  I feel like I have passed through to the other side, only to find that there are more tunnels.  My community college experience opened those doors; that’s why I never saw them before.

But for now, I am content to just stand in the light.

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