The Mary Jane Legacy (It’s not about what you may assume…)

Something different on my site today, and from a different Scott Southard! My dad has his own blog where he writes on his experience working in health care and as a manager. In his most recent post he shared memories of his mom, my grandmother. It is a touching piece and I think really captures her strong personality and amazing mind. I hope you enjoy it.

Healthcare Leadership: A Discourse

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of my mother, Mary Jane Southard.  She was a hard worker and a very smart woman with several graduate degrees, held a position in public education of which she was the first Michigan woman to do so, and was responsible for launching the education of innumerable children in our community.

Grandma S. copy

Even now, people in her town still recognize our shared last name and ask about her or have an endearing story to share of her seemingly unceasing generosity and kind heart.  It always fascinated my sons and me when out with her that people in their fifties or sixties would approach her and ask if she knew who they were.  And, like some sideshow act, she would look into these people’s eyes and without fail recognize them and call them by the name they preferred as a five-year old… and then…

View original post 788 more words

Advertisements

Radio Days or When I Was a DJ or Finding Voices

Claudius was hereI used to have nightmares because of Latin class.

I took Latin when I was in school for three years, between 7th and 9th grade. I was drawn to the classes, not because of it being a gateway to other languages, but more because of its literary history.  See, by this point, I was reading everything I could get my hands on, and usually my focus was on the classics, not what typical junior high kids were devouring. “No, thank you. You can keep your Stephen King, I’m re-reading Hemingway this week.”

Latin was a tie to great mythology, it was a connection to those random quotes in a novel that I had no idea what was being said. In a literary sense, it felt like the opportunity to dig around the base of a tree and see the root underneath.

The teacher of the classes was Mr. Black, and looking back over those three years with him I still can’t put my finger really on his personality. He could go up and down pretty quickly, did he like to teach or hate it? Did he even like us or hate us? Now I almost wonder if he was bipolar, and that could explain the oddness of the experience. (He would also show us I, Claudius in class, if you can believe it. He would run up with a big piece of paper to cover up the screen whenever the “naughty bits” would come on; of course, most of the time he didn’t get to the TV in time.  Yes, he taught kids like me all about the history of Caligula.)

Mr. Black would have the students recite and speak Latin in class, and while I was basically average in reading Latin on the page, I couldn’t do it aloud. It was too much for my tongue. It is those moments that used to haunt me, standing up, hands sweaty, all of the eyes on me as I tried to recite a passage perfectly. The other students would sometimes hide their laughter, many times they didn’t. And there was Mr. Black in the front shaking his head, frowning, with almost a mocking smirk hiding behind his eyes. Continue reading

Growing Up in the Neighborhood: Mr. Rogers to Daniel Tiger

Mr Rogers and DanielThe Then

I had a spare grandparent. And this grandparent visited me every day, was interested in what I was doing, asked me questions, talked to me about my feelings and told me the coolest stories that involved a land of make-believe…

He also taught me how crayons were made.

For many, it was always easy to make fun of Mr. Rogers and his show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but I never could. Even as an adult, I look back on it fondly. Yes, I loved Sesame Street, Saturday morning cartoons, Donald Duck, Looney Toons, but Mr. Rogers spoke to me… directly to me.

I think one of the reasons I felt so close to the show is that my grandmother was a very popular kindergarten teacher. No, popular doesn’t do it justice, she was a celebrity in her hometown. When we would visit stores together we would have grownups of all ages approach her to say hi and give a hug. And my grandmother, with a skill I cannot imagine having, could always see the child behind the older eyes. She never got a name wrong, never.

When I think back on conversations with my grandmother, it always feels a lot like how Mr. Rogers speaks during the show. That patience. That unblinking interest. That humor that seems to hide behind the wink and smile. Continue reading

The Writing Rule I Hate

Broken PencilI need to begin with Diane Rehm.

See, one of my little obsessions is The Diane Rehm Show and I listen to her about four to five hours a week. I even get the podcast, and when I am helping one of my children to fall asleep, usually I am listening to her take a caller on my phone’s headphones. And, to let you in on a secret, when I play “interview” in my mind she or Terry Gross are the ones asking the questions. I’m not the only person who does this, right? You are out someplace and suddenly an interview forms in your head. Before you know it, you are saying aloud: “Well, Diane, when I first came up with the idea…”

Okay, that might have been too much information. Moving on!

Anyway, a few years ago she had on a popular writer. I can’t remember who the author was, but this author’s ego was proudly on the march. You would’ve thought she had written the next Ulysses and to add to the size of her enlarging head a caller called her, praised her, talked about how much she loves her books and then asked her what her advice would be for a new writer.

The author replied that the golden rule of writing is “Write what you know.” She then went on to explain why this rule is so important and as I began to roll my eyes and prepared to finally turn off the episode, Diane did something utterly amazing.

The grand Mrs. Rehm interrupted the author and debated the author on that rule. She asked how could that be true. JK Rowling, for example, doesn’t know any wizards and has never been to Hogwarts or have magic (Yes, Diane referenced Harry Potter!). If Rowling only wrote what she knew we wouldn’t have that wonderful series, Diane argued.

If I was in the studio that day I would have given her a hug and a kiss. Continue reading

Visiting Austen: Introducing My New Novel A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM

A Jane Austen DaydreamA JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM is published by Madison Street Publishing and can be purchased in print and as an eBook for only $3.99 via amazon.com here.  

I went to England to find Jane Austen.

To be honest, I also went to find Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, George Elliot, John Keats, William Shakespeare (or whoever wrote his plays), J.R.R. Tolkien, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

(Winnie-the-Pooh? Yeah, with some research, I figured out where the real 100-Acre Woods is located and spent a day wandering the fields, visiting Roo’s Sandy Place, sitting at the Enchanted Place, finding the north pole, playing poohstick on the actual poohstick bridge. As a kid who has fond memories growing up with A.A. Milne’s classic books, I was in children literature heaven. It is a magical and natural place, please don’t tell Disney!)

That was me at age 23, Scott the explorer, the new college grad, future “bestselling” author (in my mind), chasing down the legends, my heroes. I’m not sure what lofty goals I had, per se, in making the six-week solo trip to England. I mean, I wasn’t expecting any “haunting” encounters or secret treasures to discover, but it was a voyage I needed to take. I needed to escape the confines of my small West Michigan world, and chase down the locations that made my heroes… well… heroes. Continue reading

Say Hello to Mr. DeVere, I Mean Shakespeare…

The Lord of OxfordI don’t believe in conspiracies.

Some people may think this is kind of lame of me, like I am some kind of party pooper; the dude that doesn’t want to clap his hands to bring Tinkerbell back in Peter Pan. But frankly I don’t think it is in the nature of human beings to keep secrets. Heck, even Deep Throat from Watergate admitted who he was before he died, and that secret only involved three people. We love to tell secrets, and when we were children we each learned (quite easily and quickly) it is always more fun to share a secret than to… keep it.

So aliens, men in black, secret assassinations… yes, at all conspiracies I wag my skeptical finger and say “Nah, nah.” (In a very He-man masculine way, of course).

Yet, I admit I am addicted to one conspiracy, the biggest in literature. The same conspiracy that created doubters out of Mark Twain, Orson Welles, and many others. In many ways, it is a who’s who of readers and lovers of literature; making me feel anything but alone in my little basement filled with notebooks of random facts like a character from The X-Files.

Yes, I am talking about the dreaded Oxford Theory, the Shakespeare Authorship question. The one unjustly pooh-poohed by scholars every time it is brought up. (It doesn’t help that the first person who brought up this theory had the last name of Looney. Yes, you read that right. Looney.)

For those that don’t know Edward DeVere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, supporter of the arts, beloved poet of the queen, may have done more than just survive the back-stabbing courts of his day; he might have also created the greatest catalogue of literature we may ever know. He might have been the pen behind Hamlet, Juliet and Macbeth…

Except he did it in secret, all in secret. And if it is true, it is a conspiracy that would have involved the highest members of the British court, famous writers, publishers, and an entire theater company.

Back up little aliens, now that is a conspiracy! Continue reading

An Editorial on the Novel Travelist

A Jane Austen DaydreamToday, to help support the release of A Jane Austen Daydream in April by Madison Street Publishing, I am pleased to have an article up on the Novel Travelist. The Novel Travelist is a fun site for writers hoping to explore the world, writers, and history.  Here is the beginning of my post, Writing Advice – Leave Home:

We writers are isolationists, introverts. How else do you explain the fact we spend our time alone creating friends and worlds?  We are not made for the outside; we’d rather stay inside, thank you very much.

When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, as much as I cared about the degree, I was more interested in something else. It was always my dream to be that young traveler/writer by himself going through Europe, with nothing but a notepad and a few paperbacks in a bag. I saw myself sitting under trees in Jane Austen’s garden, opening my soul to the romantic poets, or wandering the halls of Charles Dickens’ home hoping for a message from beyond. I even sometimes thought about smoking a pipe (I didn’t, but wouldn’t it look cool?)

What I actually experienced though really was not at all what I expected. The rude awakening of being thrown out of my “universe,” my norm; well, I had to adjust for that in a major way.

There were no little safe places to go, like I could when I wanted to write or just read at home; here everything was new and different (as well as the people around) and for an introvert it can make one’s hair stand on the back of one’s neck… permanently.

Still, I know that this experience made me a better writer. I look at what I did before I went on that six-week trip and what I did later and I see a more imaginative, more creative, more introspective, and more worldly writer.

You can read the rest of the editorial here. I hope you enjoy it.

Welcome to the World of Writing: My Advice for New Writers

What a weird pictureI wrote my first collection of short stories at age 16. I have always loved writing. My mom still tells the tale about how on a car ride home at age 6 I made up an entire story (it involved a ghost watching his grieving wife, I believe) that she felt she had to write down when she immediately got home. For good, and many, many times bad, there was little else I saw myself doing with my life.

And when I was young and new to the field, I had hundreds of questions. For example, there was the time I met this professor at my undergrad college at orientation; well, he was a published writer (I read some of his books before going), and I pretty much stalked him, asking him question after question that afternoon. Embarrassingly, I believe I might’ve followed him all the way back to his office.

Recently, I got a comment on my site from someone calling herself a newbie novelist, and through the comment she asked me a series of questions regarding how to break through and what to do, reminding me of myself when I met that professor. But this time I was the professor, expecting to have the answers, the secrets to the castle, the path to Oz.

The fact is today, if I was that professor, I would’ve taken a different approach. While agents and publishers and the debate over publishing vs. self-publishing are all important, some other things get missed in the excitement around the idea of just finishing a book. Below are the six pieces of advice I would give to any new writer first. Continue reading

My Reasons… Election 2012

I have only written two political posts on this site. Here are the links to both of them:

Whenever I go to vote I always think first about what kind of a world I want to create for my children. So when I vote tomorrow for President Obama it is going to be about more than one issue. I’m voting for him because of the environment, good education (for all), women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, social security, health care, and, yes even the economy (for all, not just those on top). Yet, to be honest, I have no idea how Governor Romney will govern. I bet you I could find two conflicting statements by him on any subject; YouTube is a wonder for that. The only thing we really have to point to about his true beliefs is his choice of Rep. Ryan as his running mate. And the idea of being 80 someday and having to find my own insurance via a voucher system terrifies me.

So there you go… there are my reasons for voting for President Obama summed up in only a few sentences. New post on Wednesday and I promise there will be no politics included in it.

Oh, yeah, and save Big Bird!

Starting School

“Can you believe our firstborn is starting school?” My wife asked me this question a few days ago, her eyes going wide as she said it, and it ridiculously enough took me completely by surprise.

My son is about to start Begindergarten, which is a cute way of saying an “Early Fives” class. He is going to attend it in an elementary and he will be there all day just like all of the bigger kids, using their same cafeteria and their playground (not at the same time, of course). My wife and I were so focused on getting him into the right school in our area for the last eight months that I didn’t realize until recently how much this change meant for all of us in our little family and for him.

This was about to be something new…

In preparation of this first day over the weekend we drove him to his new school and allowed him to play in the playground for about an hour. While he loved playing in the playground (trying everything he could), I kept noticing things, my parental eye kicking in.

  • Who was it that left these empty beer cans here on the playset? Will these people who would drink at a kids’ playground be around the school? Heaven forbid, or will they actually be attending?
  • Why are there so many weeds?
  • And are those soccer nets going to be fixed?
  • Is that rust?

Yes, while this playground is better than anything I had growing up (and this is a great school district), I still was catching everything I possibly could. This could be a super power of mine. A lame super power, but still a power. You can call me “Protective Dad.” And I am here to shake my head and wag my finger at others! Irresponsible people of the world be warned! Protective Dad is among you now! Continue reading