Weekend Edition – plus writing tips and good reads

An interesting article you may like to peruse

Live to Write - Write to Live

Welcome to this Saturday Edition in which I share a little of what I’m up to with my writing (when I’m not here) and what I’m reading (between the covers and around the web). I’ll also pull back the curtain a little on my version of the writing life (but not so much as to be indecent).

I hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own thoughts, posts, and picks in the comments. I love hearing from you!

Jamie

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Writing the story is just the beginning.

Earlier this week I posted a piece that compared crafting a story with doing a jigsaw puzzle. A thoughtful comment from a friend and fellow writer inspired me to think about the idea of writing as a puzzle in a different way:

puzzle comments sm

I love the way that our dialog gave me yet another way to think about…

View original post 1,010 more words

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Snailmail My Email

Persuade with power is the focus for Speech 9 in the Competent Communicator manual. The ability to persuade, to get other people to understand, accept, and act upon your ideas, is a valuable skill. Your listeners will be more likely to be persuaded if they perceive you as credible, if you use logic and emotion in your appeal, if you carefully structure your speech and if you appeal to their interests. Avoid using notes because they may cause listeners to doubt your sincerity, knowledge, and conviction. The objectives of speech 9 are: –

–      Persuade listeners to adopt your viewpoint or ideas or to take some action.
–      Appealing to the audience’s interests.
–      Use logic and emotion to support your position.
–      Avoid using notes.

For my speech 9, delivered on 7 January 2013, I focused on the disappearing art of letter writing to try and persuade my listeners to write a letter inside of an email. This is the speech I gave.

Toastmaster, fellow toastmaster and welcome guests. 

With the art of letter writing fast becoming, I believe, a thing of the past, I took to the internet to investigate further.  In my quest for validation I came across Emily Post and her book on Etiquette, published in 1922.  One chapter is given over to the writing of longer letters and indeed she opens the chapter with the lines “THE ART of general letter-writing in the present day is shrinking until the letter threatens to become a telegram, a telephone message, a post-card. Since the events of the day are transmitted in newspapers with far greater accuracy, detail, and dispatch than they could be by the single effort of even Voltaire himself, the circulation of general news, which formed the chief reason for letters of the stage-coach and sailing-vessel days, has no part in the correspondence of to-day”. 

Ms. Post goes on to describe the different types and styles of letters, the do’s and don’ts for gentlemen and ladies corresponding, how to start and end a letter, and most importantly what not to write!

In the ninety years since this publication, computers and the internet have become a way of life. In the fast paced digital world we now live in you can like, follow, pin, and tweet.  Abbreviations have become commonplace in our messaging and emails are business-like and to the point. 

From an early age we are taught our “abc”.  Children bring home works of art they have created. An I Love You written in crayon on a coloured piece of paper is a precious gift from a child.  And yet as the years pass these masterpieces dwindle, homework and life takes over and the imaginative gene is quashed. It is all too easy nowadays to pick up the phone and ring someone, be they minutes away or residing on the opposite side of the globe.  For those who have emigrated to distant shores there is skyping and built in cameras and microphones on laptops and ipads give you the visual and audio experience of talking to someone as if they were sitting next to you. 

Notwithstanding all that, nothing is more powerful than the written word.  And yes while there is email what memento is this years later?  How often do we go back and reread old emails from friends.  A box of old letters can be a treasure trove, with words presenting images and producing nostalgia of happy times spent together. 

Letter writing has also proven popular in the film industry.  From P.S. I Love You  where Hilary Swank receives letters from her deceased husband, encouraging her to open herself up to life and love again, to the Lake House, where Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves correspond through time to “Message in a Bottle” with Kevin Costner.  Some may describe these films as “chick flicks” but no one can deny their popularity.  And of course who could forget Carrie in Sex and the City who is eventually won back by receiving copies of famous love letters from Mr. Big. 

On further searching the internet I came across another project.  Created in 2011 by artist Ivan Cash, the “Snail Mail My Email” project was launched in which 234 volunteers collectively sent 10,457 letters to 70 countries over a month-long span.  This project aims to reignite the lost art of letter writing, reminding us of the power of personal connection in a digital world.  The project has since transitioned to a week-long event that takes place annually. The next installment is tentatively scheduled for Autumn 2013. To date, a total of 431 volunteers have collectively sent 13,968 letters across the world. 

To misquote the song I’m gonna sit right down and write myself an email doesn’t quite have the same impact as writing a letter, and love emails straight from your heart really doesn’t ring true.  So I ask you, or dare I say urge you, to take the time to sit down with pen and paper and write a letter.  Be it long or short, to a family member or friend, write of old days, and times spent together.  I can promise you this, the reader of that letter will never regret receiving it, and who knows…it may be the start of a lifelong correspondence.

Thank you.

 

 Well I hope you enjoyed this speech as much as I enjoyed giving it. If you have any comments or questions do please contact me and I will be delighted to discuss.

Elaine Beare

Follow me on Twitter @elainebeare

 

Growing Your Family Tree

Speech 8 in the Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual covers “Getting Comfortable With Visual Aids”. Visual aids help an audience understand and remember what they hear; they are a valuable tool for speakers. The most popular visual aid are computer-based visuals, overhead transparencies, flip charts, whiteboards, and props. The objectives for this speech are: –

–      Select visual aids that are appropriate for your message and the audience.
–      Use visual aids correctly with ease and confidence.

For my speech I chose a flip chart and drew out the different steps involved in a family tree. This is the speech I gave on 3 December 2012.

Beare and Forebear – this toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and welcome guest, is our family motto. It seems
an apt motto for my interest in genealogy, as not only am I researching my forebears, but it also takes a
lot of forbearance to continue delving through records to find the vital links in my tree.

So how does a person start a family tree? My advice is to start with a simple 1 2 4 8 layout such as this
example here (point to chart). There is you (1), then your parents (2) then grandparents (4) and so on.
The majority of people will know their grandparents names but what about dates of birth, and place of
marriages? The county and preferably the town or city are key to tracking ancestral records.

But what about census records to locate your ancestors? Well, the thought is good but there is one small
problem… The very first Irish census was taken in 1813 but it had so many flaws that the records were deemed
useless and destroyed. A second attempt was made in 1821 and, due to its success, an Irish census was
subsequently held every ten years until 1911. The information contained in these census records varied
according to the year but always included at least the names of all individuals, their ages and their
relationships to their head of household, plus some basic data about their land or home.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that as a result of such extensive record-taking (which started two decades
before similar all-names censuses were taken in England, Scotland and Wales, and three decades before the
USA), your Irish ancestor search through the 19th century was going to be a breeze.

Sadly, that is not the case. The original census returns for 1861 and 1871 were destroyed shortly after they
are collected, and for some inexplicable reason (possibly for something as prosaic as a need to create
additional storage space), the records for 1861 to 1891 were pulped, by government order, during the First
World War.

Just a few years later, in 1922, an explosion and subsequent fire at the Public Records Office in Dublin
destroyed most of the four censuses taken from 1821 to 1851. Only a few fragments of these censuses
survive. This means that the censuses of 1901 and 1911 are the only complete sets available for your Irish
ancestor search. These have now been digitised and released, free, online for anyone to search through.

This brings us to the internet, a valuable source of information. My favourite site is ancestry.com, not
least because of the following story…

Last year in between jobs I had time on my hands and the internet at my fingertips. I decided to go “Beare”
hunting. Trying different variations of the spelling of our surname, on one genealogy website,
ancestry.com, I came across an Anne Beare, born in 1821 in Bandon. Could this possibly be the sister of
Jane and George and another daughter of John and Elizabeth Beare that we had not yet traced? I dashed off a
quick email to the tree owner and within 24 hours I had a response. Anne was indeed my long lost ancestor.
She had sailed to Sydney, Australia with her brother John. John had, we pieced together, returned home to
Bandon after his brother Isaac was killed in a riot in New York. He was obviously then chosen to accompany
Anne, or maybe he had the travelling bug my family still possess. Either way they both set sail on the
Neptune from Cork on Thursday, 26 October 1843. Three and a half months later they arrived in Australia on
11 February 1844. During the voyage ten people had died on board from smallpox, which meant the ship was
quarantined offshore for 3 days. Both Anne and John had assisted passage which meant in return for a ticket
they agreed to work a certain length of time for their benefactor in Australia, a common occurrence back
then. We have not yet traced where John ended up after his arrival but there is an intriguing story on what
happened to Anne Beare.

Within two years of Anne arriving in Australia she married a Peter Plummer on 20th October 1846 in St.
Saviour’s Church, Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia. The union was a fruitful one as they had six
children. As time passed it appears that Peter had a shady past as he was convicted of sheep rustling. He
served his sentence and then set up a haulage business with a horse and dray transporting goods. His bad
luck continued with fatal consequences as during one episode of transporting he fell beneath the wheels of
his cart and died from his injuries on 16 February 1857. Poor Anne was left a widow at the young age of 36
with five young children to support. But the story doesn’t end there. As luck would have it Anne met a
George Blewett whom she married on 5 January 1858. They had a daughter Charlotte a year later. Life must
have seemed good for Anne when she discovered she was pregnant for the second time but once again tragedy
was to befall her family. In October 1860 just a few months short of their third wedding anniversary, and
with Anne three months pregnant George died as a result of falling into a fire. Once again poor Anne was a
widow, with the heartbreak of losing a second husband. For Anne to contemplate a future must surely have
been driven by the need to care for her kids, Anne is just 39 years old and appears to have an unbroken
spirit as eighteen months later she married again. On 5th April 1862 she walked down the aisle of
Christchurch, Queanbeyan accompanied by Patrick Licedy who was born in Limerick, Ireland. The minister who
performed the ceremony was Alberto Deas Soares. Well time passed, all of five years and one day Patrick
must have felt a pain in his chest, and on 21st April 1867 he was found dead near Cuppacom Balons. He was
thirty-two years old.

Once again and for the third time Anne is a widow at the age of 46. She had out-lived three husbands and
four of her ten children. She lived on for almost thirty more years, and in the course of time the symptoms
of old age kicked in. Eventually Rheumatism was diagnosed as the contributing cause of her passing on the
11th November 1896. She is buried at Riverside Cemetery Queanbeyan, New South Wales Australia. The coroner
Mr. Davies Downing said an inquest was unnecessary. Despite the loss of three husbands and four children
Anne carried on living to a good old age of 75. Any one of those events in her life could have broken her
but she chose instead to soldier on.

So this is just one story uncovered as a result of researching my ancestry. Sad though the story of Anne
was, it also showed a perseverance and strength of character. And I am sure there are many more stories yet
to discover. So why don’t you try it? With a bit of exploration and perseverance who knows what you will
discover. You may be related to Brad Pitt, or have a pirate as an ancestor, or even have a millionaire
relative still living somewhere around the world.

I hope this speech is of some help to you be it for Toastmasters or for researching your family tree. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comment.

Bye for now,

Elaine

Follow me on Twitter @elainebeare

 

Message In A Bottle

A short but true story by my father George Beare.

IRELAND

Graham O’Sullivan, accompanied by his collie dog, was having his weekly walk on Derrynane strand, on the south west coast in County Kerry. As is the habit of such pets that relish their freedom, they wander ahead checking for the recent presence of like-minded, sniffing and staring and following the line of accumulated weed deposited at high tide on the seashore. Amongst the natural maritime debris wrenched from the ocean floor there is always the bottles, the bits of rope, weathered boards, the ubiquitous plastic objects and such stuff, dropped from boats or swept down rivers and forced ashore by the Gulf Stream.

This canine friend has a retrieving instinct and presents his master with the occasional discovery. Today was no exception as he chose a plastic bottle and duly placed it at his master’s feet. It was sealed but clearly visible inside was a typewritten note that roused the natural curiosity of the beachcomber.

 

THE SHIP

On the evening of 16th April 2005, the biggest liner ever built and owned by the Cunard Company slipped her moorings in Southampton docks with over 2000 passengers on board including myself, my wife and my two brothers. The Queen Mary 2 was bound for New York and due in port six days later. Average speed 25 knots on the non-stop voyage. Each night before retiring I took a brief visit to the rail on deck seven and dropped overboard a bottle containing a message. If by some absolute fluke the plastic capsule survived the terrors of the Atlantic Ocean and landed on some distant shore possibly a thousand or more miles away maybe, just maybe I would hear of its arrival. One has a tinge of guilt over littering but I don’t feel like a criminal. Moments later when it must have been well astern I re-entered to join the other happy chattering passengers who were unaware of my escapade on deck. Neither did I receive an unfriendly tap on the shoulder despite the C.C.T.V.

The ship relentlessly ploughed onwards at a steady pace until the captain informed us a passenger was reported missing. A ships officer contacted the missing mans family in Germany and a farewell message was located in his desk. The mighty liner put about and retraced its course in search but to no avail. The old sailor had chosen his final voyage. We then increased speed and docked at Pier 90 in Manhattan precisely on the scheduled arrival time. When our three-day stay in the Big Apple was over having seen many of the renowned sights we returned home by jet-plane and soon after settled into the daily routine of life.

BANDON

16-10-05

Four score and one hundred days later on a Sunday afternoon the phone rang. It was none other than the aforementioned Mr. O’Sullivan, a perfect gentleman, who was ringing to excitedly notify me of his sensational discovery. Though I had not divulged my phone number in the bottle message he none the less felt an immense desire to communicate the good tidings and instantly located the relevant source of rapid contact. We discussed the gratification of travel and I recounted a brief summary of the westbound voyage of QM2. Graham is a Cork man who now resides in Kerry. I know I hoped for this news but one still is amazed and believes it is well worth recording this narrative. The quirks of life and odd nature of humans will always occur and hopefully bring pleasure and wonder!

Thank you Graham and I hope you will continue patrolling and just possibly luck will be repeated. The prospects of locating one must be extremely remote but to find two should merit a monument!?

George Beare

 

I hope you enjoyed this story. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to contact me.

Elaine.

Follow me on Twitter @elainebeare

My Love Of Reading

It’s all about researching your topic for speech 7 in the Competent Communicator Manual in Toastmasters. Your speech will be more effective if you can support your main points with statistics, testimony, stories, anecdotes, examples, visual aids and facts. These are the objectives for speech 7: –

–      Collect information about your topic from numerous sources.
–      Carefully support your points and opinions with specific facts, examples, and illustrations gathered through research.

i delivered this speech on 24th November 2012.

 

My Love Of Reading

I recently googled the phrase “what is reading?” and these are two definitions that popped up: –

  • Reading is a multifaceted process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation.
  • Reading is devouring a book cover to cover, and then starting at the beginning again

To me the first definition sounds tedious and hard to do.  The second on the other hand appeals to my senses.  From an early age we are taught to read, and for some this is a slow tortuous process battling every vowel and syllable.  Yet for others…what a thrill!  Reading opens the door to a whole new world of exploration.  But what creates the attraction to immerse oneself in a book, ignoring all around us as we lose ourselves in the story?  Is it the skill of the author in how they phrase their words to paint a picture?   Or is it the topic they choose that captures the imagination and takes us on a journey of discovery?  For some readers the pleasure of reading can be discovered late in life, for others a joy never found. 

For me, my love of reading began at an early age.  In first class in primary school we were each given the opportunity every week to select a book to read at our desks.  I would make a beeline to the Beatrix Potter collection and happily made my way through every story she had written.  And a few years later I can still remember the excitement of discovering the latest Famous Five adventure written by Enid Blyton.  I would grasp this treasured find, curl up in the bedroom and lose myself in the latest story of Julian, Dick Anne and George and of course Timmy the Dog.  For years these books and others like the Secret Seven and Alfred Hitchcock’s  3 Investigators kept me enthralled, eagerly devouring every page to see how the escapade would pan out.

I was very fortunate in that my parents had signed me up at the local library from an early age so every visit meant two fresh books to assuage my literary hunger.  My love of reading didn’t stop there.  As I progressed through life my tastes varied.  Biographies became and still are one of my favourites where people’s lives unfold in print, and intriguing facts are revealed.  Two I recently read spring to mind.  The first is Stephen Fry’s in which the most startling fact I came across was his love of computers and the thousands he spent to buy his first computer, laser printer and fax machine despite having no one to send information to for a few years.  The second is Sidney Poitier, who was born in Miami, Florida, but grew up on Cat Island in the Bahamas. He was born two months prematurely and was not expected to live, yet is still going strong at 85 after a successful acting career. 

Other genres I enjoy include crime novels; the “who dunnit”s from Cornwell to Connolly to Gerritsen and adventure stories.  An author who always keeps me spellbound is Clive Cussler, particularly with his modern day adventures of the character Dirk Pitt, played admirably in “Sahara” by Matthew McConnaughey.  These escapades have played out over the last twenty years with each novel bringing a new adventure and a further insight into the characters personal life, from his bachelor’s life to long term courtship to eventual marriage and discovery of twins born twenty years previous.  Cussler has since written novels following their adventures, thereby continuing the saga. 

Another author whose books always give me pleasure is Wilbur Smith.  Now aged 79 he still produces a book every few years.  No mean feat when every book contains between 500 and 700 pages.  In an old interview when asked if success came easily this is his response: – 

“It certainly did not! My father was against my becoming a writer, even a journalist, and wanted me to be a business man. I wrote two novels which were widely rejected, so it was third time lucky for me. Heinemann accepted When the Lion Feeds and got me off to a great start from which we have never looked back.”

Wilbur Smith has since published more than 30 books, and has sold over 120 million copies around the world. 

For me every word is consumed with relish as I work my way through the explorations of different families, from the white man’s early arrival on African shores to diamond discovery to the Pharaohs, every word is like nectar to a bee.  Time has no meaning as I immerse myself in the latest tomb, and hours fly by as if they were only minutes.

So all this many sound a varied range of books but all with an underlying connection – adventure!  For over 30 years I have lived vicariously through the author’s pen, spellbound in the tales of faraway places.  I can imagine myself on each expedition seeing through the characters eye feeling every emotion.  I am that person when immerses within the story.  Truly the pen is mightier than the sword when such treasure can abound within the pages of a book being read from the comfort of the couch.   

But all this is not the only attraction or benefit of reading.    A good book can be a good friend.  You can return again and again to this friend and rediscover old favourites or make new friends along the way.   It will talk to you when you want it to talk, and it will keep still when you want it to keep still.  It will give you knowledge, tell you things you didn’t know, make you think about the different walks of life and help you escape when it seems nothing else is going right for you.  You are never alone when you are reading a book, and it will be a friend for life. 

I return to the two definitions again: –

  • Reading is a multifaceted process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation.
  • Reading is devouring a book cover to cover, and then starting at the beginning again

My choice will always be the second definition as a lover of food will devour a meal, enjoying every morsel as it passes their lips, so will I savour every word that I read.  And for those of you who don’t have the reading bug, I would urge you to give it a try.  Pick up a book and lose yourself in the wonders of the written word.  I can promise you this – if you find a topic that truly interests you then you will be reading “The End” long before you expect it.

 

I hope you enjoyed this speech and if you have any comments or queries please feel free to contact me.

Bye for now,

Elaine

Follow me on Twitter @elainebeare

Perseverance Pays Off

Speech 6 in the Competent Communicator Manual covers vocal variety. Your voice should reflect the thoughts you are presenting.  The objectives for this are: –

–      Use voice volume, pitch, rate, and quality to reflect and add meaning and interest to your message.
–      Use pauses to enhance your message.
–      Use vocal variety smoothly and naturally.

On 19 November 2012 this is the speech I delivered.

 

Perseverance Pays Off

What makes us strive to achieve our goals?  Is it our genetic disposition or do we learn along the way that persevering will bring us success? Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and welcome guests, as you may be aware my father and I have a keen interest in genealogy and my family history.  But how did this interest start and what is the relevance to my speech title? 

Soon after my paternal grandmother died in 1985 my father came across some old letters.  His curiosity was piqued and therein began the laborious hours week after week spent trawling through church records.  His search soon began to eke out small titbits of information, and the bait to continuing the search was not in vain as it resulted in a list of eight children born to John Beare and Elizabeth Maynard.  Births and baptisms were listed but no equivalent deaths so what became of these eight children?  They were born in the early 1800’s, an era when Irelands population was heading for an estimated 7 million.  Economic depression had come on the heels of two foreign wars. The Napoleonic wars end with final British victory over France, and the War of 1812 with the United States. Soldiers returned to a time of protest, low wages, and high food prices. Two more victories for steam were achieved – an “iron horse” showed the success of rail-locomotives, and the first steam ship crossed the Atlantic in 26 days.  Conventional sailing ships still took at least 60 days.  All of these factors, the search for work, and the looming famine led to mass emigration from Ireland.  So did these eight children emigrate?  And if so where?  This brings us back to the old letter my father had found.  It was written by Jane’s husband, Josiah Roberts, on her behalf and addressed to her brother George.  

 

29th December 1892

My Dear Brother George,

As I have not heard from you for so long a time, I was so uneasy I thought I would write again.  Hope that nothing is seriously the matter with you or any of the family.

I have had a very bad cold I am not as well as usual now.  My daughter Louisa died in October after having suffered excruciating pain with a very severe attack of Gangrene.  This attacked her in the lower limbs and they were affected so badly that by her consent and the doctors the limbs were amputated.  There were four doctors present and she seemed to rally after coming out.  This was in the afternoon but suddenly about the middle of the night she took a turn and died immediately.

I took this very hard as it was my only daughter living, but such as this is God’s will.

Your sister Jane

As Jane was unable to write, her husband Josiah wrote the letter and added a PS.

P.S.  If it is possible a speedy answer to this letter would let us know how you are and I thought it better to write as she is always speaking of you and Sarah (her sister).

Jane and Sarah were my great great grandaunts, and George my great great grandfather.  So here we had mention of three of the eight children.  

The letter came from PEI, which, after searching the atlas, we discovered was Prince Edward Island, a small island off the east coast of Canada.  Dad decided to write to the postmaster of the island to see if he could shed some light on what had happened to Jane.  A few weeks passed with no news until one day eureka a letter arrived with the postmark P.E.I. 

It was from the postmistress telling us that not only was there still a living descendant of Jane on the Island named Laura Roberts, but that she herself was also related! 

A flurry of letters followed over the next few months, family trees were exchanged and confirmed and then came the stunning announcement; Laura and her sister in law Beatrice were coming to Ireland for a holiday.  My parents contacted their travel agent and arrange to collect the two ladies and bring them home for dinner.  The big day arrived and all went smoothly.  An emotional reunion between my father and Laura ensued and the piecing together of the family history began. 

Jane had emigrated to Prince Edward Island, where she met and married Josiah Roberts.  Josiah had also emigrated to PEI along with his parents from Plymouth England.  Jane and Josiah produced seven children, two girls and five boys.  Most of these children in turn married and had children, down to the current generation of Laura and her children.  Over 100 relatives descended from Jane and Josiah.

In 1990 a few years after Laura and Beatrice visited my parents decided to visit PEI.   A large family gathering was arranged and my father got to meet many of his distant cousins.  The tales emerged of different ancestors, some of whom had migrated to the far side of Canada, where we believe their descendants still live.  It appeared life was a little quieter on the island with only one liquor store and they produced five generations to our four here in Ireland.  

In November 2011 we read with sadness the passing of Laura who had only died a few months earlier in April.   However there are still many surviving relatives living on the Island and across Canada and we hope to make contact with them also. 

Jane died in 1894, two years after that letter was written, and is buried on Prince Edward Island, in that same area Murray Harbour where she and Josiah had raised their family. 

So in conclusion I ask you to consider this.  Who would have believed that one old letter over 100 years old could have become the basis for creating so much of our family history?  My father and I persist in our quest to find every descendant of that family of eight children.  You can take the negative route of saying who cares, dump that old letter and dismiss the past.  Or you can take the positive to follow up, dive in and explore the rich rewards that persistence brings.  We have now traced five of the eight siblings and what an adventure it is proving to be with living descendants located around the globe.  Remember if what you seek is just out of reach one more step will bring it within your grasp.   

 

I hope you enjoyed this speech. If you have any comments or queries I would love to hear from you.

Bye for now,

Elaine

Follow me on twitter @elainebeare