Raise Your Glass

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Raise a glass. Any glass will do. Perhaps a clear, plastic cup. That will work, too.

As I was saying, raise a cup and chant with me:

Thank you friends of the blog world

for the nominations you’ve given me.

It is you, the unseen face behind a

far off computer screen, who

saw something special in me.

But, we are not so far apart

you and I. Words will bind,

and sometimes overcome us.

Drink your best wine, vodka, beer, or soda

as I say, “Thank you, friends, for your support,

reading, comments, and nominations.”

I have not had time to catch up on awards, but I want to say thank you to everyone. Vikki, Elliot, and so many others offer so much support.

I am very grateful.


The Write to Cook: Plate it in Words

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

I learned a new verb on Kelsey’s Essentials featured on the Cooking Channel: plate it. I worked for a short time in the food service industry, the only TV shows I watch are cooking shows, and I’ve never heard this terminology. Did a chef discover a new verb before writers?

Photo courtesy of http://www.thekitchn.com/try-this-sweet-vinaigrette-for-89362

Food pairs with writing. They hold hands, and one inspires the other. In a recent blog, I wrote about my inspiration behind cooking. The fact is food preparation, cooking, and the art of baking all inspire the work I produce on a screen. It is a break and third passion behind education and writing.

But, can they go together for writers who don’t cook, or maybe you’re more of a foodie than a cook? I say yes.

Not two hours ago, I’d gotten up before the sun to make him real biscuits. I’d cut Crisco into flour until it felt soft, like powdered velvet. I’d mixed the dough and rolled it and pressed out circles with the top of a juice glass. I’d fried bacon and then cooked two eggs sunny-side up with grease.

Joshilyn Jackson Backseat Saints, Chapter 1, p. 1

Yes, I’m from the south. I know the food identity that goes with it, but I think beyond food obsession. Cooking, meals, and food culture are part of a person’s character.

Doctor Zhivago comments Lara finds new ways to cook potatoes. Leanora Sutter in The Witness cooks for an old, blind man. He likes her cooking while another calls it too plain. The kind of food displays a person’s situation in life. In the eighth grade I read a book about a boy who lived in a hovel within the New York subway. He began eating ketchup on crackers until the manager at the restaurant offered him a job in which he earned meals for payment.

The girl chops the lettuce. End pieces a little brown the customer will not care, so long as he or she is not from Jonesboat County. Add bacon bits, quarter half an onion, and toss it in a red checkered plastic boat. She drenches the salad in blue cheese dressing, and sends it down to the waitress.


Sarah offers to help her sister-in-law in a kitchen. It is strange like a person she’s never met. After one year of knowing what goes where in her own kitchen, she wonders where to locate the lettuce for the salad. Christmas Eve dinner will include: chicken pot pie full of cream, turkey, corn casserole, and two cakes. But, what about something green?

“Where is the lettuce? I’ll make the shrimp salad.’

“Oh, you don’t need lettuce,” her sister-in-law says. “The mayonnaise is right there. Use about a cup.”

Sarah looks around the kitchen again for any possible vegetable life and realizes she lives on another planet.

Both examples feature salads gone wrong. While I make many foods besides actual salad, I’ve always been influenced by healthy eating (before it became popular). Thus I am a strange transplant living in the South.

My Angola-English flat mate said of a protein shake I made, “Americans eat weird food.”

(I happened to be the first American she’d ever met.)

“Actually, most of my friends think I’m weird for what I eat.”

But, what I cook and eat influences writing. I see it in what other authors write.

How does the cooking or food influence your work or stomach?

Please plate your thoughts.

What It’s All For

Words by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Early morning stirs before the first orange burst peaks above the horizon. I leave my warm bed. Work summons me to my laptop. Tired fog spots block vision. Glasses fail to help. Grab a cup of coffee, and fingers are off to the races.

Writers work at different times. I try to pull one and one-half to two hours in the afternoon when my son naps. Some days it’s another schedule. I enter a world unfamiliar to everyone else except those like me. You, that is.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”

~ Dr. Seuss

 The Successes

Where do writers find success; in a MFA degree or a first publication? National or international fame? Writing for a blog or news publication?

I think it comes from absolute, all-consuming passion to extend beyond the limits of ourselves.

I am excited to announce the 2012 release of the East Gaston Magazine 2012-2013. It is a beautiful publication published each year by the Biz Well Corporation. The graphic designer performs excellent work with pictures and graphics. I have written for some of her other publications. This is my second East Gaston magazine.

What makes publications like East Gaston special to me as a writer is readers see I’m capable of writing more than a pretty poem. My husband’s sister called to discuss plans for our son’s second birthday this weekend.

“My aunt and I looked through the publication and realized you’d written all the articles,” she said. “They were very good.”

John and I gave her a few copies of the magazine because he sold advertisement for Biz Well. Although we told her I wrote the articles, it hadn’t sunk in.

At Christmas, I told her with a straight face, “I want to become an author.”

When you’re five, adults indulge you. When you’re older, they respond, “That’s nice. What’s your back up plan?” She asked me about education and the benefits, and I explained it’s on the table in my double life as a writer and educator. I’ve never been one without the other.

“I want to be an author.”

Those words remain since I the age of six. 

In 2011, I became an author. While I’d been published professionally, my stories received attention.

“I always knew you’d get there,” John says, because he never blinks when I tell him about my real life goals to become an author in addition to teaching.

Belmont is one of two accomplishments of which I’m proud. Telling Our Stories Press will release its short narrative memoir anthology Impact in July. The editor and publisher constantly encouraged me. She believed in my work. When anyone of a professional nature believes in your abilities it touches me.

I am humbled. Impact represents a wonderful point in my life. I might not be published for another two years, but someone recognized a story worthy of notice. We Never Said Hello, published as Grass from the Grave, is a short memoir I wrote in March 2011. Two different projects became interested in it. After its first publication in another anthology in the fall, Telling Our Stories Press asked to publish it.

Emotion rushed on the screen as I wrote Grass/ We Never Said Hello. I composed the short memoir in ten minutes. I didn’t know if it was any good. 

But, two excellent projects saw something in it. I hope to accomplish the same again in the future.

World’s Best Dad

My Dad

By My Father’s Sister, Feb. 18, 1982

Who is clever? Who is smart?

Whose neutrons originate from the heart?

My Dad

who brightens our ordinary days

with whistling, quips, and

piano-tingling ways?

My dad

who repairs many things

from shattered glasses to broken wings?

My Dad

who remembers formulas and

equations too,

but knows what Tense wants him to do?

My Dad

whose patience wears from time to time

because he’s sick or tired,

but always remains a gentle man,

by all his friends adored!

My Dad

who dries my tears when dreams are bad?

Who understands my fears?

Who accepts my love of music,

Who never changes through the years?

My dad, that’s who –


No one in all the galaxies grew up with a dad like mine.

As the poem above states, there is no one like Dad. Call it a cliché line other daughters use for their fathers. Daddy is not a chemist, as the poem above hints about my Grandfather Dickinson, but the thoughts and heart behind the poem are the same.

Stories are told at dinner and card games about Dad’s legendary appetite. His strength, energy, and absolute undying love are the stuff of legend. At my son’s second birthday party Saturday, Dad’s sister mentioned how sick he was as a child with asthma and missed out on a lot. Once Dad reached adulthood, he was not missing out on anything.

Dad went on canoe trips, and loved to stay by the water. He dug in the sand next to the water and let sand slip through his fingers. He created large, “drippy sand castles.” He also made the biggest sand castles by using his hands as diggers. The deepest moat surrounded dad’s regular sand castles.

After a day on the beach, Dad is not truly at the beach until a bucket of steamed oysters sits in front of him. A boy’s grin appears on his face as he looks at the silver treasure chest of appetite joy.

When I was a baby, the lights went out in the restaurant. Dad had one huge bucket in front of him. He didn’t hesitate as wait staff worked to find out when the electricity would come back on. He reached in the bucket and began opening the oysters. A man turned on his flashlight, and a crowd gathered. They cheered him on like he was the star on Man vs. Food. He finished the entire bucket. Everyone thought he needed some type of award.

Stories about Dad could go on to create a 900,000 word novel. The most important part of Dad is his heart. Dad taught love and forgiveness through his own actions. At the end of his career as an insurance adjuster, Dad became a stay-at-home parent for my brother and me.

Mom always worked hard as a teacher, and suffered when she tried to become pregnant a second time. Hands on caregiver, Dad prepared my baths, laid out my clothes despite my family’s objections, and fixed meals.

Dad gave of himself to his church and to strangers. Some called him gullible. Mom said Dad and she saw life through rose-colored glasses.

I call Dad Superman.

When I began Sons of the Edisto six years ago—inspired by his father—Dad said, “We’ll see how well you stick to this project.”

Six years later, Dad says, “When are you sending it off (to an agent)?” It is his way of saying, “I want to see it make money” and “I support you in all endeavors.”

Again, in his actions, Dad drove me to Bamberg, South Carolina for my research and photos. On one occasion, he kept my son so I could drive to the South Carolinana Library for further research. Dad provided the stories to inspire the novel. Without his knowledge and support there wouldn’t be a Sons of the Edisto.

Without his love, I wouldn’t be me.

Story of the Stove

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Powerful words come to the page when people describe food.

Whether it is a restaurant reviewer, Giada, or a foodie fan; delicious language boils over through language and fingertips. Cooking is more than a skill I picked up in college. It offers the chance to break from writing and other work.

A duck I made for Labor Day 2011.

Expression of creativity flows in many forms. While I share writing with an audience, work on the stove, crock pot or oven allows me to say, “Thank you,” or “Here is something to help in your time of need.” Most ideas for writing surge to the front of my mind when I flip fried chicken or blueberry pancakes. I consider characters, their lives and what they would eat.

Most importantly, cooking is creation in action.

Sometimes I feel writing might never happen. I get down on myself, but I remember why I am in front of a keyboard or oven.

The partial stuffed bell peppers from Labor Day 2011. Not pictured: the vegetarian partially stuffed bell peppers.

As a little girl, my parents took me out to eat all the time. Instead of hamburgers, I ate a lot of salad. Dad made a salad at home when I was six or seven. Swamped in ranch, I saw a little green and cut up, American slice cheese. I threw it out when he looked away.

My grandmothers began the story of home cooked food early in life. I smelled coffee down the hall of Grandmother Dickinson’s house. She stood over the sink in front of a window overlooking the lake. She sliced a piece of block cheese into mini-squares. She used a pat of butter, pinch of salt, and the mini-squares of cheese for my grits (Southern breakfast food).

I sat across from my grandfather as he drank his coffee. Vitamins and heart healthy cereal with strawberries lay on the table below his newspaper. We sat in the breakfast nook. As he read, I looked across the vast backyard—a forest unto itself—to the dock. Ducks woke and began their morning descent into the water. Some walked back on land near the green wooden swing. I remembered they looked like lights on the water beneath the sunrise.

Later, I’d go out and chase them. There was no Nintendo or Apps to let good Southern cooking ruin me. I ran it off when I threw tennis balls to the neighbor’s cocker spaniels or let my imagination run wild.

My other grandmother and others tell me I’m crazy to make a pie from scratch.

“You can get it from the grocery store.”

But, Grandmother Dickinson could’ve used shredded cheese instead of block for my grits.

Cooking makes me appreciate something I lacked as I grew up. My parents spoiled me rotten and I love them, but work with hands inspires. Cooking also keeps my grandmother’s memory alive. Whatever the reason, the kitchen always takes me back to the lake where my imagination runs free again.

Book Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty

 Courtesy of http://burnbright.com.au

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

“When we step through that door of light again, the garden realm is there to welcome us with its sweet smells and bright sky … I don’t know how much time I shall have with my mother, and a small part of doesn’t want to share that time with my friends.” ~ p. 272

A Great and Terrible Beauty is a YA novel mixed with supernatural elements. Not my conventional read, I found it fast and entertaining. The Victorian-age story, written by Libba Bray, reveals the struggles of Gemma Doyle.

She wants to leave India and go to school at Spence—a London school for girls. Her mother tells her it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, and Gemma cannot figure out why her mother is reluctant to return to London where she can receive a young lady’s proper education and her father might recover from his Opium addiction.

After her mother’s suicide, Gemma attends Spence as an outspoken yet mysterious person who matches any girl. She forms a friendship with three girls: Felicity, Pippa and Ann. All want something. They are relatable for twenty-first century girls with separated families, parents who have abandoned them, or face addiction.

The bottle goes around a few more times till we’re all loose-limbed as new calves. I’m now floating inside my skin. I could go on floating like this for days. Right now, the real world with its heartbreak and disappointments is just a pulse against the protective membrane we’ve drunk ourselves into.” ~ p. 141

I am not crazy about the description of the main realm the girls enter. In that case, the reader can tell Bray definitely wrote the book for teenage girls dreaming of the day their prince will come. Since I’ve written from a male perspective for six years, and read so many books by male authors in relation to my writing; I grow bored with girly aspects of the book. Bray’s descriptions of the fairytale realm are well-written, but it makes one think it is happy bubble, lollypop time.

That said, there are equally scary parts of the book in which darkness and evil takes a physical and demonic shape in both the supernatural and what a person—with the best of intentions—is capable of doing to another.

Perhaps what I appreciate the most in the book is its message of atonement between parent and child. If an adolescent girl is reading the Gemma Doyle trilogy, it is encouraging to know YA authors show the realities of the relationship between parents and children.

What I loved the most was written in Bray’s acknowledgements in the beginning: “And especially Josh for being so patient when Mommy had to finish just one last thing.” As a writer-educator-mother who works with trucks crowded under her desk, I appreciate this sentiment.

Overall, the book is worth a read if you are interested in YA, supernatural or teenage girls’ misadventures.

In Flight

Photos and Words by Rebecca T. Dickinson

My husband and I often escape to the airport overlook in Charlotte. Before our son’s birth, we went to forget problems.

Now we go to forget the fact we are without full-time jobs. No matter how hard we work it feels we will never take off. We are like pilots in the time of Charles Lindbergh. We don’t know if our plane will make it across the Atlantic Ocean.

A few days before Lindbergh took flight two French co-pilots set out from France. They crashed and their bodies were never found. How much work did it take to get a plane to take off and go across an ocean?

From what I read in Lindbergh’s biography, it took a lot of guts and prayer. Despite the odds, Lindbergh used his intelligence and found a way.

Bon Jovi’s song Livin’ on a Prayer tells our story.  If you look at the song, you find something deeper than a head banger song.

Tommy’s got six string in hock

Now he’s holdin’ in

what he used to make it talk.

So tough, it’s tough

Those who listen wonder how the couple in the song will make it. Both verses cover the desperation. Lindbergh’s biographer, A. Scott Berg, shows the self-doubt Lindbergh suffered when he couldn’t find money to fund his flight or when he went to New York. The company said it would fund a plane, but it would pick its own pilots. Lindbergh refused their offer.

Just like the song, I hocked my guitar. I once wrote songs, and haven’t since I decided to put my focus on writing and education.

What happens when you’re a writer searching for hope whether you have bills piling up; you cannot land the job you want; your job’s been cut; your writing—like Stephen King—at the coin laundry; or everyone seems to doubt your dreams?

We’re halfway there livin’ on a prayer

Take my hand. We’ll make it I swear.

John and I have fought and kept hope for more than three years. We hope for our son to play in a front yard, for someone to give us a shot at one of the many jobs we apply and interview for, and for us to succeed.

Bills come. John never gives up. His hope offers faith.

The Pilot

John trained to become a pilot when he was younger. Due to slight color blindness, he was refused his pilot’s license. He described the happiness he felt in the air.

As we watch planes take off and land in Charlotte, I wonder what will it take to make my wings fly. We all know the low odds of becoming a successful author, yet we remain optimistic creatures if we keep going.

People once believed man would not cross the Atlantic Ocean. Even though Lindbergh made the historic flight without a co-pilot, I thought writers need encouragement and critique.

When it comes to support, I’ve been very lucky. No matter what happens, John stays in the co-pilot seat even though we now fly through black clouds and over the Bermuda Triangle.

What gets me is he never pulls away from his faith in my talent as a writer. We face tough choices in the coming months, but we are still livin’—literally—on a prayer.