When We Write Letters, Part VI: Letters from Grandma

Letters arrived at camp.

The post man delivered them to my parents’ mailbox.

Letters came all the time.

Now they never come.

I miss her letters. Only three or four remain. Paper slightly aged, and cursive letters written into the page. I feel where my grandmother’s pen pressed down.

I called my grandmother “Dick Dick,” a name which received unfortunate taunting as I grew up. Since our last name is Dickinson, we shortened it. She signed every letter “Grandmother Dick Dick.”

She wrote about what my grandfather was doing, asked about what I was learning in school and added information to her letters beginning with the phrase, Did you know

Dick Dick sent newspaper clippings about reading, but it was my father who helped me how to read her handwriting.

She wrote small cursive letters that ran into each other like little tug boats in the water. Sometimes I could not tell an f from an s. While at camp, her letters were left open for my interpretation.

At Governor’s School the Arts – Creative Writing freshman summer program in 2000, Dick Dick sent me a letter almost every day. She wanted to know what I wrote about. In her youth, she and my grandfather read Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning’s poems they composed in letters to each other.

Sometimes she scribbled a quote from their poetry.

When she died in 2003 one month before I graduated high school, I thought it marked the end of my childhood. I was depressed when my grandfather died, and I tried to bury feelings when Dick Dick died.

I wanted to keep them alive.

At age twenty, I began to interpret Papa’s legacy with Sons of the Edisto.

Dick Dick inspired me, also.

She ordered Hooked-on-Phonics so I could improve my speech.

She encouraged my writing.

She was also one of the people who influenced my name at birth, Rebecca Tinsley Dickinson, and the reason I am published as a journalist and author under the name, Rebecca T. Dickinson.

She was the last person to write me letters.

Who wrote you letters?

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Next Week: for the grand finale, The Query Letter

Friday Night Writes: Goodbye Shame


Courtesy of http://msn.careerbuilder.com/Article/MSN-1612-Job-Info-and-Trends-10-Modern-Blue-Collar-Jobs/

Frost covered the ground.

Tips of naked tree branches above the silos began to unfreeze on my ride to work.

I listen to the radio. A woman tells a story about another who spent most of her life living in a trailer park. She worked at McDonalds.

“Don’t get me wrong,” the radio listener said. “There is nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s, but you are what you make of yourself.”

Before the break, the radio show hosts clarified they do not judge their listeners who work in the fast food or related industries. The female host also said, “You have the choice to become what you make of yourself in life.”

A few years ago I interviewed a McDonalds’ branch owner. Her restaurant had been rated one of the best in the country. People from all over the east coast stopped there on their way to Florida. Pristine inside and clean on the outside, the owner said her workers had a lot to be proud of.

One of those workers was honored by the industry for her achievements. She began flipping burgers, but soon received a higher education sponsored by McDonalds. While she told me – then a reporter – her sons’ friends made fun of him for being the son of a McDonald’s employee, he corrected them.

“My mom is a supervisor and makes good money.”

You cannot go far working minimum wage. Why not better yourself? Or, you are what you make of your future.

The above phrases have been repeated for years. In a time when the economy freezes opportunities and some potential employees have little opportunity to pay for extra education that might secure a job, I roll my eyes.

I hear the people rely on the government too much complaints, or those who question whether too many people who are unemployed have given up. Some others question why those who were unemployed settle for a job at a fast food restaurant.

Those people never walked in the unemployed or the blue collar workers’ shoes.

I have.

In June 2011, I took a job in a café at a bank. My co-workers all had college degrees. Nothing else was offered at the time. I was ashamed of myself. I wanted to become an educator or do some sort of professional writing in the meantime. I was not yet certified as a teacher.

A smooth-talker presented an opportunity. The person said, “I don’t know why you’re here. You could be doing bigger things.”

I left the job for what I thought was a new opportunity as a copywriter, and one year later I had no way to help my husband when we lost our home.

If you have a degree and you are working a job you thought at one time was below you, remember America was built on the backs of laborers. Remember it was built on the backs of writers with big dreams who realized they had to work to achieve their dream. It was built by auto-mechanics in a beat up garage who went on to become managers and innovators.

Maybe I am idealistic. Maybe I become frustrated when I read and realize no one speaks or writes for those workers. Perhaps I was born to write with blue ink.

***

Today’s scene for Friday Night Writes tells the story of Catherine Bishop. She tries to work and raise her teenage daughter – a former private school kid – after losing her job as a financial advisor,  her house and her husband in a car accident. It is from my story When Tomorrow Comes.

James Bishop – her dead husband – had bought the gold, key shaped necklace for Tara’s birthday. It was the last gift he gave her. She wore the necklace every day to school, except on the day when she forgot to put on the necklace. When Catherine arrived home from the pawn shop, she found couch pillows on the floor, the jewelry tree knocked on its side and clothes – from both bedrooms – strewn across beds and chairs. Tara stared at Catherine with pink circles around her hazel eyes. That was the same expression on her face at James’ funeral. No words of comfort could glue the girl’s hope back together again.

Now Catherine borrowed the money. She would get the necklace back.

Post and Story by Rebecca T. Dickinson

© 2011-2013 by Rebecca T. Dickinson. All rights reserved. No part of this blog, When Tomorrow Comes, manuscripts or related material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Rebecca T. Dickinson.

When We Write Letters Part V: After You Get Your Foot in the Door

A man walks around the center of a town.

The county courthouse sits at the center. The statue of a war hero is in front.

He lives in a warm place most of the year. Sunshine and 61 degree weather becomes old to him.

He waits for something new to come along because he needs it before he loses his home.

But, the jobs have left the factories in this town where he walks. Since clothes are bought overseas, no one needs materials from an American factory anymore. The man saw the last days of the mills just as a cowboy was a part of the last exploration of a cattle drive not interrupted by land claims.

What does the man need?

He needs it to snow one day after the temperature spiked to 61 degrees in February. Warm weather in a South Carolina winter does not surprise him, but one foot on the ground sure would.


Guess what?

It will snow.


The time will come when the weather changes and when a job opportunity sits on the table.

What do you do when you walk through the door?

As I watched in a job video Friday with a class, you think of it as a meeting. If you constantly build pressure in your mind to think: This is it. I must do well, you will drive yourself nuts. You know you’re right for the job.


What are your strengths in your last jobs? Even if you were fired or laid off, you know there is something good about you.

You’re not going to think the same way you once did. You’re going to remember why you were ever employed in the first place. That is because someone saw something in you.

If you have not had a job in a year or more – many haven’t – do not worry. Consider projects you’ve done, such as building a roof on top of a market or volunteer work. You might have taken a career class at a nearby college. Use what you learned.

Do not make a list of your personality traits. This is a tip I’ve heard and read everywhere. You want to say, “I am experienced and loyal,” but it will follow the same script someone else said before.

As you discuss your work experience, remember your strengths. Get a feel for the employer. Trust me this is important, and you will learn throughout the process.


My father’s flower bush has been blooming because of the warm weather.


There was a job I wanted last spring as a copywriter. A new company grew out of the owners’ house. When I went, I wore a dress pants and a blazer. The employer wore khakis and a tank top. She informed me she sent the dogs away because she realized it was inappropriate to have them during an interview.

Everything went smooth until the moment I mentioned my son. I do not remember how it came up, but I know it was in passing. If you are a mother, the toughest thing to remember is do not mention the fact you have children.

“None of us here have children so that would be different,” she said.


The one tree that still has leaves.

She also said I’d hear back one week after I sent in my samples. I waited eagerly and I heard nothing after I sent in my samples. She said, “The position has been filled, but we’ll keep your resume on file for future reference.”

That’s a company’s way –most of the time – of saying, “We don’t want you.”

While I will never know if my writing was to the company’s taste, I knew the difference in the interview before the topic of my son and after.

Take your time when you speak. Do not rush through what you want to say.

Inhale, exhale …


The snow is falling.

It is beautiful.

You have hope.

Words and Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Two more When We Write Letters Left. Come back next week for Grandma’s Letters.

Write Big, Use Small Words: Best Love Ever

Look on your Valentine’s Day Candy.

What words do you read?

Are they long or short?

Does your candy say: Indulge My Passion or Flirtatiously Yours?

Sometimes you need no words at all to say, “I love you.”

In June 2012, my husband, son and I moved out of our apartment after he lost his job. It was another heartbreaking challenge for us.

Not long after, a storm came.

It destroyed roofs and buildings, including the front part of our favorite fresh food market.


John, who is a builder and intelligent in structural design, found the material and went with my dad to put on the roof.



Now I’m old-fashioned in some ways.

I like a man who gets on top of a roof to work.

My husband did that. He worked with his great strength. In a time when we had little, he gave everything.



His work has withstood many more storms.

Words and Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson

When We Write Letters, Part IV: A Mommy Scribbles Letter



My son next to the Catawba River in Jan. 2012

Dear Son:

Some say a mother who stays at home is the best.

They say she is better than all of the rest.

She is blessed her husband works

in a job that brings the check

to support her and the little ones.

 

 

Son, you hit and shout at your school.

You slapped a girl in the face,

and sat in the director’s office.

I found out at mid-day

when the text rang through to my phone.

 

 

I could not take you in the mornings.

I no longer give you your early snack.

Your one time stay-at-home mom

is not there to put you down for a nap.

 

 

Is that the reason why you react

to the children at your school?

Is that the reason my heart

breaks at the thought of you?

I hear those mothers preach.

I can see them in my sleep.

 

 

You are the reason I race home

51 mph in a 35 mph zone,

so I’m the one who takes you outside

and tells you of birds, colors, shapes and letters.

 

 

Do you recall us walking by the river:

The grayish bare trees where no one

could see us? I picked you up

and we counted the geese

as their wings dashed the water.

 

 

You guided me down the narrow path,

and took me to the ruined bridge

knocked down years and years ago.

We stood there longer than most

parents and their two-year-olds.



Both photos taken Feb. 2013.

The most difficult task as a writer, worker and parent is not a critique of your work. It comes in your doubt of yourself as a parent. When you write letters, sometimes you need to write one to yourself.

I believe strongly in motherhood. I believe all kinds mothers make great moms whether they are in charge of a company, a news woman, attending school, working part-time, a writer or they stay in the home.

Photos and Words by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Next week After You Get Your Foot in the Door will post.

Friday Night Writes: Who is the Baby No One Wanted?


Photo taken October 2012 by R.T. Dickinson outside Bamberg, SC of my father and son.

He was no one’s child. He was everyone’s child. Wrapped in his first blanket, the baby lay in a crib carved by the pastor. The man smiled. Eyes – the color of ashen storm clouds at dawn – stared at him.

“Can he see me?” the pastor asked his wife.

He ran his finger over the small, soft brown hand.

“Maybe, Eth,” replied his wife. “He’s a new baby. He’ll see things close to his face in a few days.”

“I bet he’ll be a smart boy.”

“Only time will tell,” said his wife as she pulled a needle through the collar of one of his work shirts.

Pastor Eth Benedict stood from his spot next to the crib. He looked at his wife. Lily May Benedict had not wanted this child. She had not wanted to move to the town in the valley near the Little Salkehatchie River. She had not wanted many things in her life with Eth.

 

Sample from The Unclaimed in the Red Loam Stories

Photos and Words by R.T. Dickinson

© 2006-2013 by R.T. Dickinson. All rights reserved. No part of The Unclaimed, Sons of the Edisto, Red Loam stories, manuscripts or related material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of R.T. Dickinson.



When We Write Letters, Part III: Putting Your Foot in the Door

Courtesy of http://saleshq.monster.com

You want to shove open an employer’s door and say, “Hey, look what I have to offer.”

Common sense tells us that action works like a date gone wrong; it makes the employer run the other way.

Maybe you’ve been unemployed for a long time. Perhaps you work part-time, and like me, you need more hours. Or, rumors at the office or factory say more job cuts are coming soon. You’re not looking forward to sitting across the desk from a manager, and that manager is thinking about the shot of whiskey after work just to get the guilt off his or her mind.

Why is this important?

I have met a person facing every one of the above scenarios, and the drought of jobs plays a major role in my fiction. If you read my Bio page, you know my family was also hit hard by the economy.

What do you do to stand on your feet again?

You set time aside. You forget the bills sitting on the desk for now. In fact, put them out of sight because they only remind you of what you don’t have. Your focus needs to be on what you will have if you write a solid cover letter to a potential employer.

The same research applies to literary magazines, how to query an agent and how to apply for a job. In this case, find out about the company. Look at their online profile. What future opportunities does it offer? What does it do? What is the company looking for in an employee? Who is taking applications and cover letters? Does the company display specific colors?

The answers to every one of those questions will help you write your cover letters.

In the time you’ve set aside, you first get to know a company. Dear Sir or Madam has gone the way of the dinosaurs. To stick your toe in the door, you need to personalize each cover letter you send.

Address what the company is looking for and how you meet the criteria. If the company asks in its advertisement: Must be willing to take additional training. Tell how you’re a great learner.

If the company does have specific colors, create a header on your Microsoft Word, Apple or other program that uses those same colors. There is no need to go over the top, but make the header look professional. This worked for me a few times.

Even though I did not receive a job offer from every company that interviewed me, almost every one of them told me how my cover letter impressed them..

In July 2012, the right cover letter landed on the right desk and I found a great part-time job.

Read next week for When We Write Letters, Part IV: After You Get Your Foot in the Door

By Rebecca T. Dickinson