Tag Archives: nanowrimo

How to Take Over the World Like a Philodendron: Day 3

Happy Monday, everyone! Our Orange Karen anthology submission countdown continues. For those keeping count, 12 more sleeps until the deadline of December 15th! I know some writers are just coming off of their NaNoWriMo wins and are feeling a bit hungover from ink-slinging. In order to help you muster up some inspiration and perspiration to get a short story written, K.D. McCrite reminds us, that even though things seem desolate on the surface, an abundance of activity is going on underneath.


How to Take Over the World Like a Philodendron

K.D. McCrite

My grandmother raised a plant that could have starred in The Day of the Triffids, that old 1962 sci-fi movie. Grandma’s plant did not take over the world, but it probably could have if Grandma had let it.  For years, I longed for a lush, fast-growing philodendron like hers.


(The Day of the Triffids, 1962)

My first husband’s aunt had a philodendron that rivaled Grandma’s, and shortly after he and I were married, she gave me a cutting from her plant. I put it in water until it rooted, then bought a nice clay pot. In those days I didn’t have a green thumb like I do now. Instead of getting potting soil, I just went outside and dug up my own dirt and planted that start. That poor thing did not thrive in a pot of hard, rocky Ozarks soil, and being dried out one week and drowned the next never helped it, either. Our first house was drafty and frigid in the winter and so hot it nearly baked potatoes left sitting out on the counter in the summer. None of my plants did very well. When we finally moved to a brand new house with lots of big windows and large windowsills, I decided to start over with plants. My husband tossed the pathetic philodendron, pot and all, into a field next to his mother’s house.

Several months later, I told him I wanted that clay pot, so he retrieved it for me the next time he was at his mom’s place. The next spring, he fetched the clay pot from the trunk of the car where it had been all winter. There was no sign of the spindly philodendron any longer. I left the pot and its dirt on the carport for a while, using instead prettier, more decorative flower pots, but there came a day when I decided I needed it. I carried it to the garden where I planned to dump the dried out old soil.

Imagine my surprise when, right before I dumped that dirt, I spotted a tiny bit of green, probably no more than a quarter of an inch peeking up hopefully from that starved old soil. But how could it be? That plant had been frozen and broiled, periodically dehydrated then drowned, left in a field for months, then kept for several weeks in a cold, dark car trunk. Surely it was dead! I poked the tiny green head to find it cool and fresh with new life.


The root of that plant was strong; it must have drawn every ounce of sustenance available during its time of trauma then somehow sustained itself on nothing but its own determination. It seemed to me anything that had endured such hardship and defied every attempt to kill it deserved a second chance.

I saturated that plant until the imprisoning dirt softened and let go, then I transplanted it into new, rich soil.  I settled it a sunny place and tended it carefully with good food and the right amount water at the right times. The weak or dead places had to be removed so the entire plant could thrive. Soon, the philodendron flourished. In fact, it grew so lush and so strong that it rivaled my grandmother’s plant from long ago and nearly threatened to take over the world.


K.D. McCrite writes touching and funny stories that portray ordinary people living lives from the depths of their extraordinary souls. She has three novels listed under Kathaleen Burr and published by Avalon Books: Home is the Heart, 1991; Wintersong, 1991; Rainbow Dreams, 1992, and Ozarks Farmer, Country Preacher: the Life of Paul Wesley Buchanan, 2008 (High Hill Press). Her “Confessions of April Grace” Series (Thomas Nelson Publishing) is a hilarious series for mid-grade ‘tweens. The titles include In Front of God and Everybody, 2011; Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks, 2011; and Chocolate-Covered Baloney, 2012. The debut novel for her “Eastgate” mystery series, Eastgate Keeps on Singing, (Mitchell Morris Publishing) releases this month. She also writes for Annie’s Attic Mysteries, The Deed in the Attic, 2011; The Unfinished Sonata, 2011; A Stony Point Christmas, 2012.

Her short stories have won numerous awards and have appeared The Storyteller, Woman’s World, and Kansas City Voices, she’s had several articles published in The Ozarks Mountaineer, Ozarks Reader, and Ozarks Magazine.

Defying the Odds: The Orange Karen Countdown Series

Happy December everyone! ‘Tis the season for twinkly lights on houses, packed parking lots at the shopping mall, and way more fruit cake than society needs. Christmas specials are already on the major TV networks and commercials and littered with stuff you’ve just gotta have.

All commercialism aside, this holiday season is a time to reflect upon the year and be with those we love. Every day for the next two weeks, we’ll be hosting a series of writers who have Big Love for a certain orange-headed warrior, Karen DeLabar. We love her, we feel inspired by her and we want to help her out. We hope you do too.


The deadline for short story submissions is fast approaching – December 15th. Submission guidelines can be found here. But before you head over there, continue reading. Our good friend Susan Ethridge shares a very personal and touching story about her father, a man who defied all odds and lived a full life. A warrior’s life. Just like our Karen.


My father was a very brave man. Very strong, and very stubborn.

He was born in 1933, in rural Texas, and at the age of five, he began to exhibit serious musculoskeletal problems. Medical care was limited – the nearest doctor was two hours away, and in that time and place, the type of specialized treatment he needed was practically non-existent.

By the time he was in high school, his spine was curved into a question mark. In his junior year, he underwent surgery, during which several of his vertebrae were fused in an attempt to slow the progression of his disease. The official name: severe scoliosis. He spent most of that year in a chest-to-hip brace.

His doctors told him that he would probably never be able to walk. That he would never be able to have a family, or hold a job. That he should resign himself to the life of an invalid and prepare for an early death.

Instead, he fought.

He recovered from the surgery and enrolled in college. He earned a degree in Accounting from Texas Tech University, and took over the family business – an industrial/agricultural operation in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  He worked at least ten hours per day during the harvest season, in a business that involved tractors and welding and heavy machinery. Not a desk job. Not cushy at all.

He married my mother, and adopted her young daughter. And then he fathered my sister. And me.

In my entire life, I never saw him bend over to tie his shoe – he couldn’t. Instead, he would put his foot up on a coffee table or a stool, so that he could reach the laces. His right side was partially paralyzed and atrophied; he walked with a limp, and my mother had to alter all of his shirts and pants to fit the hump on his back and the odd length of his right leg. He lived with chronic pain, and yet he bore his struggle with such stoicism and determination that until I was eight or nine years old, I didn’t even realize that anything was wrong. He adapted. He overcame.

He wasn’t even supposed to live, but he did – and then some. He defied every doctor’s prediction. He ran a business and raised my sisters and me. He took us camping and taught us how to grow melons and gladiolas. He lived a good life. A good, big, rich, full life.

He died when he was 57. I was 20.

I thought I knew what it meant to be a warrior. After all, I was raised by one.

And then I met Karen.

To be truthful, we haven’t actually met in person. Our paths were brought together through a writers’ group on Facebook. I have only read about the disease that nearly killed her, the grueling surgeries, the gradual withdrawal from serious narcotic pain killers, and her incredible recovery.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t experience any of it first-hand. And yet, it all touches me to the core.

For my father, disease and pain and struggle were always a part of life. He never knew anything else. His only option – ever – was to fight. It was a moot point.

But Karen had a “normal” life. She was a young mother, a writer, a wife…buying groceries, taking her daughter to dance class, writing stories, doing her thing. She never imagined that she might face death at the age of 30, with two little girls to raise. In her wildest dreams, she never thought she would hear a doctor say “You might never walk again.” Her world was happy, simple, fulfilling…until the day she got sick. And from that day to this, life has been one long, arduous battle.

My father was one kind of warrior, and Karen is another. Maybe even stronger, maybe even more stubborn and more determined than he was. After all, the idea that life had to be fought for was all he ever knew. But that fact took her completely by surprise. And she rose to the challenge anyway.

Orange Karen looked death in the face and beat it. She lost a toe, and almost lost a thumb, and she still faces long months of recuperation and rehabilitation, but today, she is walking. She is potty training her younger daughter and celebrating Christmas with her husband and family. She auditioned for a part in her community theater’s production of “Little Orphan Annie.” And let’s not leave this aside: she also completed NaNoWriMo – a competition which challenges authors to submit 50,000 words of a novel in a single month.  She can’t type very fast, or for very long, so she did all of that by hand.

Karen, I wish so much that my father could have met you. He would have admired you, a lot. You are a warrior.


Susan Ethridge works in marketing, and enjoys graphic design, painting, cooking and writing. She and her husband live in Texas with their two cats.

NaNoWriMo Half-Time Pep Talk…and Procrastination Ideas

Alright NaNoWriMo Ink Slingers, huddle up!

You’ve reached the half-way point of wrangling 50,000 words together this month (where in the heck has this month gone, by the way?). Congratulations!! Are your fingers furiously typing trying to feverishly keep up with the amazing ideas in your brain? Or are you kind of stuck, banging your head against your desk, hoping that words struggling to get past all the self-doubt and self-criticism will somehow tumble out onto paper?
What do you do when you’ve hit the dreaded “Writer’s Block?” Tweet about it? Randomly poke some friends on Facebook? Text a whole bunch of people hoping they respond right away? Scrub the kitchen floors?

What do you do when all of those things don’t work?
You could check out the Submission Guidelines of our Orange Karen Anthology. There’s nothing like a bit of productive procrastination to bust through the brick wall of Writer’s Block. Sometimes changing your focus can loosen up those creative joints. The orange Karen anthology project is an excellent opportunity to recharge your inspiration and do something awesome to help an awesome chick, all at the same time.
Speaking of inspiration, let me tell you a little about our dear friend, Karen. She’s a loving mother and wife and a fantastic friend, but Karen is also a writer. And she’s participating in NaNoWriMo this year. And she is kicking its ass. There are many roadblocks in Karen’s path to success with NaNoWriMo. First of all, due to nerve damage caused by the disease that nearly killed her last summer, she can’t type very fast or for very long. So she was able to get Dragon Naturally Speaking, a speech to text software, to help her rack up the word count on the page. Karen also still experiences a lot of pain still, so she has to pace herself. Tack that onto being a busy mom of two sweet little girls and you’ve got the profile of a warrior. Nothing holds her back. Nothing. She almost lost her life, but she came back fighting – literally. Just ask Karen’s nurses. She is our Orange Warrior. If there is a will, there is a way. It may not be easy, but it sure as hell will be worth it.

You want proof that Karen is truly an Orange Warrior? She posted this on her Facebook wall recently:

“Ok, wrote almost 4500 yesterday. I’m going to try for 5K tomorrow then I’ll only be 2 days behind. DeLabar’s big come from behind victory is in the works. I already ran one pen dry, working on the second! Watch out, people!!”
So writers, what’ll it be? A flourish to finish NaNoWriMo? A submission to the Orange Karen Anthology? Or are you going to go for the gusto and do both? If you are not a multi-tasker, the submission deadline is December 15, 2012 so you can still craft up a short story after you cross the NaNoWriMo finish line!
Whatever it is, we’re behind you. We’re the ones whispering “You can do it” in your ear and cheering when you hit a milestone in your plot development, or in word count.
Go forth, you wizards of words, you crafters of climaxes.
Go forth and do what you do, and when an obstacle rises in your path, think of Karen as you ninja-kick that obstacle’s ass.

See you at the finish line.

Christina Esdon