Thursday, December 22, 2005

Creating a Scrapbook of Christmas Letters

Along with jotting memories in a journal, you can incorporate this into a scrapbook with photos of memorable times and experiences. You also can add sketches to your journal and scrapbook pages.

One way I’m trying to keep a record of yearly memories is by building a scrapbook around the annual Christmas letters I write to friends and family. Some people add photos to these letters (so much easier in these days of digital cameras and computers).

This Christmas letter gives a recap of the year gone by and you can add to it as you have time. I also like to keep the letters and photos sent to me by family members and include them in the scrapbook.


(If you have questions or stories to share, e-mail me: Type"writing blog" in the subject line.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Keeping a "Mom" Journal

All of us have good intentions of keeping a journal about the joys and challenges of raising our children. With the first child, we often begin a baby book, then with more children, or as the years go by, we do less and less.

The same happens with a journal. I began writing about our daughter in detail, then found that life became busy, and my writing often tapered off. I got caught up in a quiltmaking business, writing assignments, helping my husband with his business, caring for ailing parents.

However, I did squeeze in some writing time…jottings in notebooks, letters to my mom (which she thankfully saved), and mention in my newspaper columns or travel articles. As I look back, I’m so glad I did find time to write something down.

So, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t time for daily journaling. Simply write whenever you can. You’ll be glad you did. It’s such fun to read about Beth’s younger years and reminisce with her children. Also, I’ve tried to do the same with my grandchildren.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Stories of Strength

Writing for anthologies gives me pleasure and a sense of accomplishment. This becomes even more fulfilling when I can use my talent to contribute to a cause such as Stories of Strength, where my essay, “Add Prayer in Times of Crisis,” appears.

Publication in an anthology often becomes a way to help others, where your contribution to a group project may do more than trying to do something alone. For instance, Stories of Strength was born out of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when various authors were looking for ways to help. By combining their forces, they could do more as a group and produce a book with proceeds going toward disaster relief.

Stories of Strength was edited by Jenna Glatzer and published by Zulu. Many contributed more than stories; they donated editing, cover design, and copy editing services.

(For more information about Stories of Strength, visit or; available in print and e-book formats.)

©2005 Mary Emma Allen


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My Writing Heritage & My Grandfather

As I read my grandfather’s writings, Fifty Years Ago, Rural Life from 1876, I was delighted to realize he’d included information about his mother’s quilting at Trails End Farm, in Dutchess County, NY. I knew, from this, that my quilting heritage definitely traced back to my great grandmother, Mary Barker Coon, and beyond.

Papa Coon, as our family referred to Burton Barker Coon, writer and farmer, mentioned the women getting together for afternoon tea and cutting out pieces for quilt blocks. “They would take their sewing along and have a very pleasant time. All the girls were brought up to piece quilts, bake bread and do all kinds of housework….,” he related.

Then he mentioned “quilting bees” that were common in his childhood. “The quilting frames would be brought down from the garret, the middle of the sitting room cleared, the frames put together with clamps, and the corners laid on the backs of four chairs. Then the quilt, pieced perhaps by a daughter in the family, would be stretched on the frame, the cotton batting inserted, and all would be ready for the bee.”

He told how four or five neighborhood ladies came to help. “Needles and tongues would vie with each other in making bed spreads and history,” he wrote.

Papa Coon called each quilt a “sort of souvenir piece.”

“I used to like to hear my mother tell, ‘Now I had a dress like that, and an apron like that, and you had a little green sun bonnet, and a dress like that, and grandma a dress like that, and Aunt Susie one like that.”

He described the quilts: “ I could see them all in stately array. There were no loud patterns. The figures were small and the colors very bright and lasting.”

From my mother’s tales of sewing get-togethers when she was a child and Mary Barker Coon an elderly lady, I imagined my great grandmother stitching quilts in her younger days. Her son’s description of quilting when he was growing up substantiates that quilting occurred at Trails End Farm in the 1800s. He also indicated that his mother learned to sew quilts when she was a young girl, before she married and came to live at Trails End.

As you research your ancestry, you may find that you have a fascinating quilting heritage, too.


(If you have any questions or information to share, e-mail me at: Include the words “Quilting Blog” in the subject line.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Why Write?

Why do writers write? Why do we feel we MUST write?

I don’t think there is any specific answer. There certainly is no correct answer, right or wrong answer.

Writing means something different to everyone, whether they write for pay, write in journals, write letters to impart information or to cheer others, write for a cause, or simply write to work their way through a situation in their life.

I’ve done many types of writing during my career, including writing for children and adults, fiction and non-fiction, books, journalism pieces, columns, scrapbooking journals, travel stories, press releases, corporate newsletters, and letters to the editor, as well as letters to friends and relatives.

Also by taking advantage of opportunities that arose that I’d never previously considered, I’ve enjoyed many writing experiences.

I write because I have to write…something inside me desires to express itself in the written word. I’ve learned that this “writing muse,” as some writers refer to it, must find an outlet…hopefully an outlet that helps, encourages, and inspires others.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Enjoyment of Writing for Anthologies

I’ve had stories published in a number of anthologies, generally inspirational ones and those focused for writers. This, along with my column writing, has provided some of the greatest rewards for me in my writing career.

To reach other people, encourage and inspire them, as well as simply giving them enjoyment as they read something that relates to their world or carries them from their problems has become a great purpose of my putting pen to paper or words on a computer screen.

Numerous anthologies have cropped up since The Chicken Soup for the Soul series came into being. I’ve been published in:

*God Allows U-Turns, American Moments
*Finding the Joy in Alzheimer’s, books 1 & 2
*Let Us Not Forget
*Heartwarmers of Spirit
*Romancing the Soul
*Half Full
*The Pint-Sized Piglet & other tales
*The Hopeless Hen & other tales
*Rare As Hen’s Teeth
*Tales of Adventure & Discovery

*Book Marketing from A-Z

Others are in the process of publication. This also doesn’t include e-book and CD collections where stories, articles, and poetry are featured.

While you’re in the process of writing your novel, waiting for stories to be accepted or that writing job to come about, look around for opportunities to submit to anthologies. Also, many of them will accept previously published pieces, as long as you’ve retained the rights.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Scrapbooking a Story Journal

As you get ideas for a new novel or non-fiction book, why not use scrapbooking techniques as these develop? Since I’m very involved in scrapbooking my family heritage, I decided to use a few of these techniques as I made notes for my novel for youngsters, Papa Goes to War.

This book evolved from researching my family history and discovering that some of my grandmother’s uncles served in the Union Army during the Civil War. I found tidbits of information to serve as a springboard for developing a novel about a family set in the area where this one lived.

This becomes a storyboard for my own thoughts.

The scrapbook erves as “show & tell” when I talk to young readers…or writers of children’s stories.

It has become the basis for a workshop I teach.

It provides something of additional interest when I give book signings and talks.

Possible Inclusions:

*Pictures from family album of people who inspired the novel

*Map of the area where the story takes place

*Family tree

*Letters from the great, great uncles who fought in the war

*Pictures of Uncle George’s grave at a Union cemetery

*Patches of quilts the ladies and young girls made to send to their soldiers

*Illustrations of styles of dress of that era

*Description of life and schooling at that time

*Sketches about the story that could appear in the scrapbook.

The ideas are endless for developing a story journal scrapbook as you work on your novel or non-fiction book.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Where Do I Get Ideas for Food Columns?

“Where do you get ideas for your ‘Country Kitchen’ columns?" I'm frequently asked.

I’ve been writing this column since the early 1960s for various newspapers in print and online, sometimes only one and occasionally for two or three at the same time. Since it’s an area I love and have pretty much free rein with my topics, I usually have no problem coming up with ideas.

When I started writing this column for my hometown weekly in 1963, I had no idea I’d still be producing it more than 40 years later! Also, no idea of the enjoyment writing it would provide throughout the years.

The ideas come from my daily life, children and grandchildren, my travels and foods I find in other parts of the country, books I read, history and genealogy I research, family cookbooks and journals I browse. One might think I’d run out of ideas, but somehow they keep coming.

A chat with my readers or sharing my ideas and philosophy, one might describe the columns. One reader said reading my columns was like chatting with me over a cup of tea. Another called 'Country Kitchen' homespun philosophy. Still one more said my writing brought back memories of good times in her childhood.

If I can brighten my readers’ day with my musings and sharing, I’ve discovered the secret for my writing.


Letter Writing as a Prompt

Often when we reach a block in our writing or stalemate in getting our work accepted, we question our ability to write and to get published. I’ve found that letter writing often gives me a bridge across this time of discouragement.

I also discovered serendipities. My letter writing brought pleasure to those receiving my notes. Also, this led me to write articles about different aspects of letter writing for a pen pal magazine. The topics I shared in my letters often could be expanded into essays and stories.

When you’re discouraged, and even when you aren’t, write letters or e-mails. I come from a family of letter writers so it was always natural for me to write when I was away from home or to those who moved from me.

My grandmother set aside Sunday and Wednesday evenings for her letter writing. I still have some of those letters she wrote to my mom with notes for my sister and me. When I visited her, I wrote letters home to my family, letting them know what we were doing. I recall Nanny writing letters to my uncle (her son) when he was on active duty in the Pacific during World War II.

My mom was a letter writer, too. Those bits of news from home, including her humorous accounts of life on the farm, helped me overcome homesickness when my husband and I lived on an Air Force base many miles from home.

So the act of writing letters seemed natural to me as I sent notes relatives, to elderly acquaintances in nursing homes and to friends from school. I recall, after one elderly friend passed away, his sister writing me and letting me know how much my letters meant during this period of his life. He enjoyed hearing about my husband’s and my life in another part of the country.

Take a look at what letter writing might do for you and for those you write to.
(c) 2005

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ancestors Influence Our Writing

I've discovered that my ancestors have greatly influenced my writing. I've inherited writing genes from my paternal grandfather, a published writer, and discovered, when doing genealogy research, that there's interesting material provided there to write about.

My grandfather, Burton B. Coon, was a farmer in Milan, NY. However, he wrote columns for the local newspapers for many years, wrote sermons, and wrote for a farmers' magazine. I've discovered, too, that he composed a few and words. His poetryalso is lovely, the old-fashioned rhyming kind.

My mom's writing was never published. However, she and her mother were great letter writers. Mother also wrote poetry for her children and grandchildren...interesting little snippets that she sometimes illustrated. I must collect these into a book for her grands and great grands.

As I've researched my background, I've found fascinating people who lived quiet, yet courageous lives. My great, great grandmother Cynthia Irish Banks inspires me with her ability to keep going after her husband died, leaving her with 10 children, five of whom were dependent on her.

Through my research and my writing, my dad, although not a writer but great reader, encouraged me.

There must be stories in your family and ancestors who inspire you.

Monday, August 08, 2005


I hope my readers and writing colleagues will find my blogs of interest, giving them insight into one writer's life and perhaps encouraging them as they go through each day.

Writing has been part of my life since I was a child. It's a way to express what I feel and hopefully to inspire others. I come from a family of writers...some published and some not. But my grandfather, grandmother, mother and I have always written down our thoughts whether for others to read or for ourselves.

What does writing mean in your life?