Writer Takeaways from Disney Songs

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. 

I’ll admit to being a big fan of Disney’s animated movies and of course the music in them is always great – be it toe-tapping, whimsical, introspective or poignant.

So I hope you won’t mind today if I indulge myself a little bit by listing some of my favorites (along with links so you can listen to them if you like) and so that it’s not entirely frivolous, tie each of them to a writerly takeaway. .

Here they are, in no particular order

  1. You’ve Got A Friend In Me (from Toy Story)

    Writer Takeaway: Writing can be a lonely, solitary business. Savvy writers will take the time to make personal connections, to be supportive of other writers and to maintain connections with friends outside of the writing community.

  2. Bare Necessities (from Jungle Book)

    Writer Takeaway: Most of us are working with limited resources when it comes to finances and time. But we all bring special resources to the table, namely our creativity and storytelling abilities. That is what the true ‘bare necessity’ is that it takes to succeed in this business. As for the rest, work with what you have and know that, if you stay alert to opportunities, you can go a long way on your God-given talent.

  3. A Whole New World (from Aladdin)

    Writer Takeaway: 
    Take the time in your worldbuilding to transport your reader to someplace they’ve never been before or to see the familiar in a whole new light, and make sure there are things to make them feel wonder and surprise over.

  4. Let It Go (from Frozen)

    Writer Takeaway: There are things that will come your way – story ideas, promo opportunities, project participation offers, etc. – that you won’t be able to pursue/take advantage of. Hard as it is to let them go, you have to accept that they were not to be and don’t let regrets weigh you down.

  5. Go The Distance (from Hercules)

    Writer Takeaway: No one promised it would be easy or quick – persistence is key to making it in this business. And of course you want to add in the proper training, because the best writers know that they never reach the point where they know it all.

  6. Heigh Ho (from Snow White)

    Writer Takeaway: Similar to the takeaway from the prior song, this one reminds me that there is no substitute for putting in the work. As a previous mentor once told me BIK HOK is the only way to get the book written (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard).

  7. Reflection (from Mulan)

    Writer Takeaway: This is a hauntingly introspective song. One of my takeaways is that, whatever the cost, we have to be true to who we are, as a writer as well as an individual.

  8. Something There (from Beauty and the Beast)

    Writer Takeaway: I love this song and it is a great lesson on how to develop a love story between two mismatched people. It also provides a good example of how to show versus tell a character’s growth and transformation.

  9. Almost There (from The Princess and the Frog)

    Writer Takeaway: This song is all about having concrete goals and maintaining your focus on them. It’s much too easy to let distractions get in the way of your dreams or start looking for shortcuts.

  10. Into The Unknown (from Frozen 2)

    Writer Takeaway: As writers we sometimes get stuck in a rut of sorts, writing the types of stories that have worked for us in the past and that we are comfortable with. Or perhaps we have become pigeon holed by our editors or readers who are leery of supporting us in a new direction we want to explore. But, scary as it might be, stretching ourselves, even if we eventually decide it’s not working, is how we grow as writers and as people.
     

  11. Dig a Little Deeper (from the Princess and the Frog)

    Writer Takeaway: This is such a fun upbeat song – gets my toes to tapping whenever I hear it. But the writer takeaway is that I should always ‘dig a little deeper’ when I’m developing my characters and stories, that just being satisfied with what’s on the surface is not enough to really touch the reader I’m trying to reach.

 

I could go on and on, but as I said, I’m under a tight deadline, so I’ll stop there.

Did your favorite Disney song make the list? If so, which one is it?  If not, let me know what that missing song is and why you like it.  I’ll pick someone from the list of respondents to give a copy of one of my books to.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk Gumbo – With a Cowboy Twist

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Did you know that, in addition to this being Columbus Day, it is also National Gumbo Day? And since I was born and raised in south Louisiana , gumbo is one of my favorite dishes – especially this time of year when nothing hits the spot like a nice hearty dish of soup or stew – or gumbo!.  So today, I thought I’d pull out a recipe I shared here over 10 years ago and present it again.

Gumbo has, of course, been a staple of south Louisiana cuisine for nearly 300 years and there are as many variations on it as there are cooks. While I learned from my mother who learned from hers, and my daughters are now learning from me, you can sample gumbos from each of us and you’ll discover no two taste the same. All true gumbo cooks put their own spin on their dish.

Gumbo is a true multi-cultural dish. While there are debates over its origins, there is no doubt that it contains strong influences from the French, African, Acadian and Native American cultures as well as lesser influences for the Spanish, Italian and even Germans.

There are two theories as to where the dish got its name. The most popular theory is that it originated from the West African word for okra, ki ngombo.  The other theory is that it comes from the Choctaw word for sassafras, which is kombo. (filé powder, a common gumbo ingredient, is ground sassafras).

Gumbos start with a roux, a mixture of flour and oil employed by French cooks as early as the 14th century.  Much of the thickness, color, and texture comes from the use of this flour and oil mixture.  As for the rest, some cooks prefer to thicken with okra, some with filé.

I actually love to cook (it’s the cleaning up after part I hate!).  I also like to experiment in the kitchen.  I call it being creative.  My less generous friends call it my inability to let well enough alone. <g>    I especially like dishes that I can make a big batch of and freeze portions of for later use.  The recipe below is one such.

For this version of gumbo, I’ve added a few extra elements to give it a little western twist (not entirely my idea – I saw the concept in a magazine and then added my own spin to it).  As with any gumbo you can just use whatever meats you have on hand (For instance, it’s a great way to use leftover turkey from those upcoming holiday meals!)

So without further ado, here is my take on a Cowboy Gumbo 

Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 cup butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 tblsp flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 can (14-15 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (6-8 oz) tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 lb sliced okra (sautéed with ½ teaspoon vinegar until ‘slime’ is gone)
  • 4 lbs meat – you can get away with less but I like to be generous with the protein. Meats that work well in this gumbo are sausage (I like andouille sausage), deboned chicken or turkey, pork, or game meats. You can use any one of these or a combination of two or more
  • Tobasco sauce or liquid crab boil to taste (optional)

 

Directions:

  • Use flour and oil or butter to make a roux. 
    Do this by combining them in a heavy saucepan and cooking over a low heat,  stirring constantly until the mixtures is a medium brown color (about 10-15 minutes).
  • Add garlic, onions, green onions, celery and bell peppers.  Cook until tender
  • Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. 
  • Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes
  • Add okra.  Return to a boil. 
  • Reduce heat and simmer for another twenty minutes.
  • Remove bay leaves, skim excess oil, and serve over rice.

As you can probably guess, this makes a very large batch.  Leftovers (if there are any!) can be frozen for later consumption.

So how about you? Do you like gumbo or do you have another favorite hearty dish for fall and winter?

Winnie’s Winners!

Thanks to everyone who took time out of their Labor Day celebration to stop by and share a comment.  I threw the names in a hat and pulled out

Estella Kissell  

and

Rose Ann Folger

Congratulations ladies! Simply decide which of my books you’d like to have (you can find a complete list on my website or on Amazon) and send me the title along with your mailing info and I’ll get the book on out to you.

 

Happy Labor Day

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I hope you all are enjoying your Labor Day and are able to celebrate.  Unfortunately this year I am waaaaayyy behind on my current deadline book – long story I may tell you about soon – and will be spending the day furiously typing.

That being said, I hope you will forgive me for not creating a detail post for you. Instead I’m going to turn it over to you.  Tell us how you normally celebrate Labor Day and whether or not you had to change things up this year.  Later this week I’ll be selecting someone(s) from all the respondents to win their choice of any book from my backlist.  That includes the current 2-in-1 reissue of my books Handpicked Husband & The Bride Next Door.

 

 

Handpicked Husband

Regina Nash must marry one of the men her grandfather has chosen for her or lose custody of her nephew. But Reggie knows marriage is not for her, so she must persuade them—and Adam Barr, her grandfather’s envoy—that she’d make a thoroughly unsuitable wife.

Adam is drawn to the free-spirited photographer, but his job was to make sure Regina chose from the men he escorted to Texas—not marry her himself!

The Bride Next Door

Daisy Johnson is ready to settle in Turnabout, Texas, open a restaurant and perhaps find a husband. Of course, she’d envisioned a man who actually likes her, not someone who offers a marriage of convenience to avoid scandal.

Newspaper reporter Everett Fulton may find himself suddenly married, but his dreams of leaving haven’t changed. What Daisy wants—home, family, tenderness—he can’t provide…

The Smithsonian

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. According to my This Day In History calendar, today, August 10 is the 174th anniversary of the day President James Polk signed the Smithsonian Institution Act into law. In honor of that, I thought I provide a little bit of history and fun facts about this great national treasure.

Although Englishman and scientist James Smithson, the man the Smithsonian is named for, was something of a globe-trotter, he never actually set foot in the United States. His estate at the time of his death in 1829 was worth approximately $500,000. In his will he named his nephew Henry as his sole heir.

However, he made one unusual stipulation – if Henry were to die without an heir, then his estate would pass on to the United States of America in order for the country to create in Washington D.C. “an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge” to be named the Smithsonian Institution. As it turns out Henry died six years later at the age of 24 without any heirs.

Smithson gave no indication as to why he would chose to leave his legacy to a country he’d never visited, a country that was to him a foreign nation. And his indication of how the funds were to be utilized was also quite vague. Because of this there was a lot of disagreement over exactly what the money was to be used for. Early discussions suggested a university would best meet the requirement. Other ideas put forth were a research center, an observatory, a museum and a library. Politicians, educators scientists and civilians all had an opinion on the subject. It took nearly 10 years for a decision to be reached. What was ultimately established by congress was a hybrid of all these ideas.

The Smithsonian Institute today has 19 museums and galleries, nine research facilities, and the National Zoological Park, making it the largest museum and research center in the world.

Here are some interesting facts and trivia

  • When Smithson’s nephew Henry died, the American government was not even aware of the bequest existed. When President Andrew Jackson was informed he had to pass the info on to Congress. Some in Congress held that our government had no power to accept such a gift, and some were even adamantly opposed to our accepting it.  One senator argued that it would set a bad precedent, that “every whippersnapper vagabond would send a gift to the United States in order to immortalize his name.” But  in 1838, three years after Henry died, the money was finally officially handed over to and accepted by the U.S. Government
  • The original building that housed the Smithsonian was built based on the winning entry in a design competition. It is called the Castle because of its distinctive castle-like appearance.

  • The official estimate of the number of objects, works of art and specimens belonging to the Smithsonian is somewhere in the neighborhood of 154 million. 146 million of these are scientific specimens found at the Museum of Natural History. Just one percent of all items are available for public viewing at any one time.
  • One category of items has been placed off limits to the viewing public – that of human remains. This includes a collection of shrunken heads and other such gruesome specimens
  • The Smithsonian museums are open every day of the year except Christmas.
  • The Smithsonian employs about 6300 individuals all told. It has an annual operating budget of more than $800 million.
  • Most of the Smithsonian exhibits are free to the public.
  • One of the institutions under the umbrella of the Smithsonian is the National Zoo. It houses 400 different species and approximately 2000 animals. About one fourth of these are considered endangered.
  • As the Smithsonian expanded it outgrew the Castle and eventually moved into the current complex of buildings. There are 19 museums spread along the East Coast. The Castle now houses the visitor center.
  • In 2018 there were approximately 29 million visitors to the various Smithsonian museums.
  • Smithson was in Italy when he died so he was buried there. In 1904 the expansion of a stone quarry threatened to displace his remains.  When Smithsonian officials got word of this they petitioned to have his casket transported to America so he could be interred at the site of his legacy. Agreement was reached and the casket made the 14 day sea trip, escorted by Alexander Graham Bell. Today Smithson’s body is entombed in the Castle.

I’ve visited the Smithsonian twice and it really is an amazing place. I spent about a half day each time and feel I only scratched the surface of all there was to see.

What do you think – did any of these facts surprise you?

Have you ever visited the Smithsonian? If so, what was your favorite exhibit?

 

Winnie’s Winner

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to leave a comment on my post about the Hoover Dam. Y’all shared some great info about some of this country’s lesser known treasures and I’ve added several of them to my ‘someday’ list.

I threw all the names in a cyber hat and selected

Veda Funk

as the winner of her choice of any book from my backlist. Congratulations Veda! Just pop on over to my website – https://www.winniegriggs.com/booklist.html – and browse through the list of books, then email me (via my website) with the title you’d like to have and your mailing info and I’ll get the book right on out to you

The Hoover Dam

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

I subscribe to the This Day In History calendar. It’s always fun to read about all those little nuggets that pop into my inbox from this site every day. One day last week the construction of the Hoover Dam popped up. The entry reminded me of a trip we took several years back. My mom had always wanted to visit Las Vegas so for her 80th birthday me and all of my siblings, along with various spouses and other extended family members took her for a multi-day trip there.

Those of us who weren’t much into what the casinos had to offer took a day trip out to the Hoover Dam.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to admit I was blown away by the size and scope of the structure. So today I thought I’d share some history and fun facts about the dam along with some of the photos from that trip.

 

  • You may have heard the dam also referred to as the Boulder Dam. That’s because back in the early day’s of the dam’s history there was some controversy over what it would be called. The original plans called for it to be built at Boulder Canyon so the project was dubbed the Boulder Canyon Dam Project and it was still called by that name when the proposed location was moved the Black Canyon. But at a ceremony in Sept 1930 the Secretary of the Interior announced the dam would be named for newly elected president Herbert Hoover. However, when Franklin Roosevelt assumed office in 1933 the new Secretary of the Interior announced the structure would return to its original name, the Boulder Dam. In the ensuing years the names Hoover Dam and Boulder Dam were used interchangeably, the choice often depending on the political leanings of the speaker. It wasn’t until 1947 that the name was officially declared through a congressional resolution to be the Hoover Dam.
  • It took tens of millions of pounds of steel and approximately 4.3 million cubic yards of concrete to build the dam, including the power plant and other features. According to the Bureau of Reclamation this is enough concrete to pave a road that’s 8 inches thick and 16 feet wide from New York to San Francisco.
  • There were 112 fatalities associated with the construction of the dam, including three suicides. Strangely, the first official recorded death occurred on December 20,1922 and the final fatality occurred exactly 13 years after on December 20, 1935.
  • More than 582 miles of one inch thick steel pipes were embedded within the concrete. The reason these pipes were included was rather ingenious.  Normally it would take over 100 YEARS for this much concrete to cure properly. But by circulating ice water through the pipes, they were able to dissipate the chemical heat the concrete generated as it set. Once they had done their job, the pipes were later filled with concrete to provide added strength to the dam.
  • Workers, called high scalers, were suspended at heights up to 800 feet over the canyon floor armed with 44 pound jackhammers and metal poles to clear the canyon walls of unwanted and loose material. As you can imagine, this resulted in quite a number of casualties from falls and from being hit by falling equipment and rocks.
  • The dam is situated in a spot where the Colorado River forms the boundary between Arizona and Nevada, states which happen to be in two different time zones. So by simply stepping across this boundary at the top of the wall you can almost instantaneously go forward or backward in time.
  • Statistics:
    • The Hoover Dam is 726.4 feet tall – as tall as a 60 story building. It is 1244 feet long or almost a quarter mile.
    • The top of the Hoover Dam is 45 feet thick, comparable to the width of a 4 lane highway. But the base is wider still – at 60 feet it’s wider than the length of a pair of football fields placed end to end.
    • It has an installed capacity of 2080 megawatts and as of 2018 generates about 4 BILLION kilowatt hours of hydroelectric power annually.
    • Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by the damning of the Colorado River encompasses 248 square miles and has a capacity of about 28.9 million acre-feet or more than 9 TRILLION gallons. That’s enough water to cover the state of Connecticut with a sheet of water ten feet deep. That also makes it the largest reservoir in the U.S.

 

And now for the promised photos.

The first set below were taken from the road that leads into the actual dam area – this access road is actually much higher than the dam itself.

 

 

 

These next photos were taken standing on top of the dam itself

 

And this last photo is taken at the spot that marks the state line – my hubby is standing in Nevada and I’m in Arizona. (as you can no doubt tell, it was quite a windy day!)

 

We also had the opportunity to look around the inside of the dam but unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of that portion of our tour.

So what about you? Have you had the opportunity to see this marvelous engineering feat in person? Or perhaps you’ve seen other national treasures like Mt. Rushmore or Seattle’s Space Needle or the Golden Gate Bridge or the Empire State Building or any one of dozens of other man made marvels to be found in this country. Share in the comments and you’ll be entered in a drawing for your choice of any book in my backlist, including the newly re-released titles Handpicked Husband and The Bride Next Door in a single volume.

 

Handpicked Husband (Texas Grooms Book 1)
Regina Nash must marry one of the men her grandfather has chosen for her or lose custody of her nephew. But Reggie knows marriage is not for her, so she must persuade them—and Adam Barr, her grandfather’s envoy—that she’d make a thoroughly unsuitable wife. Adam is drawn to the free-spirited photographer, but his job was to make sure Regina chose from the men he escorted to Texas—not marry her himself!

The Bride Next Door (Texas Grooms Book 2)
Daisy Johnson is ready to settle in Turnabout, Texas, open a restaurant and perhaps find a husband. Of course, she’d envisioned a man who actually likes her, not someone who offers a marriage of convenience to avoid scandal. Newspaper reporter Everett Fulton may find himself suddenly married, but his dreams of leaving haven’t changed. What Daisy wants—home, family, tenderness—he can’t provide… 

 

Click on cover image for information on how to order

Winnie’s Winner!!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and leave a comment on my post about favorite lullabies. I enjoyed reading your personal stories and even picked up a few new songs.  I threw all the names in a cyber-hat and the one that popped out was:

JESS  ELLIOTT

 

Congrats Jess! Please visit my website at https://www.winniegriggs.com/booklist.html and select the book you’d like to have. Then contact me via my website with the title and your mailing info and I’ll get it right out to you.

Favorite Lullabies

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  Around our house we’re currently on baby watch. My oldest daughter is pregnant with her first child and it’s due in a matter of days. Her pregnancy has put me in a mood to reminisce, to remember when she was just a little one herself. And one of my very favorite memories is of tucking her (and later her siblings) into bed with lullabies.

 

Singing lullabies to young children seems to be something ingrained in all of us – it crosses classes, cultures, and generations. I sang them from an early age myself. I have a sister who’s ten years younger than me. When she outgrew her crib and moved into the king-sized bed with me and my middle sister I began singing her to sleep.  It was a ritual we both enjoyed and I continued singing to her at bedtime until I headed off to college eight years later.  I also did quite a bit of babysitting during my high school years, and I reached into my stock of lullabies when I had a fussy child that needed soothing. 

 

So when I had kids of my own, it became a much-looked-forward-to  part of the good night ritual. I allowed each of my four children to pick their choice of songs when I tucked them into bed.

 

But I rarely used conventional lullabies.  Our repertoire included silly children’s songs, show tunes, vacation bible school songs, hymns and even Christmas carols.  I thought I’d share links to some of this eclectic collection (I’ve starred their favorites)

Little Bunny Foo Foo   

       * The Ants Go Marching  

Flowers Are Red   

        * In My Own Little Corner   

Ten Minutes Ago 

Impossible  

White Coral Bells 

       * There Once Was An Ugly Duckling  

Oh Be Careful Little Eyes 

Zacchaeus Was A Wee Little Man   

Rise and Shine (Arky, Arky)  

       The First Noel

Gloria In Excelsis Deo

 

What do you think – Are any of these songs unfamiliar to you?  Do you have a favorite lullaby of your own?  Or perhaps special memories associated with lullabies? >
Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your choice of any book in my backlist.