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Sunday, January 5, 2020


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author
First post of 2020. So what kind of year will it be? One of the writing prompts from the December 26 improv writing session was, "What do you want to accomplish in 2020?" Well, I wrote, "I want to finish this blasted book."

You see I've been working on a book that I hope to finish and submit soon. It is a story that has taken on a life of its own and I've been learning so much about the characters. That is one of the reasons for the delay. I want to make sure their story is told the best I can tell it.

In the meantime, I continue to read and perform as Helen. In honor of the New Year, I want to share a poem of hers that resonated with me. Additionally, I like to share what I garnered from her writing practices that may be helpful. I'll start with the poem.

Photo property of the author
New Year's Morning
by Helen Hunt Jackson

Only a night from old to new!

Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year's heart all weary grew,
But said: "The New Year rest has brought."
The Old Year's hopes its heart laid down,
"The blossoms of the New Year's crown
As in a grave; but, trusting, said: Bloom from the ashes of the dead."
And cried: "I have not half I need.
The Old Year's heart was full of greed; With selfishness it longed and ached,
True love it shall understand;
My thirst is bitter and unslaked. But to the New Year's generous hand All gifts in plenty shall return;
I was a slave; it shall go free,
By all my failures it shall learn. I have been reckless; it shall be Quiet and calm and pure of life.
The Old Year had its work to do;
And find sweet peace where I leave strife." Only a night from old to new! Never a night such changes brought. No New Year miracles are wrought.
All nights are sacred nights to make
Always a night from old to new! Night and the healing balm of sleep! Each morn is New Year's morn come true, Morn of a festival to keep. Confession and resolve and prayer;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.
All days are sacred days to wake New gladness in the sunny air. Only a night from old to new; Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old come true;

Each sunrise sees a new year born.
What I learned from Helen's writing and business practices
1. Helen would rise and start writing around 5 AM and continue until about Noon every day of the week, unless she was feeling ill.
2. When she wrote "Ramona" she spent eight months in a hotel in New York writing the story. (Remember this was hand written)
3. If a publisher did not want to pay her what she thought her work was worth, she would find someone who would.
4. She kept a journal where she would track her submission and what she was paid for them.
5. Helen started writing late in life, but the amount of work she turned out was amazing
6. Helen observed the world around her, vividly writing about the people, places and things she saw. 
7. Helen did not limit her work to just one genre. She wrote poetry, essays, novels and of course non-fiction books. 
8. Helen not only read other authors, she reviewed their works and encouraged others to put their work out into the world. (This also included her friend, Emily Dickenson)
So there you have what I've garnered from my study of Helen (Hunt) Jackson. I find her a great role model.
I wish all of you the very best in 2020, that your stories find their readers, that your fingers fly across your keyboards, and you find joy in the books you read. I also thank each and every one of you for the continued support and ro Prairie Rose Publications for bringing our stories out into the world.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


  1. I know an author like Helen who gets up every morning at 5:00am and writes every single day, but I have to admit getting up that early would not be productive for me. I would just lay my head on my desk and catch a couple hours more sleep. I do, however, believe that establishing a routine writing time is beneficial. I write every day from 7:00am to 10:00 am. I also cannot keep writing for that many hours at once. I would have to take breaks in between. I have reviewed books and try to read at least one book by every author I know. I don't think I have the moxie to demand a certain payment for my work. The market for books is so variable I think that would be impossible.
    I want to wish you well in this new year, Doris, and great success in your career.

    1. Sarah, I know I wouldn't be able to keep the pace Helen did. I do think her dedication to her craft worth mimicing and try for the essence.

      Like you, I'm not sure I could demand certain payment, but I can honor and feel what I write is worth the effort to work for other compensations. (Reviews, etc. LOL)

      Thank you also for the wishes for the new year and my success. I wish it for everyone. Doris

  2. Sigh...I wish I had the wherewithal to keep to a schedule--but there are too many "bright shiny objects" for me to do that at this point. LOL

    Helen seems like a very very interesting person and I intend to get to know more about her, Doris. I would love to see one of your performances! I love that poem--it is so beautiful!

    1. Thank you Cheryl for your kind words. The more I study Helen, the most complex and interesting she becomes. As a beginning writer, I find that part of her life fascinating, but like you, shiny objects do distract me.

      I love her poetry and always find something new when I read it. Maybe someday I'll film a performance and put it out there. (Grin) Doris

  3. Impressive woman!Inspiring poem!
    I'm with you and Cheryl re shiny objects. I also love to read and listen to music. I, too, would love to watch you as Helen.
    Happy New year to you, Doris!
    All the best to you and everyone at PRP with the writing!

    1. Thank you for the New Year wishes Lindsay. Like so many others, those shiny objects are the bane of creative peoples existance.

      I do see Helen as a role model for many things. Add to that her work on behalf of the Indians in the last years of her life and I'm blown away.

  4. Very interesting post. Helen Hunt Jackson is truly an inspiration. In this new year, i hope we all can discover life practices that will bring us joy and productivity.

    Happy 2020 to all.

    1. Ann, I also hope we writers find the creative practice that works for them. Hopefully by sharing Helen's it will spark something in others.

      Here's to a productive year for you and others. Doris

  5. Very inspirational post for the New Year. A great one to fire us all up to a productive start to 2020. I wish I was as disciplined as Helen!

    1. Thank you for the kind words. Hopefully Helen's discipline will help the rest of us find our 'groove'. Here's to all that we accomplish in this year and beyond. Doris

  6. I'm not sure her schedule would work for me considering I get up the same time she would quit. LOL. But I certainly agree that my production has been better during those brief moments when I actually did adhere to a schedule. I just have to get the gumption to hop back onto the wagon and git 'er done.

    1. You and me both. Like you, if the world lets me, I am up all hours of the night.

      I hope you git'er done. I'm looking forward to what your mind comes up with and you put it to paper. (Smile) Doris

  7. Doris,

    Schedule? Schedule? I don't need no stinking schedule... Well, in all honesty, I do. I get so easily sidetracked with this project or that errand or a tumble down a research rabbit hole, or worse, just plain old procrastination for no good reason. I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I am going to utilize my time better and apply myself to increased writing productivity.

    1. I say the same thing, and then deadlines loom, even if self-imposed, and then talk about schedule. Thing is, if I wish to make a wage at writing, I need to write.

      I don't do resolutions, but I do intentions. Guess I don't feel as constricted by the word. LOL.

      Here's to a productive and creative year. Doris