I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Books accomplish many important things . . .


Delores E. Topliff
Books accomplish many important things . . . They refresh and fill our minds, encourage our hearts, and rest our feet—sometimes literally.

At least that’s what I’m saying after taking my College English Comp. and Editing students on a library tour where I teach at the Univ. of Northwestern—St. Paul, MN. This picture of a perfect reading nook shows you why.

The good news is I had no idea the library was so up to date and with so much wide-ranging material available online from vast network options, greatly expanding our local holdings. With fast service, too, to receive even literal books to hold in our hands from surrounding libraries. Plus I’m told such improvements are generally true everywhere.

One of my students walked in unsure how to narrow a broad writing topic into a manageable one, and the library director’s informative slide show of in-house and online holdings took care of that in a heartbeat. It listed subjects and many detailed sub-categories that generated more than enough ideas for all of us. Later, touring literal attractive book stacks, titles practically shouted their names. I spotted a volume of an explorer’s century-old botanical survey of South America, including a jungle region where I once spent three and a half happy months helping teachers, schools, and school children. That book came home with me, and as a faculty member, I can keep it for four months. If I need to, I can even renew it longer.

Books, all kinds of them. On shelves, transmitted through the air, to fill our minds, encourage our hearts, and even rest our feet before taking more and better journeys through the wonderfully-expanded world they bring us.

It doesn’t get much better than that. Visit your local library in person or online, and happy reading!

Please tell us what book you’re reading now, or name a lifetime favorite. What has either meant to you?

For more blog posts and news updates, check my website, delorestopliff.com 


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Improve your writing by joke-writing and -telling



Delores E. Topliff
For those eager to write prizewinning stories, consider mastering the art of joke-writing. Jokes are miniature stories with a definite beginning, middle, and end. Get the sequence wrong, or leave out something essential, and it falls flat, giving you instant feedback. 

Master comedian and joke-writer, Sid Caesar, once said, “A joke is a story with a curlicue.” A tale with an added twist.

Successful stand-up comedian, Jerry Corley offers an online joke-writing clinic and says, “We must first understand why people laugh. Fact: the number one element that triggers human laughter is SURPRISE. It’s like magic, only with words. A magician surprises the audience when he does his trick. If there is no surprise, there is no trick…. Without surprise, you’re gonna have a…boring act.”

Steven Wright was a successful early stand-up comedian in the 1980s. He often looked through newspapers for interesting words. “There was no joke, it was just a word, like…electrolysis—I wrote a whole joke on that. For the first six months, I would sit down and try to write jokes, but after that, I didn’t sit down anymore. My subconscious was scanning all the time the things that could be a joke. My mind was looking for stuff, and some of it would leap out as a joke. It was just like a factory in my head…. It never shut down, it never stopped. I don’t go, ‘I’m gonna write a joke.’ I just go through the world and see stuff. It’s like I exercised the part of my mind of noticing things to the point where I now notice without even trying to.”
That’s how writing is meant to be. Hear an interesting news item and tuck it away for a story possibility, or pass it on to an author friend. Look at life with awareness. Joke-writing offers miniature practice units that can build to longer pieces, or maybe even the long-awaited Great American Novel!
Sure enough, my favorite jokes feature word confusion, like the Polish man who told a lawyer his wife wanted to kill him because a bottle in the bathroom labeled “polish remover”. When asked if she had any grounds, the husband replied, “Ya, two and a half acres.”
“No, no, does she have any reasons?”
“Sure, in our cereal every morning.”
It gets crazier, and may not be funny to you, but I’m on the floor laughing.
Now share your favorite joke and identify the trigger that makes it happen. Better yet, practice writing one and telling it soon.

For more blog posts and news updates, check my website, delorestopliff.com 


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Who created these North American Flags?


Delores E. Topliff

Until July 4th approached, I didn’t know there were doubts that Betsy Ross created our first American flag. The Betsy Ross Facts website says, “Of all famous American Revolutionary women in history, the woman who stands out as an icon is Betsy Ross. Although there is no actual historical evidence, she is widely regarded as the person who sewed the very first American Flag. A patriotic symbol, such as a flag, was just what the American colonists needed as a symbol to help unite them during the War for Independence.” 

What? Further research took me to a site stating, “The main reason historians and flag experts do not believe that Betsy Ross designed or sewed the first American flag is a lack of historical evidence and documentation…. No records show that the Continental Congress had a committee to design the national flag in the spring of 1776.”

For now, it seems the true creator of America’s first flag remains a mystery.

The person who designed our 50-star American flag is Robert G. Heft, age 17 in 1958 in Ohio when he created the design for a high school project and received a B−. (Some teachers grade hard.)

In 1927, Alaska held a flag design competition. The chosen winner to represent the future flag of the Territory of Alaska was Benny Benson, a 13-year-old Alaskan Native living in a children’s home in Seward. His eight gold stars on a field of blue showed the Big Dipper constellation lined up with the North Star overhead, representing the northernmost state. Until then, since its purchase from Russia in 1867, Alaska had flown only the U.S. flag.

Since its confederation in 1867, Canada’s flag had resembled Britain’s Union Jack until their 1965 national competition selected the Maple Leaf suggested by University of Toronto student, George F. G. Stanley. However, see
https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/16/canadian-flag-designs-photos_n_4109726.html for other great 
flag designs that got cut.


The coat of arms on Mexico’s flag represents an ancient legend for how the Aztecs chose the site to build their capital city, Tenochtitlan, (Mexico City today). The leader of the Aztecs, also known as the Mexica, had a dream with their god of war instructing them to settle in the place where they found an eagle on a cactus eating a serpent, and they did. 

What does it take to create a flag, emblem, or motto, to successfully steer our ship of state by? Do you have a family flag or crest?

If you were to modify your nation’s flag, what change would you make? Why?

Meanwhile, enjoy a wonderful May 5th, July 1st, July 4th, and every day! 

For more blog posts and news updates, check my website, delorestopliff.com