After 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will fold its tents for the last time in May of 2017. Over twenty years ago, the circus came to our town for the last time. Although I didn’t buy a ticket for the show that night, I arrived there in time to see the methodical – almost mechanical – dismantling of the circus, from bleachers to Big Top, the night before it moved on. Instantly, I was drawn back to childhood days, when our family went to the circus every year.  (Please note: While it is sad to see a beloved childhood memory come to a close, it is, at the same time, a pleasure to see circus animals – especially elephants – released and retired to live out their lives in animal preserves and sanctuaries, all due to the diligent work of animal rights groups. )         

A surge of nostalgia pulsed through my veins as I ducked inside the tent to savor the final phrases of the ringmaster’s spiel mingled with hefty aromas of roasted peanuts and cotton candy.  But hardly had the dust beams of yesterday sifted into place when a thunderous succession of swooshing vibrations jarred me back to reality, and I sidestepped a string of leather-harnessed elephants, tails in trunks, that brushed past me into the night.

Even as they disappeared, hollow sections of the wooden rings that had held their last act were carted off by performers still in costumes and undaunted by the endless river of faces that flowed from bleachers and funneled itself out of the Big Top. At the same time, safety nets and tightropes, trapeze, and even massive cluster-lights gave way to rigging manipulated by acrobats and bareback riders.  Steel bleachers clanked and clanged and rang as they were broken down and, like the precision closing of a child’s pop-up book, folded back into the sides of six, now-visible semi trailers that lined the tent.

As side curtains were dropped and packed away, the semis, already stacked high with props and clown paraphernalia rolled out, making way for elephants outfitted with chains to dislodge the poles that supported the crest and main weight of the tent.  From center to outskirts, poles surrendered their positions, until at last the mighty Big Top whooshed its final breath and collapsed on the asphalt.  Performers turned roustabouts swarmed to loose its center lashing, then scattered to its sides to fold and feed its candy-cane stripes onto the revolving drum in the Big Top’s own truck.

In minutes, all that remained in the amber glow of the street lamps was an oblong circle of iron stakes embedded in asphalt.  And now each of four elephants eyed the crowd and rocked in place to its own beat as the loose end of its dangling neck-chain was slung around a stake.  One by one, stakes eased from their asphalt grips clashed to the ground in fitting finales to labored trumpets that trailed off into the heavy night air.

As the last stakes were pulled, trickles of illusion eroded my senses.  The elephants’ work was done.  The Big Top was down.  And tomorrow the circus would move on.












Have you ever been intent on writing about a specific event but, when you took pen in hand, couldn’t remember enough of the details to make the writing interesting? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Learn how the three writer’s tools in Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present can help you pull the tiniest details from your mind’s camera and develop them into word pictures that can be recorded in any genre and shared over and over again. In addition, find out the difference between a handheld camera – whatever the style, brand, or cost – and your mind’s camera.

With the Olympic Games in full swing, I couldn’t help but step back in time and offer an Olympics-inspired excerpt from Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (pages 42-43), plus a word picture (poem) derived from images pulled from my own mind’s camera and developed with the help of the snaps, scraps and snippets explained in that book.

On our most recent trip to Australia, for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, my husband and I bought an older model car and traveled up the coast, from Melbourne to Cairns. Along the way, my camera was poised, ready to not miss a single precious moment in time. But I did miss several: a farm woman returning from a sugarcane field with a turned-up apron full of short pieces of cane; a half-grown lamb, down on one knee, nudging milk from its mother’s udder; a three-foot long goanna doubling back into the bush on a mountain road; a seagull halting in midair to scratch its belly; and the list goes on. Since it was impossible to recapture the moments on film, all I could do was capture the images with my mind’s camera and record them as word pictures in my diary, under “Pictures I Missed.” Most of those “pictures” are now being developed for a travelogue in poetry.

Good photographs depend not only on the quality of the film and proper use of the camera, but also on the skill of the photographer to watch for great shots and then have the spontaneity to click the shutter without hesitation. Likewise, good word pictures depend not only on the spontaneity of the writer, but also on proper use of the mind’s camera, through observation and the gathering of images. The difference is that a moment in time missed by the photographer can never be recaptured. No matter what pains he goes to, to reenact the moment, if he fails to get the picture the first time, that moment is lost forever. Not so with the writer whose words can record moments in time, anytime.

Think of your mind as a camera with a memory-sensitive, hair-trigger shutter. It is continually snapping pictures, capturing memories, good or bad, and storing them like microscopic images on film. But the beauty part of this camera is that it comes equipped not only with sophisticated video and audio capabilities, but also with the ability to record touch, taste, and smell, all of which can be described with words. 

That’s not to say that all of our cameras see and record things the same way.  Just as photographers see things differently—some capturing only the main subject, others taking in the entire background or foreground—writers do the same. Give three different writers the same subject on which to elaborate and, chances are, you’ll get three entirely different word pictures.

A “Getting the Picture” exercise can be found on page 44 of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present: How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past.

“Olympic Gold” (below), now a part of my travelogue, is among the many word pictures I have developed using the snaps, scraps and snippets explained in my book:

         Olympic Gold

Sixteen Olympic tickets—

No others quite like these;

A third trip to Australia for

‘Two Thousand’ memories.


They got us into venues

Of wrestling, boxing, track,

Our bold USA banner in

An Aussie haversack.


We walked in rains and rode the trains,

Bought food that wasn’t cheap,

And marching music played as we

Were herded ’round like sheep.


From stadium at Homebush Bay

To Darling Harbour halls:

Four busy days of to-and-fro

Mementos on our walls.


Olympic flame and cauldron burned

Their way into our hearts

While, sitting at the finish line,

We witnessed stops and starts.


Inside one exhibition hall

A pigeon walked our aisle;

Evander Holyfield shook hands,

Though seldom did he smile.


An angel stood at Central,

Promoting peace, good will;

The trains were always right on time

And quickly got their fill.


From Melbourne, north to Cooranbong,

To Sydney’s Games, and more:

Right up the coast to Cairns and back—

A trip we’d made before.


‘Twas I who’d balked at going,

But you who’d said we should;

We met with my old classmates and

Camaraderie was good.


Sixteen Olympic tickets,

Bright gold, with green and blue

Reminders of Two Thousand mem’ries

Shared by me and you.


Copyright 2014  Lois J. Funk


Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present is available at www.amazon.com/author/loisjfunk and www.bn.com.


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Meet Local Authors – Local Author Signing Event!
Sunday, March 13, 2016, from 2-4 p.m., at Barnes & Noble, 5001 N. Big Hollow Road, Peoria, IL 61615. I will be signing Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present: How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past.  Please stop by and say hello, and find out how to use the three new writers’ tools in my book to write your own memoir!

Read the latest review of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets, which can also be found at http://www.amazon.com/author/loisjfunk:

We all own memories- some good, some bad but at times, lack the encouragement of preserving them in form of writing and let them grow stale out of time, but still they remain important part of our past personality and lives which if shared would turn out to be a delightful read for our loved ones or for anyone we cared for. This is why I’d really thank and say that it is very kind, thoughtful and caring of author Lois J. Funk to share her special talent of writing with her readers and motivate them to put their memories down on paper in form of poems, memoirs etc.
‘Snaps, Scraps and Snippets’ is definitely an incredible treasure of knowledge, ideas and inspirations for new writers.

Author Lois Funk uses her beautiful memories of childhood days with her loving family and her travelling adventures with her husband and son aptly with a gripping style of narration, setting examples of writing a perfect memoir and showcasing the talent that can only come from real life experiences. This book is a treasure of a knowledgeable, inspiring read and a generous gesture of a talented writer for her readers.
I highly recommend ‘Snaps, Scraps and Snippets’ to all those who want to write and share their memories.


When my sisters and I were very young, our parents took up woodworking as a hobby, crafting footstools, end tables, magazine tables, and the like, in one corner of our basement, while we played in an adjacent corner. I often stopped playing long enough to walk over and watch my dad turn a table leg on the lathe, or my mother put sandpaper to a table Dad had just put together. In Dad’s workshop, “smooth” was always the goal, and “going against the grain” was unheard of.

Years later, as a teenager, I was encouraged by English teachers to write. And later yet, when I stepped into the real world of writing, I found that popular authors warned, in so many words, about “going against the grain.” Write about what you know, they said, and, search for something similar on library shelves; then write something like it—but different. How confusing is that? Well, I surely wanted to write about what I knew, but as far as finding something similar to what I had in mind, I was at a loss.

As a result, when I started compiling Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, I was well aware that I was stepping out of bounds and off the beaten path by combining prose and poetry in a memoir, risking being tripped up by either of two gaping potholes: poetry is a hard sell in its own right; and, does the world really need another memoir by an unknown author—especially one who promotes poetry? Should I have stayed on the safer path by presenting another memoir in prose? Maybe, maybe not, but re-writing and repeating what had already been published seemed a little redundant and not at all interesting from my point of view. At the same time, the more nostalgic poetry I shared with readers and writers, the more I was questioned as to how I remembered so many things about my past and how I could turn such mundane things as wash day into enjoyable reading. Still others recalled and enjoyed some of the same experiences but didn’t know how to put them into words.

As I skirted the potholes, Snaps, Scraps & Snippets evolved into a “loose” memoir, with the added twist of “showing, not telling” how to retrieve and record one’s own memories. I had no idea how the book would work, or if it would work, but proof that it is working comes in the fact that readers are going back through it a second or third time, either because they fear they missed something during their first reading(s), or because they are using my snaps “tools” to write or “fix” their own work(s).

Perhaps the book’s qualities are best explained by the late teacher, friend, and editor of Pieces of Her Mind – Women Find Their Voice in Centuries Old Forms, who accepted twenty-one of my poems for that book and had no qualms about endorsing Snaps, Scraps & Snippets as follows:

‘Too often beginning writers are told to “show, not tell.” However, they are not told how to do that. Lois Funk, in Snaps, Scraps, and Snippets, uses the example of taking pictures and vignettes from her childhood and trips abroad to do exactly that. Every beginning writer (and some seasoned ones) should read this book. It is charming and endearing and uses the simplest of things – such as a sieve – to show one how to sort through the good and bad of one’s writing. I would definitely recommend this book for my beginning students. – Alvin Thomas Ethington, Editor, Pieces of Her Mind; staged playwright, published author, and a professional reviewer.’

As nonfiction how-to for poets, memoirists, genealogists and more, Snaps, Scraps & Snippets offers a new and simple approach to recording as many memories as a reader/writer cares to share with family, friends, or the world. So, if you have a story to tell and don’t know where to begin, learn how to use “guided freewriting” to dig into your memories and how to use a “sieve” to sort them out.


Please visit my website at http://loisjfunk.com.

My books can be found at www.amazon.com/author/loisjfunk and www.bn.com

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Submitting my first children’s story of the year prompted me to muse on why we call writers’ accomplishments ‘works’. So I turned to the American Heritage Dictionary to find that work is (1) an artistic or intellectual creation or composition as well as (2) labor, effort, exertion, and/or toil. Both definitions fit an earnest writer’s works to a T.

Beginning writers/poets might be wondering what it takes to “get published”—not in the self-publishing sense writers are being steered toward today—but by magazine and book publishers who accept submitted works and print them in their own realm, with the author’s byline attached. I had no idea myself, until my first four children’s poems were accepted for publication some thirty years ago; no idea how much work I was in for in the coming years, performing all the writers’ tasks necessary to get published, while keeping detailed records of every piece of writing submitted and published, from one-line quips to rhyming children’s stories and inspirational poems. Those records show that of the 1,491 pieces submitted to date, 591 have been published and/or reprinted (reprints require that publishers ask for permission to reprint) in magazines and books, including my own Snaps, Scraps & Snippets and Light for the Burning Soul.

 When done in earnest, writing—whether a poem, a story, or a book—is work in every sense of the word: work getting it on paper/screen; work editing and/or rewriting it; work finding the proper publisher/editor to whom to submit it; work readying the manuscript according to that publisher/editor’s guidelines; and work submitting it.

While every writer accomplishes the above steps in his or her own way, earnest writers have one thing in common: commitment. I continue to refer to earnest writers because I so often meet poets who would love to see their byline in a magazine or a book, yet they lack the commitment it takes to get it there. New poets, especially, have a tendency to step out too soon and make the fatal mistake of putting their first hundred or so poems together, hoping their book will sell. All that work, yet they rarely think of submitting their poems to an editor first, to see if they even warrant publishing. And that brings me to some advice given by a bestselling author/poet several years ago: that some poems of even the best authors should probably be left in a drawer or put back in a working file until later; and that it’s best to wait until you have a good-sized collection/selection of poems to choose from before setting the goal of publishing a book of poems. So, whatever else you do, don’t let family and friends lull you into thinking that your work is wonderful enough for a book until you have put it to the test with actual editors who will tell you the bold truth.

 Another jaunt through the dictionary tells me that commitment is the state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to some course of action. That pretty well sums up my commitment to writing. What about yours? What do you write, and how committed are you to your writing, whatever genre, and to getting it published? How much research have you done, to find publishers/editors who might be interested in at least reading what you write? They’re out there; it’s just up to you to find them, because, until you get your name in print, they won’t come looking for you. So don’t sit back and wait. Revise your work to the best of your ability; have it edited; and get it out there.


Closely related earlier blog: The Flip Side of Rejection Slips


Please feel free to leave a comment or a question. Also, please visit my webpage at http://loisjfunk.com. My books, Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present and Light for the Burning Soul are available through www.amazon.com/author/loisjfunk and www.bn.com.

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An excerpt from Chapter 1 of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past):

Ask a child to create a scrapbook without the benefit of photographs or tangible mementos, and he will surely rely on memory to conjure up pictures of his favorite things, making them real and touchable (at least to him) by drawing or writing them on paper. Our challenge, as writers wanting to record our own thoughts and feelings about our pasts, is to do the same thing. But unlike children, who are closer in time to everything they’ll record, we sometimes have to draw on memories that have been tucked away for so long that we first have to find them. In other words, we have to “get the picture” before we can write about it.

Photographs, no matter how precious, tend to get lost or buried or tossed away. Similarly, memories that have the potential to become good word pictures (highly detailed, written descriptions), or ideas for writing, get lost in the shuffle of busy schedules, buried beneath the debris of other thoughts, or tossed away, that is, given up as being too trivial to think about, let alone write about. In order to draw those memories back to the surface, the writer needs to drag out the mind’s camera, dust it off, and start getting some good images that can be developed into word pictures and then turned into meaningful poems or essays. Dusting off the camera might be compared to “getting the cobwebs out of our brains,” as our teachers used to say, so that we can observe what’s been stored there and is just waiting to be retrieved. Although some details of the past may be temporarily out of sight, it doesn’t mean that they are lost forever. There are ways of bringing them back to mind, and photographs, or snaps, are just one of those ways.

On my ninth Christmas, I received a Kodak Baby Brownie Special and a few rolls of film, after which I became responsible for paying for my own film and processing. I soon learned to shoot wisely in order to avoid wasting film. Still, I looked diligently for interesting subjects to photograph, and when there didn’t seem to be any, resorted to taking seemingly dull shots of home, church, and school. Dull, I thought, until recently, when the details in some of those pictures jogged my memory and gave me some unexpected writing material. One example that comes instantly to mind is a black and white photo taken by a teacher, of my third grade class at Lincoln School, in Pekin, Illinois.

It wasn’t the Why are you taking this picture? look on some of our faces that caught my attention but, rather, the background: a wide, brick stairway attached to a back corner of the school, on the girls’ yard side of the building, with pipe railings running up each side and a thick concrete landing at the top. The steps led to double steel doors that seldom, if ever, were opened. So no one minded that, every recess, my girlfriends and I climbed the steps and took claim to the landing in front of those doors, to resume the girl talk that had been cut short with the previous return-to-your-room bell. From that photo, then, I immediately made a journal entry (word picture) that covered ideas for at least two more childhood poems—one about the brick stairway and landing, and one about those recess talks.

It was during my Kodak Brownie years that I learned to carry a camera most everywhere I went, a habit that still has me grabbing one or more newer models from the closet for any special occasion. (The Brownie was retired in 1967, when an emaciated cow in Banaris, India, kicked it from my husband’s hand and sent it flying through the air.)

While a large percentage of the photographs I take are close-ups, mainly because I am more interested in the color of a person’s eyes than in the shoes they are wearing, my search for childhood memories taught me a valuable lesson about the pictures, written and otherwise, that I want to leave for my descendants. Designers of today’s scrapbook kits advise us to sort through our photographs, get rid of the bad ones, and give (or throw) away any duplicates. Then we’re to take the good ones, cut away the backgrounds, and put what’s left in the scrapbook. Had I followed those instructions with the picture of my classmates at Lincoln School, I would not have a picture of the brick stairway that led to the unused doors, that was so much a part of those days, and that inspires me to want to write about it.

(Continued on page 34 of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present), available through http://www.amazon.com and http://www.bn.com.

Please also visit me at any of the following: http://loisjfunk.com http://www.amazon.com/author/loisjfunk/     http://www.bn.com http://www.facebook.com/loisjfunk.writings https://twitter.com/LoisJFunk https://www.pinterest.com/loisjfunk/ http://thehaikufoundation.org http://www.fanstory.com/mumsyone.



Entry Title: Light for the Burning Soul

Author: Lois J.  Funk

Judge Number: 43

Entry Category: Inspirational

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking. Our system only recognizes numerals during this portion of logging evaluations. As a result, a “0” is used in place of “N/A” when the particular portion of the evaluation simply does not apply to the particular entry, based on the entry genre. For example, a book of poetry or a how to manual, would not necessarily have a “Plot and Story Appeal and may therefore receive a “0”.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5


LIGHT FOR THE BURNING SOUL: SPARKS, FLAMES, AND EMBERS by Lois J. Funk is a collection of life experiences, poetry, vignettes, and thoughts that will make the reader think, ponder, and contemplate life and, most importantly, God, as He enters the little and big moments in life. This unique book is one that will bless all readers whether they read each and every passage, or pick it up to enjoy a few pages here and there. This would be a good book just to read from day to day, and a good book to share with other pilgrims as they journey with us along the way.

The cover is interesting and the clouds make us think of Heaven. I like how the picture of the clouds forms a pathway in the sky, making one think of a path to Heaven. Nice execution of the idea. The back cover copy is lovely.

I like the layout of the book and how the vignettes were divided into categories. I think the last thought is my favorite.

All in all, I think this is a beautiful, thought-provoking collection of ideas and vignettes that readers will enjoy. They are unique to the author and therefore quite special. Nice work.


In a previous blog, see the Judge’s Commentary regarding Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards). And, for a glimpse into both books, please visit my website as http://loisjfunk.com and feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you! My books are available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook, through www.amazon.com/author/loisjfunk and www.bn.com.


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