Monday, May 26, 2008


I had a nice topic all ready to post for today about plotting and brainstorming. But then I started thinking about using a patriotic picture, and well, one thing led to another…

On this Memorial Day I have one more reason to honor and pray for our troops than ever before. My nephew recently graduated from Marine boot camp. Ooh-Rah!

So, today, you get pictures of the event, plus some Marine-style writing tips.


Recently extended family drove to Parris Island, SC to see my nephew graduate. He was able to come home with us and that boy…no, strike that…that MAN talked non-stop for about 3 days! Sheesh. But I learned tons about the Marines. Did you know you are not a Marine until you’ve completed the crucible, 2 ½ days of endurance training? You have to earn every privilege from the way you cut your hair to the way you roll your sleeves, to the way you tuck your pants in your boots.

The Drill Instructors (DI’s) are extremely tough on recruits. They have to be. If someone can’t make it in the trenches, they need to be weeded out now, before they get on the battlefield. Otherwise, they’re a danger to themselves and everyone else.

For thirteen weeks, you are a recruit, but at the end of the crucible, the exhausted, sleep-deprived, hungry men and women who have EARNED the right to be called Marines gather around the Iwo Jima memorial and are pinned right there, before they eat, shower, or sleep. One Drill Instructor said if you don’t cry, you didn’t work hard enough to earn it.

We must EARN the right to be called authors. No, I don’t mean we have to be published before we can call ourselves that. But we should work hard at our craft (exercise), submit our work for consideration (enlist), take instruction from those who’ve been in the trenches before us (drill instructors), and stand tall and firm against rejection and those who tear our work to shreds (contests, line edits).


The Marine Mascot is the bulldog. I don’t remember the full story and since I just decided to post on this topic this morning, I don’t have time to research the entire story. Sometime during the day, I’ll post a link to the full story if I can find it. Forgive me if I get any details wrong. The bulldog name stuck when, during a certain battle, a troop of grossly outnumbered Marines fought and defeated their enemy for several days. They never gave up. The enemy started referring to them as bulldogs and the name stuck.

We need to be tenacious to make our goals. Never, never, never give up. We’ll never be published if we don’t roll up our sleeves (they gotta be tight, in order to show our muscles!) and dig in. Keep it up and you’ll see your dream come true. Go Marines! Go writers! Ooo-Rah!


During the crucible, the DI’s throw everything they can at the recruits. It’s a simulated battlefield, and it’s the closest the recruits have come to being in a live battle. Each squadron, or group, has to react to whatever situation is thrown at them, and remember, they are operating on little food, little sleep, and lots of adrenaline. They have to depend on each other to navigate the jungle (the swamps of South Carolina!) and get the injured (the biggest guy in their group who was DEAD weight and didn’t even put his big toe in the dirt to help…according to my nephew who is a drama king) to the helicopter or wherever they needed to be. Under all that pressure, the rest of the team has to make snap decisions on how to get all of them to the drop point in time.

Teamwork…doesn’t that sound like something we as writers can relate to? Critique partners, SEEKERS!, contest judges, agents, editors! Wow, we need to stop complaining about those low contest scores (okay, there are those rogue judges, but we won’t go there) or that editor who rejected our latest masterpiece and think of that person as one of our team leaders. That editor is our DI and someday we’ll appreciate their tough instruction that’s meant to make us stronger writers.

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave some things for comments. If you have a story or link you’d like to put in comments where you can draw parallels between military and writing preparedness, let’s hear it.

Ooh-Rah! God bless our Troops!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Those Marines got nothing on me. I've been getting rejected for FOUR YEARS! Been in basic training for FIVE YEARS! Cried way more than the three days of the crucible! My crucible lasted MUCH longer!

Okay, not to disparage any Marines. They are awesome in my book. The son of one of my good friends is a Marine and he is one tough, rugged, good-looking dream of Christian muscle! He even led one of his platoon buddies to Christ! Semper Fi! Praise the Lord! But I digress.

Yes, I've been through basic training (online courses, writing classes, studying craft books, critque groups) with some tough drill instructors (contest judges). I've had my heart ripped out a couple of times, but I think I was close to the graduation ceremony when I realized, Hey, I can't do this. Only God can. All my pride is getting in the way of the goal and getting in the way of what God can do through me. So after more tears, a couple of broken legs, and some weeks in the infirmary, I got an agent! I feel like I've been pinned, right there at the Iwo Jima memorial.

Pam Hillman said...

I wanted pics, but I'm at home today on dialup.

So no pics.

Sniff, sniff.

Maybe we'll get some up later today.

Melanie, what an AWESOME comment, you've got the lingo down pat!

I'll be back to chat, but I've got to write first. I'm logging off and will come back in a couple of hours.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Congrats on the agent, Melanie! That's huge! I'm excited for you!

Great post, Pam. Sorry I know no marine lingo, but I did gain from your post. You're right, there's blood, sweat and tears in writing, just as in the military. Onward we fight.

Tina M. Russo said...


My dad was a Marine so I send him a card each year on the anniversary of the Semper Fi, birthday. But I was Army.

I truly believe that everone in the U.S. should be required to be in the military. National pride and patriotism is taken for granted. We are very fortunate to live in a country where we can worship the God of our choice in public and can write what we want to write.

I'd rather be published than unpublished but in my heart I know it is all about the journey.

Happy Memorial Day.

Thanks, Pam, for the reminder and the encouraging post.

Congrats to MELANIE on your agent!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Happy Memorial Day!

We had a church service this morning and the concluding song was "America the Beautiful!" Such a great way to start the day -- prayer and patriotism! Thanks, Pam, for the uplifting post and congrats to your Marine nephew!!! Good for him!

Glad Tina stopped by so I could offer my thanks for her service to our country! Cara too!

Melanie -- an agent!!! Woo-hoo!!! Fantastic! I'm so, so happy for you.

I'm heading back to the trenches to rough out a little more of my work-in-progress. You're right, Pam. It takes hard work and determination to create a soldier, a Marine or a good book.

Hope to stop back later!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Melanie, great job on getting an agent and congrats on your contest placement. I bet you're flying high

Happy Memorial Day to all of you too. I agree that we should all at least go to another country and you would be sure to appreciate what we have here. Ever since Ed and I traveled to South America for a year, I've never complained about paying taxes again.

And I definitely appreciate what my brother went through in Viet Nam, my dad in World War II and my uncle who was killed on Iwo Jima. (dates me I know, but they are my heroes).

happy writing.

Ann said...

Speaking for myself ... I do want pix ;-) Were the Marines called "Devil Dogs" by teh Germans in WW1?

Anyway, congratulations to your new Marine.

Still slogging through boot camp here. Kinda glad I can do my slogging in my jammies with a cup of coffee close to hand.

Ausjenny said...

Good analaogy.
My friends daughter is in training in australia and its the same here the first 12 -13 weeks of basic training is to weed out the ones who wont cut it.

congrats melanie.

Lorna said...

Congratulations, Melanie. You soooooooo deserve it!

Loved the military comparisons. Perfect for today, too. We decorated graves today, and I was explaining to my 9-year-old why there was a special plaquard and flag next to her great-grandpa's headstone. He served in WW1 in France and still managed to have roses sent to my Grandma on their first Christmas apart. I think that's where my love of romance must come.

I'll have to remember that when I'm digging through the trenches.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Thanks for the congrats, Seekers. Y'all are so sweet. Is it normal to have the fear that she'll change her mind? No? I'm just phobic and paranoid, not to mention insecure? That's what I was afraid of.

I so love our military people. Sometimes I just pray a blanket prayer that God will protect our guys in Iraq. Just please protect them, God, and bring them home safe.

Julie Lessman said...

Pam, what a timely and appropriate post! And so relatable to writers or any career in which one wishes to succeed.

I don't know why I thought of this (and it's a bit silly, I know), but while reading your post, I kept thinking of another military analogy -- the shorning of a soldier's hair. Samson immediately came to mind. Cut his hair, cut his strength. Cut the soldier's hair, and he loses his own individual strength and purpose to become part of a larger srength and purpose -- a team of tough, focused, committed soldiers whose personal mission is temporarily put aside for the sake of country and freedom. God bless them and keep them.

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, sorry I didn't get here yesterday. Crazy weekend, fun, though.


My grandfather was injured and sustained life long health problems in WWI. My dad was in Korea, he left two weeks after he married my mom, so honeymoon and good-bye.
I have a brother-in-law who is retired Navy, another who missed Vietnam by an eyelash and ended up as a MC in France and another who parachuted into Panama during that dust-up.
Now I've got a niece in the Army who right now is a medic in Bagdhad.
So this day is one that has deep meaning to me. Thanks for helping us remember, Pam. And for reminding up that the publishing world is like war. :)
I'm proud of your nephew. What does he have ahead of him?

Mary Connealy said...

MP, not MC...good grief.

Pam Hillman said...

My family is going to kill me! I didn't realize that pic was going to be so clear! lol

BTW, I'm not in the picture. I was taking it. Good move, huh?

Pam Hillman said...

Ann asked: Speaking for myself ... I do want pix ;-) Were the Marines called "Devil Dogs" by teh Germans in WW1?


Here's the story that I promised yesterday:

Devil Dogs: The German Army coined this term of respect for U.S. Marines during World War I. In the summer of 1918 the German Army was driving toward Paris. The French Army was in full retreat. In a desperate effort to save Paris, the newly arrived U.S. Marines were thrown into the breach. In June 1918, in bitter fighting lasting for weeks, Marines repeatedly repulsed the Germans in Belleau Wood. The German drive toward Paris sputtered, fizzled, and died. Then the Marines attacked and swept the Germans back out of Belleau Wood. Paris had been saved. The tide of war had turned. Five months later Germany would be forced to accept an armistice. The battle tenacity and fury of the U.S. Marines had stunned the Germans. In their official reports they called the Marines "teufel hunden," meaning Devil Dogs, the ferocious mountain dogs of Bavarian folklore.

Pam Hillman said...

And Melanie! Major congrats on snagging an agent.

Pam Hillman said...

Mary, best I can tell my nephew was assigned to the air wing unit of the Marines working with the Air Force.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm a day late, but great post, Pam!!

And congrats, Melanie!!! And yes, it's normal to fear that she'll change her mind. At least I hope it's normal. I kept thinking that with my editors until I actually held the book in my hand. :)

MIssy :)

Janet Dean said...

Pam, sorry I missed your post yesterday. I loved your comparison of writers to Marines in boot camp. God bless the courageous men and women who put their lives on the line for this country.

Melanie, congratulations on getting an agent! Wahoo!! I'm thrilled for you!


Tina M. Russo said...

Great pictures, Pam. I enlarged them searching for you but alas I think you were the photog.