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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Fun with My Name

Before I published my first novel, Brute Heart, I asked several writer friends whether I should use my given name (Virginia) or the name friends and family called me. One author I respected opted for Virginia, referencing Virginia Woolf, however I didn't feel comfortable even having my name mentioned in the same breath as that noted author. In the end, I copyrighted the novel as Virginia Dehlinger and put Ginger Dehlinger on the cover. I've used Ginger on everything I've written since.

In fact, I have taken advantage of my name, most notably by dying my hair red. Now, when I meet people, they often say "I won't have any trouble remembering your name."

I take advantage of the name Ginger by offering gingersnaps as a gift with purchase when I sell books at street fairs or Christmas bazaars. My sign reads: "Spend $10.00 and get a sample of Ginger's homemade ginger snaps."

At Christmas bazaars, I display this gingerbread man reminder of how many shopping days are left. 

People give me items that include my name. My designer friends Lee and Sheila Stewart gave me this label which I've had pinned to my pin cushion for at least 40 years.

On impulse, I often I buy things that use Ginger or gingerbread men in some way. I bought this mini tea set at a Christmas bazaar this year. I loved it so much I made it the centerpiece on my dining room table.

I wrote a poem about my name that appeared in the anthology: Family, Vol. 2 published by The Poet (summer 2022). I am including the poem below, and that is enough said about my name.

In the Shadow of a Namesake

My father named me,
not Elsie after my mother
or Anna after his
but a name without a nest
in either family tree.

‘We’ll name her Virginia’
he said the day we met,
‘but call her Ginger.’
(another treeless name)
Mom, still under Daddy’s spell,
let it be his call.

I never asked my father,
stern and otherwise detached,
why he christened me so readily.
We never talked much, anyway.
Mom just shrugged;
said she couldn’t remember.

I answered to Ginger
long before I learned—
Ginny is a more common derivative,
British gingers have red hair,
the spicy alias is favored by
strippers, courtesans, filles de joie
(pure irony for vestal Virginia).

Ginger Rogers was a Virginia.
She and Fred were the cat’s meow
when I was born.
Mystery solved, I thought,
until I remembered…
Daddy’s favorite star was Barbara Stanwyck.

Who, then, was the other Virginia?

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Word Play

 When submitting my poems and short stories, I often begin my short bio with "Ginger Dehlinger writes in whatever genre fits the story she wants to tell." 

For me, writing a poem is the joyful experience of weaving a few well-chosen words into a very short story, one that delivers a satisfying conclusion. I can immerse myself for hours, arranging and rearranging the feast of words in the English language into a variety of poetic forms, tones and rhythms. It's a pastime I liken to playing word games or assembling puzzles.

Recently I wrote an epistle. According to the Oxford dictionary, an epistle is (1) "a poem or other literary work in the form of a letter or series of letters." Also (2) "a book of the New Testament in the form of a letter from an Apostle."

I had way too much fun writing the following poem.

The Epistle of Thistle

 Dear beloved partisan,

I am soon to depart for Damascus after a brief sojourn in Jerusalem where I visited Cousin Artichoke. I trust your deep-rooted diligence will prevail after I take leave.

 Let it be known by you and all mankind that henceforth I shall propagate these lands with emissaries by the hundredfold. I am called noxious and evil (lies perpetrated by Philistines), whereas I am neither immoral nor leprous. I am merely an ageless purveyor of herbaceous greens often trodden underfoot. I am magnanimous. I deliver pollen to makers of wild honey, seeds to doves and raptors without prejudice. I provide bedding for hatchlings, leaves for larvae, roots for redemption.  

Granted, my spines can be weapons. I am a pacifist at heart, although it did not distress me to learn my prickly progeny once saved Scotland from Norse invaders. The Scots, who have made me their national emblem, depend on me for their Black Thistle gin. In turn, I provide solace for their livers and dyspepsia.

Enough of my glories, for I must bid thee farewell. I have many lands to cross before my mission on earth is complete. Pray, I beseech thee, for steady winds and deliverance from scythe, plow and contagion as I journey on.

Your steadfast friend,
Cirsium of Antioch


Monday, October 9, 2023

Thumbs Down for Sweeney Todd

My two younger sisters and I take a trip together every year, usually in early September when there are fewer tourists to contend with and the weather is still pleasant. This year we went to New York City. Since I had lived and worked there when I was in my 30’s and 40’s, I was charged with organizing our activities.

We were in Manhattan only five full days plus two half-days. All three of us wanted to see a Broadway show, and, in fact, we saw two. One was A Beautiful Noise, the story of Neil Diamond’s life, told through the songs he wrote. We loved every nostalgic minute.

The decision to buy tickets for a second show happened when we learned Josh Groban was the lead actor/singer in a revival of Sweeney Todd. I hadn’t made the effort to see this show in the past, either on Broadway or on tour. Somehow, watching a barber kill his patients just didn’t sound like a fun way to spend an evening. This September, however, I thought the opportunity to hear Josh Groban sing was worth the price of a ticket. Josh Groban definitely met my expectations. So did my negative presumptions about the musical’s plot.

After watching Sweeney Todd, I figured the story had to be an adaptation. I couldn’t imagine a noted songwriter like Steven Sondheim deciding one day to write a musical about a barber who killed his patients and turned them into mince meat pies. When I returned home, I looked up Sweeney Todd, and, according to Wikipedia, I was correct. The musical’s grim story first appeared as a piece of pulp fiction titled “String of Pearls.” The story was serialized by The People's Periodical and Family Library in London in 1846, 1847. There is some evidence “The mad barber of Fleet Street” was a real person.

I have a feeling Sondheim, who wrote lyrics for West Side Story, Gypsy and 16 other musicals was the main draw before Josh Groban accepted the lead role. But, for me, the music in Sweeney Todd was totally unforgettable. There was no “I Just Met a Girl Named Maria,” no “Send in the Clowns.” I did not leave the performance with a single line from a single song playing in my brain.

Monday, September 11, 2023

I Suppose I Could Do Something Like This


or this

 if I didn’t hate promoting my writing.

I know this is naïve, some would say stupid, but I am uncomfortable mentioning to people I meet that I have published two novels and a children’s book. To me, it’s a form of bragging. Mentioning I’m a writer also makes them feel obligated to buy one of my books, pay me $5 to $15, even though they receive something in return. (Something of value, I hope.)

I grew up scrambling for money, and thanks to the work ethic my father instilled in me, I have never had to ask for money except when getting a mortgage. I don’t write to make big bucks, which is a good thing, considering the miniscule royalty payments I receive. I write because I love playing with words, telling stories, creating metaphors and other connections that give my brain an occasional shot of dopamine. If readers happen to find my work entertaining, I’m happy.

That being said, Sandra Beckwith, who gives all kinds of good advice to writers, recently shared her enthusiasm for MockupShots, the company that created (as a free introduction) the two Never Done promotions above. For a reasonable fee, they insert book covers in a variety of settings for use in ads or other promotions. Although I didn’t subscribe to the service, I did appreciate the idea, so just for the fun of it, I tried creating mockups of my own.

It quickly became apparent that if I ever need a mock-up promotion, I should leave it to the professionals.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

My Motivation and Incentive to Write

I haven't written anything new in weeks. I blame some of this on it being summer when I have a big yard to take care of as well as normal household chores. For most of this year, when I have been inspired to write something new it was usually a poem. Not that a poem deserves less praise than a story or novel, but it definitely takes less time to write.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks. Six weeks! How is that possible, writing longhand with a pen that had to be dipped into an ink well over and over? Prolific writers such as Dickens may be so in tune with their craft they can just sit down and write. On the other hand, while not belittling his talent, he was married. His wife was in charge of his household.

I never felt confident enough in my writing skill to depend on it for a paycheck. I sometimes wonder if I might have had a career doing what I loved. I do know this for sure--I just can't say to myself, "OK, get your act together and write!" Something has to inspire me first. Either that or I need an incentive, and even then, life has a way of getting between me and my keyboard--interaction with family and friends, housework, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, pet care, exercise, gardening, and so on.

To me, inspiration is the most crucial part of this process--discovering something that not only moves me but has the potential to educate or entertain others. These ideas often spring from one of the five senses--a spectacular sunset, a smell that makes me cover my nose, a song that makes me cry. Sometimes it arrives in the form of a sixth sense, an idea that just feels right.

Serendipity comes into play when I'm at the right convergence of time and place for an “aha” moment that I otherwise would have missed. These opportunities sometimes reveal themselves when I take a wrong turn, either literally or figuratively, and come across a situation, idea, word or group of words that escapes the box. I carry pen and paper with me at all times so I can jot down these unusual perspectives.

Dreams and memories have great potential for inspiration because they can be so intense. Well, I have to admit as I get older the memories aren’t always so intense, but the dreams and memories I do recall are usually those with the greatest potential for writing material.

After I come up with an idea or storyline, the next step is to turn whatever inspires me into a poem, essay or novel, and for that I need motivation--some incentive that makes me sit at my computer instead of vacuuming or pulling weeds. No, I do not enjoy vacuuming or pulling weeds, but chores often become excuses to delay the writing process.

Deadlines are a great motivator. These can be self-prescribed for the disciplined writer, many of whom set goals of a certain number of words or pages by noon, by midnight, or per day. Frequently deadlines are dictated by a boss, publication, critique group, writing competition or the timeliness of the subject. Faddish or timely topics have motivation built right in because their newsworthiness has a short lifespan. Charles Dickens had to get A Christmas Carol into print before Christmas or wait an entire year--perhaps another reason he was able to write his masterpiece so quickly.

Critique groups can push you to write since you are expected to have your work in the hands of the group's members by a set time. The writing group I belong to (Central Oregon Writer's Guild) helps those of us with writer's block with presentations that get our creative juices flowing. Publishing a blog helps by forcing me to post something on a somewhat regular schedule. Writing competitions work for me because they encourage me to write, stick to a schedule and really, really polish my work.

The stimulus to write can be the thrill of seeing my words on a page or in some instances, receiving an award, affirmation, or tiny payment. And the biggest incentive of all is the wonderful feeling I get playing with words, rhythm, and sounds followed by the thrill of accomplishing a worthwhile project. I definitely need to get back to that happy place.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Gyroscope Review Is Available

Yesterday, I visited Amazon and ordered a copy of the latest edition of Gyroscope Review, fine poetry to turn your world around. ( Summer 2023) Below is the announcement that appears on the publisher's website:

Welcome to summer and great reading! We have a wonderful cover by Assistant Editor Elya Braden, Summer Circus, a Tribute to Chagall, and plenty of great poetry you can dig into like beach sand.

The Summer 2023 Issue of Gyroscope Review features these fine poets:

April Asbury, Joe Barca, Maddie Baxter, Lisa Bellamy, Nancy Botkin, Devika Brandt, Steve Brisendine, Marion Brown, Ginger Dehlinger, Marc Di Martino, Jane Dickerson, Mary Alice Dixon, Elizabeth Edelglass, Alexis Rhone Fancher, Arvilla Fee, scott ferry, John Findura, Hayley Mitchell Haugen, G A Hindy, Catherine Hodges, Richard Jordan, Jeanne Julian, Peycho Kanev, Kit Kennedy, Linda Laderman, Elizabeth Levinson, Jim Lewis, D.S. Maolalai, Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco, Patrick Meeds, Marda Messick, Susan Cummins Miller, Louisa Muniz, Abby Murray, Lillian Nećakov, Mary Paulson, Connie Post, Richard Risemberg, Bruce Robinson, Rikki Santer, Robin Scofield, Julie Standig, Gabriel Welsch, Jamie Wendt, Martin Willitts Jr, John Wojtowicz, Michael Young, Nicole Zdeb.

Not only am I one of the poets listed, but my poem, "A Summer Spectrum," has the honor of being the first poem in the book!

I ordered the paperback version. You can also order an electronic version, PLUS, you can read the PDF version for free on the Current Issue page of their website ( 

Those who follow me know how often I experiment with form. "A Summer Spectrum" is a shape poem that is chock full of summer fun. Hope you enjoy it. 

Friday, June 9, 2023

Here Come the Dandelions!

This past winter in Central Oregon was longer, grayer and wetter than it has been in many years. Thankfully, patience was rewarded when spring delivered a fairyland of flowers. My lilac bush has never worn a dress so lush and fragrant. For miles in every direction, lawns that had been brown due to a long stretch of drought looked as if elves had painted them neon green. In no time, however, the glorious green lawns were polka dotted with gold when those pesky dandelions, snakes in the grass, even  during years of drought, enjoyed a field day. 

Today I am sharing two poems I wrote about these indominable plants--a pantoum that romanticizes them and a limerick that displays my true feelings. 

Wild Gold

She lives but for an hour

a lioness resolute—

this gold that is a weed that is a flower                                        

with healing in her roots.


A lioness resolute,

she grows in impossible places;

with healing in her roots,

produces hardy golden faces.

 She grows in impossible places.

Her wind-borne mane takes hold,

produces hardy golden faces

that turn white when they grow old.

 Her wind-borne mane takes hold,

making summer rife with riches

that turn white when they grow old,

then soar on children’s wishes.

 Making summer rife with riches,

she lives but for an hour,

then soars on children’s wishes—

this gold that is a weed that is a flower.
                                       Ginger Dehlinger

The Invasion

They pounce on my lawn with a roar,

endure curses, spade and lawn mower.

In spite of the spraying,

they seem to be staying.

It’s time to declare all-out war.
                                      Ginger Dehlinger