Ann Kellett of the Brazos Writers (Bryan-College Station area) sent me an email to notify us of a writing contest. If you are interested in testing your skills against other entrants, here is the link to their website: http://brazoswriters.org/ There are cash awards for winners–and a chance to list the award on your bio.
Contests are a great way to ramp up your writing for two reasons: There are deadlines, and deadlines tend to get us into high gear. Also, it is a chance to see how our writing stacks up against the writing of others.
Thanks to Ann for sharing the information.
In the world of Ursula LeGuin’s book A Wizard of Earthsea, the source of all magic is in the naming of things. To know the true name of a thing is to understand it’s very being, to have power over it. A man’s true name is a guarded secret and revealed only to a few trusted friends. For many years I was afraid to share my thoughts; to express myself both verbally and in writing because I feared others having, if not power over me, at least understanding. Even in our world, for good or ill, naming has power.
A few years ago I stood in a local cafe with a co-worker waiting for a meeting. We were looking at the posters of local high school athletic teams and
cheerleaders. As we stood there a thought struck me; that cheerleading must have been around for centuries. I said I wondered how many times a clan brought out their young women to shout and dance and jump about to encourage the young men to go raid the neighbors cattle herd. The fellow looked at me and said, “You’re not the type we usually get.” On one hand I was flattered that he noticed I was not the usual type and on the other I was a bit scared. I worked in AG in a small community and most farmers expect a certain type. Thinker and philosopher are not high on the list of admired qualities. I have since changed jobs and am not so concerned with popular opinion. As writers when we share our work we bare our souls for our readers to see. We reveal our true selves. I now present my thoughts on cheerleading.
I have no issue with cheerleading. It serves a useful function and I find it amusing. Centuries ago you tried to get your young warriors to raid the neighbor’s cattle or defend the tribe. Ceasar speaks of this in one of his histories, how one of the tribes he fought would come to battle with their women. The women would ‘bare their breasts and shout at their men to inspire them.’ Now we want our ‘warriors’ to defeat the opposing sports team. What is their motivation you ask? Well you have various degrees of money and/or fame but ultimately it all comes back to the cheerleaders. In ages past if you distinguished yourself in battle you might catch the eye of a ‘cheerleader’ and get a roll in the haystack. Now it’s the backseat of a car. Ah, some things never change. If you doubt my logic go to a pep rally at the local high school. Ever seen a really unattractive cheerleader? Of course not, you must be popular and attractive to be a cheerleader because they are held as the ultimate example of what one’s battle renown might gain. Look at the outfits. If shouting alone were enough to inspire the ‘warriors’ then they could wear a lot more clothing. I do not envy my friends who have daughters.
Now we take an audience to ‘battle’. The cheerleaders shout. The audience responds. The ‘warriors’ hear and are inspired to greatness. Ever been in a crowd where they were shouting for blood? Where they wanted actual harm done to the opposing team? Of course you have.
This is where the primitive aspects really show. Maybe we are not so evolved as we think.
I embrace that I am a thinker and a philosopher, but lean close now as I whisper in your ear. “My true name is writer.”
Swish swosh the knife cuts through the golden flesh of the cantaloupe freeing it from the perfectly netted rind. The last two crescents I gulp are sweet as ripened mangoes. The front porch on the old country vacation house is the perfect kitchen for me. I am alone and a bit too far from the highway for anyone to see exactly what I am doing I think. However, my eighty-five year old friend remarked that she drove past the highway and saw me sitting on the porch and remembered my parents sitting there thirty years ago. In a fleeting thought it occurs to me that now there are so many mesquite trees everywhere it must be more challenging to see exactly what anyone might be doing on the porch. Then I make myself get up and carry the sweet slices in the plastic container into the house and the refrigerator.
Ah, …. well, it is hopeless for me to write about the front porch. What I want to write about is my immobility and fear. There is fear and procrastination that blocks me at every move. For instance, in the last quadrant of my life I am afraid to devote myself to my love of painting. Twenty years earlier, painting for commission on the furniture belonging to patrons held no inhibition for me. Without a qualm, I put faux finishes of my own making to restore tops of family’s heirloom pieces and brushed on designs with my trusty brush strokes – all of this while I worked at a full or part time job. Now in the era of retirement, my forays into painting result in trips to buy new brushes and an assortment of new watercolors, drawing pencils, and papers.
Free from time limitations, my spirit is bound by inaction. I now want to commit the final quadrant of remaining years to just painting what I want to paint, and to sew what I want to sew, and to write what I want to write, to live where I want to live. It is a leap of faith and courage to reveal these desires to another in print because then I then admit that I am inadequate, unable to follow my own wishes. Maybe my intent is to reveal in writing my abysmal failure to act, and by doing so, to free myself to take the actions to bring my innermost hopes into reality at this time in life. There are those people who will voice an opinion about the viability of such desires, so I think to keep my ideas secret and close to my heart. Another pitfall for me is my insatiable desire to please people and to fall victim to their agendas. So, perhaps with the declaration of my inmost desires will come a courage to countermand the pushes and nudges of the people in my world, who after all, are really quite kind and sweet people for the most part. Now is the time for me to pray to God to follow His plan for me.
How do I get the courage to set up my little studio and to buy a sewing machine? After all, I might not be able to use a zipper foot to make cording anymore. That skill might be lost to me in the last forty years. There is a lethargy in me that threatens to consume me at the last of my life. Maybe my competence dwindled through the years. I can’t wait for February and March of 2013 to go their cold dreary way so I can sit on the front porch again. There is still a fair view of the Rocking Chair Mountains even with the encroaching mesquite. Sitting there is a comfort to my soul, and the present restlessness to accomplish will leave me sooner or later. Peace is what I really want. After dumping the cantaloupe rinds in the trash, I quickly wash my hands before I return to my metal chair on the porch. Ah, the great spectator sport of bird watching delights me. Through my field binoculars I watch the timid oriole grabbing ripe mulberries off of the old tree my mother and I set out as a foot long sapling, and I am content to revel in the beauty of God’s creations.
The plaque outside the professor’s office caught my eye. The desire to write grows with writing. It had no author listed so I did what I do when I want to know anything and looked it up on the Internet. It was a quote from Erasmus*.
I suppose one could substitute any action words into the phrase. The desire to exercise grows with exercising. The desire to clean house grows with cleaning house. The desire to worship grows with worshiping.
I recently joined a Pilates class, a form of exercise in which you develop the muscles in your abdomen in order to control your body movement and protect your back. It is similar to yoga and involves a large inflatable ball, a floor mat, weights and a resistance exercise band that looks like a spider. This is an anomaly for me. I am normally so sedentary that I classify myself as “all white meat”—the part of the chicken that gets no exercise. In the beginning when asked how I liked the class, I quickly replied, “I hate it. Every muscle in my body aches and it literally makes me sick to my stomach….yah duh, yah duh, yah duh. But I paid for it and by golly I’m going to finish what I started.” Now, three weeks into it, I am beginning to look forward to the time with the precious tiny instructor and the other ladies who creak and moan as much as I.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37: 4 NIV
(* Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian. Erasmus was a classical scholar who wrote in a pure Latin style. He was born in 1466.)
Sitting across from me at the kitchen table, five-year old Annalisa gently placed her hand on my forehead and pushed it away from my search for the Thomas Kinkade puzzle piece. “Nana, please, you are in my thinking space.” Quick, alert and gifted with spatial intelligence, Annalisa was assembling the only slightly contrasting sky at a two or three-to one pace while I struggled to put the chimney of the garden cottage together. Hovering over the puzzle, I had encroached on her “thinking space.”
I love the concept of a “thinking space”. Out of that space come the thoughts that lead to action. No action occurs that one doesn’t first see themselves doing it. Like writing–one must see themselves writing before they will do so. Out of the thinking space come the ideas that produce the story.
Louis L’Amour was often asked “Where do you get your ideas?” He replied, “If a person does not have ideas, he had better not even think of becoming a writer. But ideas are everywhere. There are enough in the daily newspaper to keep us writing for years. Ideas are all about us, in the people we meet, the way we live, the way we travel, and how we think about people. It’s important that we are writing about people. Ideas are important only as they affect people. And we are writing about emotion. A few people reason, but all people feel.” Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, p. 85.
Ideas are born in our thinking space. For six years I traveled the panhandle of Texas as an educational consultant with Region XVI Education Service Center in Amarillo. The panhandle is a little less than 26,000 square miles so it was not unusual to travel 700 miles a week going to various rural schools. Ideas that began during that travel time were often not completed when I arrived in the driveway of my home, so I would remain in my car until they were–pondering in my thinking space until one of the kids interrupted my reverie with, “MOM, I’m hungry!”. Oh, well, to my thinking space in the kitchen!
It is hard to stay in deep point of view. However, I am rewriting and rewriting to get there. On the Critique page on this website is an example of how to go from shallow point of view to deep point of view. We will be talking about that more Saturday morning. Bring something you have written. We will critique together, search for shallow point of view, and together figure out how to get it changed to deep point of view. In addition, we will do general critiques of the work we bring.
Why should we do deep point of view? It is a way of engaging the readers to a deeper level so that feel they are the characters in the story. Remember, we never want the readers jumping out of the story, if only for a moment.
See you Saturday?