Last weekend, the Cabot Trail Writers Festival hit North River. Sue and I attended the Friday and Sunday events. Well worth it! We enjoyed the readings by authors Russell Wangersky, Carol Bruneau and Peter Robinson, their panel discussion on Sunday morning, the music of Otis Tomas, Carmel Mikol and Buddy MacDonald and all the tasty food. The fall colours were nearly in full display so the venue was about as perfect as one could wish for.
So, I got myself all educated up, by listening to excellent writers throwing out their writing wisdom and then I went home.
The one point that stuck with me was the grab-the-reader idea. To fill my stories with zip - wild sex if need be. To grab the readers by the shirt collar, lift them up off their feet, stare them square in the eyes, and shout, “Read my story, damn it, or I’ll melt into a puddle of talking-head verbiage.”
I sometimes hit upon topics that emotionally seem to be so far outside my comfort zone that they induce guilt in me. Scare me, and having been raised in a religiously conservative tradition, I come by this feeling naturally. So, there I was, tip-tapping away, while noticing that my back was beginning to complain. I put the pain down to the damage done to my back years ago when it prevented me from being crushed by a falling, fully-loaded fridge, or to a psychosomatic reaction to writing "no-no" stuff. I adjusted my chair and kept on slogging away and suddenly the paragraph I was working on was jumping all over the computer screen. What the h---! I started banging on a few keys to make it stop. It didn’t. The wild, grab-you paragraph I was writing just leapt to another page. Then another and then back and then I was getting dizzy.
As if that weren’t bad enough, I realized that I had added about fifty blank pages to this story. I ran my fingers over the keys, hoping I could hit a key that would stop this nonsense. I’d lean forward to try another key and my paragraph would high-tail it for another page while more blank pages were being added. I started to wonder if my muse had something to do with it, but he was nowhere to be found. I whispered, “Oh my god, I think I’ve written my way into a perverse, dangerous, spirit-filled hell-hole. Maybe I should stop writing this story and change direction.”
Of course, I had to clean up my chair’s interference and cut and paste to another document so I wouldn’t be saving about a hundred blank pages. Sue’s printer would not appreciate it, nor would Sue.
So, as you can see, writing is a psychologically dangerous profession. And even though I had solved the problem, I began to wonder if my chair was trying to give me a message. Not the computer, but my chair. I mean, what are the odds that my chair’s arm would be able to hit the key that would make my brilliant, Hemingway-like paragraph leap around like a jumping bean?
Thanks again for sticking with me and my blog. I hope this blog doesn’t make you nervous about the objects around you but instead gives you a good idea to use so you can grab your readers’ attention and throw them on their proverbial asses.
A few Saturdays ago, we were having new windows installed in our little ancient trailer. In preparation for this exercise, I had leaned a large piece of particle board against the woodshed and covered it with a large tarpaulin to keep it dry.
The contractor came to our door to tell us that there was a bat sleeping in the dark folds of the cover. Oh, we knew. She was back. We followed him to the board.
Yep, there was the little gal. Sleeping, and this is where it gets interesting. Sue is scared of bats. We have an understanding. I catch the bats and she catches the mice. So I found a box and tried to swipe the bat down into the box. The bat fluttered away. They do flutter like butterflies. Very interesting how they flutter and she fluttered to, you guessed it, Sue’s shoulder.
I walked around Sue, who was standing like a statue, and watched the little bat bare her teeth. They looked healthy and sharp. She seemed to like the material in Sue’s sweater.
Well, I did finally persuade the bat to drop off Sue’s shoulder into the box. Sue was the one who carried the box to the woods where she let her go. I expect to see both again.
I also must say that I was proud of Sue, who won’t let her fear of a creature get in the way of her understanding a creature. No matter how small or big it might be.