The Writing Process: The Wisdom of Darrell Royal and Lessons from a Jack Russell Terrier

Kathy Waller:

Everything I know about the writing process, part 1.

Originally posted on Austin Mystery Writers:

Most people don’t believe it, but I was almost thirty years old, and had been teaching English for seven years, when I discovered I possessed a writing process. I learned about it in a special summer program for teachers of English at the University of Texas – Austin–the Hill Country Writing Project.

Author Anna Castle addressing SINC ~ Heart of Texas Chapter, March 2015 Author Anna Castle addressing SINC ~ Heart of Texas Chapter, March 2015

A certain writer of fiction for middle grade who spoke at the Texas Library Association’s Bluebonnet luncheon several years ago was even older than I when she found out about hers. I won’t mention her name, although I’ve just discovered she lives in Austin and am wondering whether she might accept an invitation to speak at one of my Sisters in Crime chapter’s meetings–But I digress.

This author said children she met at school visits started asking, “What is your writing process?”  When they explained to her what that was, she thought…

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What I Learned from Ernest Hemingway, Plus a Photo of Gregory Peck, Plus Snakes

What if soy milk is just milk introducing itself in Spanish?*

***

To Write, etc., has been dormant for a while because I’ve been (a) playing spider solitaire, and (b) working on two pieces of literature:

(1) a story entitled “When Cheese Is Love,” which needs to be 5,000 words but is currently 6,200 words, necessitating radical surgery and the murders of a few darlings; and,

(2) a post for the Austin Mystery Writers blog that would have been online last Monday had I not suffered at tiny fall (and, no, I’m not going to tell how it happened), which rendered me indisposed for just long enough to figure out the post wasn’t coming together as I wanted because I was trying to write about two different topics at once.

I can’t complain about an indisposition that allows me time to realize the first half of a post I’ve drafted says one thing and the second half contradicts it.

My next project will appear right here on To Write, etc. It is tentatively entitled “Snakes I Have Known.”

I spent this evening telling snake stories on Facebook and suddenly realized–it’s like that chapter in For Whom the Bell Tollsno, it’s in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” actually–where Hemingway wastes a lot of material writing about what his character would never write:

Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. . .

English: Screenshot of Gregory Peck from the f...

English: Screenshot of Gregory Peck from the film The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

***

He remembered the good times with them all, and the quarrels. They always picked the finest places to have the quarrels. And why had they always quarrelled when he was feeling best? He had never written any of that . . .

***

No, he had never written about Paris. Not the Paris that he cared about. But what about the rest that he had never written?

What about the ranch and the silvered gray of the sage brush, the quick, clear water in the irrigation ditches, and the heavy green of the alfalfa. The trail went up into the hills and the cattle in the summer were shy as deer. . . 

About the half-wit chore boy who was left at the ranch that time and told not to let any one get any hay, and that old bastard from the Forks who had beaten the boy when he had worked for him stopping to get some feed. The boy refusing and the old man saying he would beat him again. The boy got the rifle from the kitchen and shot him when he tried to come into the barn . . . 

So there it is. Hemingway threw away all those stories by putting them inside of a dying character thinking about the stories he will never write.

And Hemingway never wrote them either. He wrote about them. What a waste.**

Heaven forfend that I should meet a similar fate. I’m not going to write about those snake stories. I’m going to write them.

So watch this space.

In case you don’t care for snakes, don’t worry–I won’t include pictures of them. And no one will be bitten. All my snake stories are true, but I kept my distance while they were happening.

***

*The question is rhetorical and appears only because I’m feeling whimsical. And because this is  my blog and nobody’s grading it and I can do whatever I please. So there.

**For most of this post, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek, but this paragraph comes from the heart. It’s sad that Hemingway left any stories untold. It’s sad that any writer does that. And I guess they all do.

40 Days of Book Praise – Reading List

Kathy Waller:

A new reading list from Ramona DeFelice Long. To read Ramona’s comments about each book in sequence, start here at Day 1: https://ramonadef.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/40-days-of-book-praise-day-1/ This is my reading list for the rest of the year, starting with Daphne DuMaurier’s The Rebecca Notebooks. Hours and days of fine reading here.

Originally posted on Ramona DeFelice Long:

RamonaGravitarFor 40 days, I chose books by and about women from my personal book shelf and wrote brief reviews with a plot summary, plus why it was a good reading choice for women.

Below is a full list of the 40 books I reviewed. Each includes a short description–a log line–to tell each title’s genre and capture what it is about.

40 Days of Book Praise – Reading List

Joan Blos’ A GATHERING OF DAYS is a middle grade epistolary novel chronicling the hardships and joys of fourteen-year-old Carrie and her farm family in 1850s New England.

Anne Carroll George’s THIS ONE AND MAGIC LIFE is a Southern novel about a family that gathers for a funeral where the deceased’s last wish uncovers a terrible secret.

Elinor Lipman’s THE DEARLY DEPARTED is a women’s novel about returning home, and how the sudden death of two parents allow two children to…

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Four-Sentence Book Review: A Broom of One’s Own

Kathy Waller:

My review of Nancy Peacock’s memoir, A Broom of One’s Own. A GOOD book.

Originally posted on Writing Wranglers and Warriors:

0kathy-blog

Posted by Kathy Waller

A while back, I accepted a challenge to write a book review of  Nancy Peacock’s memoir A Broom of One’s Own inonly four sentencesStarting well before the due date, I wrote the first sentence of the review over and over and deleted it over and over. Sometimes I wrote the same sentence several times in a row. Sometimes I made up a new sentence. After weeks of torment, I produced the following review.

***

I like Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own: Words About Writing, Housecleaning & Life so much that it’s taken me over two months and two missed deadlines to untangle my thoughts and write this four-sentence review, an irony Peacock, author of two critically acclaimed novels, would no doubt address were I in one of her writing classes.

She would probably tell me that there is no perfect…

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Petting Zoos, Methodists, and Misbehavior

The petting zoo has come to BookPeople!

 

Consequently, the average age in the coffee shop–aka my office–is considerably lower than usual. I estimate it at approximately two.

Normally I filter out noise and activity to concentrate on writing. The ability to hyperfocus is a gift.

Today, however, what’s going on around me is more interesting than the story to be revised.

Behind and to the right, a little-bitty with black eyes and a pixie cut sings, “E-I-E-I-OOOOO.” She began in atonal mode but soon picked up the melody.

Directly behind me, a little boy I imagine as blond protested. “I don’t like to sit down.” Then he shrieked and wailed.

“OoooooooooooooooooOoooooooooooooooooOooooooooooooooo.” Finally he settled down to snuffling. I assume at some point, probably while the Ooooooooos were wearing down, he sat. Now he’s either resigned to his fate or he’s left the store.

There’s been a lot of wailing today. I don’t know why, considering the petting zoo is here. Maybe it’s tension. Maybe it’s that little kids are like adults: some days you get out of bed in a snit and you just have to share it.

Mothers have changed since I was a child. In my day, a mother would have taken the child outside and given him a choice: behave or go home and not get to see the animals or have a cookie or whatever special treat has been promised. I don’t know a child who was actually hauled home, and I don’t know a parent who meant what she–or he–said, but generally things quieted down a bit.

Something similar happened to me when I was a child. But I wasn’t offered a choice. And I wasn’t hauled home. I imagine a lot of people wished I had been.

At church one Sunday, the Methodist little-bitties–or, as one of my teacher friends calls them, ankle-biters–were all decked out to stand at the front and sing a song. Our teacher, who should have known better, had seated us in a pew, side-by-side. While the adults were doing their thing, Helen Ruth and I took the opportunity to converse.

My parents sat in the pew right behind us. They disapproved of talking during the service. My father picked me up, took me out on the front porch, and gave me a swat.

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First United Methodist Church of Fentress, 2015. By MKW.

Ours was a small country church, and Daddy and I were maybe twenty feet from the back pew, so the congregation got the full benefit of my caterwauling.

And when we returned to the sanctuary, I refused to perform with the rest of the class.

Have I mentioned I don’t remember any of this?

Talking in church got me in trouble, but the swat got Daddy in trouble.

Because Mother blamed him for my declining to stand in front of the communion rail and be cute–and she was right; no way would I display myself in front of a bunch of people who’d heard that swat–and she stayed righteously indignant for the rest of her life. Periodically, she would say, “I was so mad at your father. All he had to do was lean over and say, ‘Girls, stop talking.'”

What really got her goat was that I refused to perform in Sunday school programs for several years thereafter.

I can’t fault my father, however. An inexperienced parent, he was trying to do the right thing.

Knowing what I do about myself, I’m sure I was angry and embarrassed. I was an eminently embarrassable child. I was also obstinate.

I know something else, too.

Downtown San Marcos, Texas

Downtown San Marcos, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia) First United Methodist Church. By CMBJ

Years later my parents and I were sitting in the First Methodist Church in San Marcos, waiting for the choir to perform selections from The Messiah, when Daddy said, “I haven’t been in this church since I was ten years old.” That was 1925. “I went to Sunday school with Johnny Graham [a cousin], and they made me stand up and say my name and where I was from, and I never went back again.”

So there you are. Embarrassable is hereditary. So is obstinacy.

It gives me satisfaction to know that if my father had been removed to the front porch and given a swat, he wouldn’t have just refused to sing with his Sunday school class.

My father would have waited fifty years before he darkened that Methodist door.

 ***

I started this post for the purpose of telling a personal anecdote about a petting zoo but somehow got off onto Methodists and lost my way back. Because I have much more experience with Methodists–and Presbyterians and Baptists–than I do with petting zoos, it’ll be a while before I return to the animals. But that’s okay, because the church stories are a lot more interesting. And you won’t read them anywhere else.

‘Shrooms

Friday Fictioneers
100 words

Friday Fictioneer Prompt. Copyright Erin Leary.Friday Fictioneers Prompt.
Copyright Erin Leary.

John ambled into the kitchen. “What’s cooking?”

“Mushroom gravy.” Mary kept stirring.

John frowned. “Toadstools. Fungi. Dorothy Sayers killed someone with Amanita.

“These are morels.” She added salt. “Everybody eats mushrooms.”

“I don’t.”

“Suit yourself.”

He sat down. “Where’d you buy them?”

“I picked them.”

You?

“Aunt Helen helped. She knows ‘shrooms.” Mary held out a spoonful. “Taste.”

“Well . . . ” John tasted. “Mmmm. Seconds?”

“Yoo-hoo.” Aunt Helen bustled in. “Like my new glasses? Those old ones–I couldn’t see doodly squat.”

Mary looked at the gravy, then at John. “Maybe you should spit that out,” she said.

 

English: Blue plaque re Dorothy L Sayers on 23...

English: Blue plaque re Dorothy L Sayers on 23 & 24 Gt. James Street, WC1 See 1237424. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Mike Quinn [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Kathy Waller:

Today I’m holding forth at Writing Wranglers and Warriors about my near-arrest for preparing to burgle.

Originally posted on Writing Wranglers and Warriors:

0kathy-blog

Posted by Kathy Waller

Driving around my hometown the other day, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw a sheriff’s department patrol car, right behind me, with a flashing lightbar on top.

I’m not accustomed to that kind of thing, not on a street I’ve always considered mine.

I’ve been pulled over by DPS officers on the highway. Twice, I think, for mild speeding, twice for an expired inspection sticker. I consider that a pretty good record for a person who’s been driving since she was ten.

I’m a good girl, I am.

If any of those officers had known how old I was when I first soloed, they probably would have ticketed me retroactively. But I was just one of several pre-teen drivers in my town. No one thought a thing about it. Our parents taught us well, and they limited our range to the business district: grocery store, post office…

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A Year of Reading the World: A Q&A with Ann Morgan

Kathy Waller:

An Interview with Ann Morgan, who read and blogged about literature from nearly 200 countries, and then wrote a book about the experience.

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

Several years ago, writer Ann Morgan noticed that she didn’t read much literature from countries outside of the United Kingdom and United States — and had yet to dive into stories from around the globe. From this realization, her blog, A Year of Reading the World, was born. You can read about Ann’s journey in her new book, Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer, available now in the UK. (The US version, The World Between Two Covers, will be released on May 4.)

I chatted with Ann about the blog-to-book journey and her experience of reading and blogging about literature from 197 countries.

For readers new to A Year of Reading the World, can you talk about your original project — and how the blog came about?

A comment someone left on a blog I wrote four years back, A Year of Reading Women

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