G Is for Gnome–No, Not That Kind: #atozchallenge


A sign at the San Marcos River Bridge in Fentress, Texas, on the western boundary of Caldwell County, reads Gaudalupe County. That wouldn’t be worth mentioning, except that when you get across the bridge, you’re in Guadalupe County.

I assume the error arises from its similarity to words like gauge, gaunt, and gauze. In other words, the writer was thinking in English, not in Spanish: Guadalajara, Guadalupe Hidalgo, guacamole.

The excuse may be wishful thinking on my part, but since I retired, I’ve been kinder and gentler with misspellers in the hope they’ll be kinder and gentler with me. It’s a sad day when an English major has to admit this, but nearly every time I write gauge, I have to look it up to be sure.

Anyway, you know how it is with dictionaries: open one to find a word and ten minutes later you’re browsing, engrossed in a book that doesn’t have characters, much less a plot. That’s how I came across gnomist, defined as a writer of aphorisms.

Unable to imagine little red-capped garden dwellers channeling Benjamin Franklin, I checked Dictionary.com for gnome, and about half-way down the page found it: a gnome is a short, pithy saying of a general truth.

Which led me to my G topic: gnomes. (Franklin would say some of them aren’t gnomes, but they’re close.)

The the following come from one of my favorite books about writing–Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers.


If you have a skeleton in the closet, take it out and dance with it. ~ Carolyn MacKenzie

A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something. – Frank Capra

Imagination is a good horse to carry you over the ground–not a flying carpet to set you free from probability. ~ Robertson Davies

The opposite of a shallow truth is false. But the opposite of a deep truth is also true. ~ Niels Bohr

A writer should value his blockages. That means he’s starting to scale down, to get close. ~ Robert Pirsig

Each book is, in a sense, an argument with myself, and I would write it, whether it is ever published or not. ~ Patricia Highsmith.

Even if my marriage is falling apart and my children is unhappy, there is still a part of me that says, “God, this is fascinating!” ~ Jane Smiley

A computer allows you to make more mistakes faster than any other invention in human history, with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila. ~ Mitch Ratcliffe

The form chooses you, not the other way around. An idea comes and is already embodied in a form.  ~ Michael Frayne

You’ve got to be smart enough to write, and stupid enough not to think about all the things that might go wrong.~ Sarah Gilbert

People become writers because they can’t do things that bosses tell them to do. ~ Les Whitten

Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you, too, can become great. ~ Mark Twain

Will Rogers

People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument. ~ Will Rogers

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right. ~ Henry Rod

If you would lift me, you must be on higher ground. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is certain that no culture can flourish without narratives of transcendent origins and power. ~ Neil Postman

My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have the potential to be comic stories the next. ~ Nora Ephron

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft. ~ H. G. Wells

In the sense that there was nothing before it, all writing is writing against the void. ~ Mark Strand

How do I work? I grope. ~ Albert Einstein

Sometimes it is more important to discover what one cannot do, than what one can do. ~ Lin Yutang

“Victor Borge” by Jesper Jurcenoks, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Walt Whitman didn’t sing as a white man or a gay man. He didn’t even sing as a living man, as opposed to a dead man. He made the human race look like a better idea. ~ Sharon Olds

One of the most wicked destructive forces, psychologically speaking, is unused creative power. . . . If someone has a creative gift and out of laziness, or for some other reason, doesn’t use it, the psychic energy turns to sheer poison. That’s why we often diagnose neuroses and psychotic diseases as not-lived higher possibilities. ~ Marie Louise Von Frantz

As much as I like the actual process of writing, there’s always a point, after a half hour, that I really love it. There’s a real lightness of imagination that you let happen when you’re writing. ~ Ethan Canin

I know life. I have had a full measure of experience. Shouldn’t I take advantage of it? These days my acts are the essence of what I have accomplished. The fruit is on the tree. Should I let it rot? ~ Victor Borge

The only way to write is to write today. ~ Susan Shaughnessy


Regarding the Gaudalupe County sign, it’s been there for years. At first it irritated me (twice a day), but as time went on, it became a source of amusement, something I needed both going to and coming from work. Still, as an official publication of the State of Texas, not to mention a source of information, it should be accurate. A friend called the agency a good while back and reported it, but it’s still there. Since my husband’s email brought about a positive result, I might ask him to take up the cause.


Susan Shaughnessy. Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers. Harper Collins, 1993.

I like this book so much I bought it twice. I bought it once, donated it to my library, and missed it so much I bought this used copy. Each meditation is headed by a quotation. Meditations are excellent, worth revisiting often, but the quotations are what I missed.


For information about the A to Z Blogging Challenge, click here.

For a list of all blogs in the challenge, click here.

Image of gnome by Melly95, via Pixabay.com

Image of Will Rogers, public domain, via Wikipedia


Truth and Embroidery

As a beginning blogger, I wanted to be serious. I intended to write about the writing process, to quote famous authors, and to record my progress toward publication (or toward the satisfaction of having written). I wanted to write about Literature and Life.

Halfway through my first post, I discarded that notion. Once upon a time, I could tear apart novels and poems with the best of them, but as soon as they put that Master’s Degree in my hand, every scrap of every thought about literature leaked out of my head. And I didn’t want to work hard enough to get them back.

And my writing process is chaos, pure and simple. Chaos. Other people write books about how they write books. They say, This is the way to write a book, as if they know. But I don’t know.

So I write about life with a lower-case l. Life with a lower case l comprises cats, a mis-spent career in education, memories of my youth, my crazy family, and my general ineptitude. General ineptitude comprises such things as the time I dropped the remote control into the Jello instant pudding mix and milk that I was trying to beat into pudding.

For a while, I was reluctant to share stories of ineptitude. I envisioned applying for a job with a company whose personnel director googles me and learns more than is good for me.

But then I realized I wasn’t going to apply for anything, and if I did it wouldn’t be a job important enough to require a background check, so I said, What the heck, just tell it all.

I titled this blog Telling the Truth–Mainly because I admire Mark Twain as both a writer and a social critic, and because I thought the name appropriate.

I embroider some of the stories I tell; the embroidery relates to the Mainly.

But nearly every post begins with Truth, and most of them stick pretty close to it. The story about the remote and the pudding, for example, didn’t need any embroidery at all. I told the story exactly as it happened.

“Hell on Wheels,” the story about the librarian, which appears in the crime anthology Murder on Wheels, is not true. I didn’t find my mother pouring ground glass into lemon pie filling, and I didn’t plan to push her off a bluff. I was a librarian, but I didn’t take belly dancing lessons for years so I could fit into a bikini and spend the rest of my life on the beach in Aruba.

The completely true, entirely non-fiction story: I took three belly dancing classes because I once saw a belly dancer on the Tonight Show lie on the floor and roll a quarter over and over all the way down her torso, all that was open to public view, so the speak, and I thought it was really neat. I also liked the costumes. I had no illusions about ever replicating the act, but basic belly dancing looked like fun.

I stopped after the third lesson because I was so tired after working all day and then driving to Austin to attend class that gyrating around a room with a bunch of other middle-aged women was not doable.

I used belly dancing in the story to add verisimilitude, etc., etc., etc.

So. The librarian story was fiction, plus a few bits from lower-case l life, merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.*

The question now arises: Is fiction ever true? Yes. But it’s complicated and I don’t want to discuss it.

I planned to end with a few comments on my writing process–not how I write, or how to write, but lessons I have learned from chaos.

But that will wait till next time.


*”Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative” is a phrase written by W. S. Gilbert for the character Pooh-Bah in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.
(The funniest play ever written, with music or without.)


photographs from morguefile

Telling the Truth, Mainly

William and Ernest: No relation to the content of this post

A friend asked recently, “Why do you blog? It’s for the numbers, right?”


Numbers are nice. I won’t pretend I don’t look at them. Several times a day, in fact. Compulsively. As one who for a long time was her own audience, I’m delighted by every little hit.

Better than numbers, however, are what the numbers represent: people who take the time and make the effort to visit, read, subscribe, like, and comment. People I’ve gotten to know and like through reading their blogs. People who boost my morale and my ego.

Possibly more of the latter than is good for me, but that’s no reason to stop.

Anyway, I’ve wanted for a long time to say thanks, and now I’m saying it: Thanks.


A recent post concerned my being behind in reading, writing, and a number of other activities. It occurs to me, not for the first time, that sharing my troubles, especially those I myself generate, might not be wise.

As I said, people read these posts. They might get the wrong idea.

So, once more, I shall explain: Like Mr. Mark Twain, I tell the truth—mainly.

In other words, it’s never as quite bad as I say it is. Except when I lock the keys in the car.

I periodically vow to stop yowling about my little quirks, but doing so would raise another problem: I wouldn’t have much to write about.

Posts would go something like this:


The new refrigerator didn’t come again today, so we are still surviving on microwaved frozen entrees (the freezer works), P. Terry burgers, Wendy’s salads, and Chinese take-out.

[At one time, I could have made that into lively, amusing fiction. But I’ve lost all enthusiasm for the topic. David kindly left work and brought me a McDonald’s burger for lunch today. I think that’s about the point at which enthusiasm began to leak.]


On Saturday afternoon, our right front tire began to unravel at 60 mph in the middle lane of IH-35. It went flap-flap-flap, and we knew intuitively that the rubber had met the road and intended to take up residence there. Fortunately for all southbound traffic, it didn’t abandon us completely. We exited the freeway, crept back home, and set out again in the other car. The ailing vehicle is spending the night at the tire store, being completely reshod.


There are the facts, no yowling, no self-recriminations, just the happenings of the past week. Not the stuff of which blogs are made.

One thing did happen today that I would love to post. The bare naked facts, lacking all embellishment, would raise laughter from stones. I’ve been all giggly ever since I hung up the phone. Or perhaps since I relayed the story to David. He didn’t laugh, but I saw the corner of his mouth turn up. That was just after I said, “You were right all along, and you may now say, ‘I told you so.'”

But as much as I want to share, I can’t. Won’t. I am a good, kind, generous, compassionate person of maximum integrity, and I cannot in good conscience send that story into cyberspace. No matter how much the main character deserves it.

What I can do is to tuck it away, let it age, and bring it out again as fiction.

I’ve spent all afternoon trying to figure out how to fit it into my current novel in progress.

But if that doesn’t work, stay tuned. All this laughter is shaking my integrity to its very core. Sooner or later, it’s bound to crack.