The Good Word; books you might have missed.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite reads over the years, many of which you might have missed because they are outside the realm of what you normally read. Please feel free to share your favorite books as well!

51+3fd3iIEL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ From the book jacket: “In 1977, Laura Bell, at loose ends after graduating from college, leaves her family home in Kentucky for a wild and unexpected adventure; herding sheep in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. Inexorably drawn to this life of solitude and physical toil, a young woman in a man’s world, she is perhaps the strangest member of this beguiling community of drunks and eccentrics. So begins her unabating search for a place to belong and for the raw materials with which to create a home and family of her own.”- I loved this book; it’s honest and true.

517-30Is7AL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_ From the book jacket: “Settled in the wild takes us into the woods and along the shorelines, mudflats, and paths of rural Maine, where Susan Hand Shetterly has lived and written abut nature for the past thirty years. Now, she turns her attention to the ways humans and animals share the land, especially as our mutual habitat is changing.”- Beautiful prose. I loved this book!

 

Honor the Kid in You

jumpshot photography of woman in white and yellow dress near body of water

For more than 15 years, I’ve written and published feature articles for the equestrian and pet market. I can still remember how excited I was to get that first check. My byline in a national magazine. Intoxicating! I cashed the check and pitched another idea to my editor. She accepted.

Since that modest beginning, I’ve written hundreds of articles and penned two columns that ran consecutively for more than a decade. Most of my features ran at least 1500 words; many ran 2500-3000 words. As my daughter so wisely pointed out, it was the equivalent of writing a research paper a month! Writing feature articles was a lot of work, but hugely satisfying and the money helped pay for my horse habit.

All well and good, right? Well, yes and no. A little over a year ago, I lost my writing mojo. A laziness crept in that felt like a bad case of the flu; only this wasn’t the flu. I started sleeping late every day. I lingered over a second and third cup of coffee. I avoided my writing room like other people avoid Walmart on the weekends. My keyboard collected dust and even my Border Collie, (my tried and true writing companion) cultivated a heavy sigh.

“What is wrong with us?,” I asked the dog. She didn’t know.

We took long walks, cleaned closets, alphabetized the pantry. I cleaned the grooves in my kitchen cabinets with cotton swabs. (They work great, by the way…just dab the swab in a little polish and …well, never mind.) I turned my face away as I passed the closed door of my writing room. I missed deadlines, ignored emails from my editor. I was in a funk of the worst kind. The guilt of not writing was killing me. Writers write!

I began to walk with a limp.

One morning, while cleaning out the attic, I found a book I wrote when I was in the third grade. Although it had never been published and probably wasn’t all that good, the boys in my class were impressed that I’d written all thirty pages in cursive. I remember I’d felt like a celebrity. But, I also remembered how I wrote that book; sitting cross-legged on my Cinderella bedspread, hunched over double-lined yellow paper, writing my heart out.

Then it hit me. I wanted to be that kid. Writing her heart out all over again.

I got to work right away…uh…I mean…play. I sat cross-legged on my couch, hunched over my lined journal, and wrote a personal essay I called, One Kind of Woman. Weeks later, that essay was published in a small literary magazine and helped put the spark back in my writing.

Honor the kid in you. It’s our innocence and love for the written word that nourishes our writing and our life.

 

 

Story Seeds

Story Seeds

person holding a green plant
Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

Whether you write short stories, novels, non-fiction, or screenplays, look for story seeds and write them down on colorful notecards. Here are a few I’ve collected over the years. Some of them sound like good first lines or topics for creative non-fiction, but they act as great prompts when I’m stuck for my next idea.


 

Once, at a 4th of July picnic, my mother thought I was a girl she knew in high school. I pretended to be that girl until the moment passed.

A shocking thunk! as my father ran over the family dog.

He called it, The Menopause, as if it was a monster in a Grade B movie. 

She wished the mouth of the sea would open up and swallow her whole.

That moment when you realize the situation is unfair, but at least it’s not unfair to you. 


I’ve lost so many story seeds simply because I never wrote them down. I forget them. Keep a notebook or an index card in your pocket and write down your story seeds as they arrive. You’ll be surprised how many of these seeds grow into full length articles or stories.

 

 

Writing a Personal Essay with a Rock in Your Boot

This morning, a tiny rock, stuck between my wool sock and my boot heel stopped me in my tracks. At first I thought I could ignore it until I’d turned the horses out. The horses were already snorting and pawing at their stall doors, impatient after a night indoors. I was feeling a little guilty for running late with the barn chores. But, Oh la! The rock!

I leaned against the barn door, tore off my boot and sock, and there it was; not a rock exactly, more of a pebble, tiny, no bigger than a snow pea. Still, I had to flip my sock inside out and shake good and hard to loosen it’s tenacious grip. Pain free at last, I realized that trying to ignore the rock had been a bad idea.

When you’re writing a personal essay, pay attention to the rock in your boot, that something in the back of your mind that chafes or rubs you the wrong way. Maybe you’re writing something nice about your Aunt Lucinda. She was so sweet and generous and she always threw the nicest holiday get-togethers, but a memory surfaces; that time she stole a pair of sunglasses from Woolworths. You think, “I can’t write that…it’s not nice.” Write it anyway.

That’s the rock in your boot. Whatever you think you can’t write, is exactly what you should write.

rock
Rock on.

Just Write

Morgan and Mighty snow

Winter has officially arrived here in the northeast. As  you know I love to write about my passion; horses. Today, outdoor temperatures idle at 4 degrees Fahrenheit. A good day for writing.

My first instinct is to snuggle under a warm rug with a cup of tea and my latest journal, but I’m a horse owner and hunkering down isn’t a luxury I can afford. The horses need to be turned out, their stalls need cleaning, icy water buckets need to be chopped with an axe. It’s rough going.

As a writer, I’ve learned to adapt. I slide a small notebook and pen into my coat pocket. I bundle up, head outside, and start mucking stalls. My mind wanders and before the first stall is clean, I’ve thought of an idea or two. I pull off my glove with my teeth and jot my idea down before my fingers go numb. Then I put my glove back on and let my muse do it’s thing. All I have to do is be present and ready with my pen and notebook.

I don’t wait for a quiet moment to write. I’ve been at this for a long time and I see now that my life has no intentions of settling down. In fact, my life feels like a fractious mare; no sooner do you get things smoothed over and composed than someone tosses a firecracker right under your hoofs.

Just write.

Even if you’re in the midst of chaos. Get yourself a notebook. Buy your favorite pens at the dollar store…and just write. There will never be a better time than right now.