Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Digging through Old Photos

An old picture is worth a thousand words. It's like stepping into a story of long ago. This young couple is standing in front of their Iowa home and looking hopefully out at the future before them. The wind is gently blowing her skirt. The man, my grandfather, was a genial, handsome, witty man. I have fond memories of him. He died when I was eight. I never knew the woman standing next to him, my grandmother Martha. She died long before I was born.

When I look at their home, I can imagine what it might be like because I lived in a similar house as a child. There was probably no insulation behind that clapboard. The winter wind would blow under the door and rattle the storm windows. The warmest and largest room in the house would be the kitchen, no doubt heated by a coal burning stove. No hot or cold running water. A hand pump in the kitchen. No bathroom. Chamber pots and an outhouse. There would be a rhythm of life and death lived close to the earth. The summers would be hot and steamy and measured by the height of the corn.

Martha was born in 1888 and married my grandfather in 1907. Their first child, a daughter, would be still born in 1910. A son born in 1912 was also still born. I can imagine the heartache, deep sorrow. Then a third child, a son was born in 1914. He would be their golden child, the recipient of all their hopes and dreams. Three years later would come another son and five years after that came my father. They were the proud parents of three rambunctious boys. But by this time, Martha's health was beginning to fail. Later pictures show an aged woman with dark circles under her eyes. She was only 37 when she died of kidney failure. That is all I know about her. My grandfather never spoke about her. My father, a toddler when she died, had no recollection of her, but he was surely scarred by her death. His father, unable to care for the children by himself, sent the two older sons to live with their uncle. My father went to live with his maternal grandparents. It was no doubt a hard separation for a little boy. He would not regain his family for several years until his father remarried. His grandmother had her hands full caring for him and his invalid grandfather. It seems the dog in the picture below must have been my father's best and only friend. Because I share the same DNA, I understand the fierce scowl on his face. He is facing the world with suspicion and defiance.

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