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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Romantic Friday Writers Challenge No. 28 – Ties That Bind

I’ve been laid up with a busted left arm and I’m finally feeling like doing some writing again. Following is my 400-word submission for the year-end challenge at Romantic Friday Writers. (FCA)

Patricia was a spirited, seventeen-year old beauty with blond hair and blue eyes. My grandparents had high expectations for their youngest child, especially after the tragic death of their son and the grief that haunted them. Instead, she disappointed them by eloping with a farm hand that worked for my grandfather. He was what my mother referred to as a shanty Irishman. He was old enough to be my aunt’s father and he was a widower with a baby daughter. The story whispered between my mother and grandmother was that he had caused his first wife’s death by failing to heed the doctor’s advice to avoid a life-threatening pregnancy. He was a big, lazy, boisterous, barrel-chested man, content with his own ignorance. My mother said he had killed a recalcitrant horse with a single punch to the head. I only remember that he always smelled like manure and that no one could ever unravel the mystery of my aunt’s romantic attachment to him.
Despite her family’s disapproval, my aunt defiantly raised five daughters in near poverty on a Wisconsin farm. My uncle was no farmer. My father said the cow shit was so deep in the barn that you could hit your head on the ceiling. Everyone expected that one day my aunt would finally have her fill of a very hard life. A devout Catholic, she remained with her husband to the end when he succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. I suspect she was probably tempted a few times during her life to change course. My grandmother and mother always hoped she would come to her senses one day. In the end, no one or nothing could dissuade my aunt from the path she had chosen in life.
My grandparents and mother have been gone for several years, but my Aunt is still going strong at 82, living alone, unbroken, proud, and unafraid on a Wisconsin farm with a dog and a couple of cats. She is happy. We have never spent enough time in each other’s company over the years to fill a week, but this holiday we talked by phone for over an hour. We both laughed when she told me she doesn’t understand why she can no longer lift an 80-pound piece of farm equipment into her truck. We may be bound by family history, but mostly we are bound by her improbable, unfathomable, defiant romance.

11 comments:

  1. My goodness! What a story, Linda! I don't have time to leave a comment right now. It was not really my intention to even read this, but I was pulled into your text!

    I'll be back.

    Anna
    Anna's RFW challenge No 28 Ties That Bind - The House Call

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  2. Dear Linda,

    I have reread your wonderful story about your aunt, and must congratulate you for writing a story that really fits the challenge. Talk about being bound - talk about 'Ties that bind'!

    I must confess that my own text falls a little short here. Your story is a perfect solution to the challenge.

    This story makes me think about relatives in general. If you keep up with your relatives, even those that are 'distant relatives' (distant in time and/or place), you can discover all sorts of characters and stories and mysteries.

    Why did these people make the choices they made? What kept them going? What makes a person a surviver? The only sure thing about your aunt is that she seems to have been/to be a surviver.

    Maybe it has to do with having a strong conviction; or maybe it has something to do with having a sense of humour or not taking yourself so seriously; but at the same time it may depend upon the fact that you take your promises very seriously.

    Your story makes me ask questions that will never be answered. I'll just imagine different explanations and make up possible answers to them.

    Well done! Excellent!

    Best wishes & hugs,

    Anna

    Anna's RFW challenge No 28 Ties That Bind - The House Call

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  3. Hi Linda. I'm so glad you're writing again, and so glad you wrote for our final challenge of 2011.

    What a wonderful story. I wasn't sure if it was true for awhile, but as they say, truth is stranger than fiction! Also shows us that we can't judge other people. We don't always understand their motivations, we only see the surface. By staying on even after her husband died, she showed that she loved the life and her husband. True romance. Sometimes it smells like cow manure, but it's still romance!

    Happy New Year, Linda, and I hope we hear more from you next year.

    Denise

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  4. Now there's a woman we can all look up to. What a great story - thanks for writing!
    Laura - PS hope you are feeling better!
    Lx

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  5. Glad you all enjoyed this true story. Hard to capture in 400 words. Maybe some day I'll work up the courage to ask for my aunt's version of this story.

    As to feeling better, today I went to the doctor to have an 8-inch pin removed from my arm. I didn't think it would be a big deal. I have never experienced such intense pain in my life. I could not suppress my screams and I nearly fainted. Well, now that they've removed the pin and am on my third caste, maybe I can finally pull myself together and start feeling human again.

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  6. Lovely retelling as it reminded me of my mother's albeit story. She eloped with my dad, against her parent's wishes but until now they are still together. Who knows the reasons for their attachment but sometimes when the world feels like its against you, you tend to stick together, through all the challenges.

    Nice to meet you ~

    Happy New Year ~

    Heaven

    http://a-sweetlust.blogspot.com/2011/12/still.html

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  7. your story is lovely.....:)
    and hats off to your aunt who was so loyal and dedicated to her love and indeed she is so strong.........:)

    thanks for sharing....

    p.s. and i am thankful for the beautiful comment you left at my blog....thank you...and a very happy new year...:)

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  8. A woman of strength in tough times. It's hard to go against your family wishes, especially in matters of the heart.

    I loved the mystery of this, why she fell in love and stayed with this man; a reason only she would know.

    Thanks for sharing this. I hope you arm isn't itching too much :) Gett better soon.

    ...........dhole

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  9. Hello Linda. Happy New Year!
    Hope you're feeling better.

    I really enjoyed this story. Your aunt's courage, despite the pressure to give up on her life with this smelly man (lol). Love does indeed work in mysterious ways. I wonder if your aunt will ever retell her life story to her kids?
    Thanks for sharing.

    A Flower And A Tear

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  10. Dear Linda,
    Hello again! Hope you are feeling better.
    Thank you for your comment about using my imagination more when writing and not worrying so much about the facts.

    I do that when I make everything up, but this time I wrote a story based upon the lives of persons I know, and wanted to preserve it as close the facts as possible. I tried writing several more fantasy-influenced versions of this particular story and found that 'truth was stranger and stronger that fiction', in this case.

    The Swedish author, August Strindberg (1849-1912) used to write long letters (to his wives) and then never send them, but just remove the heading and use the text as a play or a short story!

    I sort my stories into two categories: biographical tales based on the lives of real people and completely made up stories that are written because a fictional character has tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to listen. I think you mean that I will have better luck in writing the later category.

    We'll see how I do this spring, as I don't plan on giving up writing stories and poems.!

    Take care! I look forward to reading more of your stories in 2012!

    Hugs from Anna

    For the benefit of other readers:
    Anna's RFW challenge No 28 Ties That Bind - The House Call

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  11. Wednesday 4th January 2012

    Dear Linda,
    Yippie! You left another comment on my post!
    Thank you as I am very grateful for your advise, because frankly, I often really do feel dried up and inhibited when it comes to writing these little stories and poems. I wrote about ten different versions of 'The House Call' and am still not sure that this one is the best.

    Christmas was not a time for relaxation for me, but for breaking up endless squabbles between my ten year old son and my seven year old daughter. They can clamp into my room and demand to get online to play computer-games. I have not yet figured out how to get my router to work, so it means that I cannot get on line at all. I use an egg-timer and try to get them to book time-slots to make it more fair.

    I should have sent off a paper to the university today before noon and it is just not ready. Sometimes I am too tired to think.

    Forgive me for putting these personal mutterings in a coment. I love my children and would be wretchedly unhappy without them. But sometimes I have trouble meeting deadlines.

    I think I might understand what you mean about 'mining' these real life stories for feelings rather than facts, or if you will, 'themes'.

    Donne Hole left a short but very clear comment about my text; she called it a 'tale of survival'. And that is exactly what it is. When interviewing the woman who once was this fourteen year fever-struck girl, I was amazed at all of her strategies for survival long after she woke up. It was as if this bout with the Measles changed her whole life. She was forced to became a fighter, if in a sutble way. She lived in a time that had no mercy for failure. But her failure was caused by an illness that was not self-inflicted. She was kicked out of school because she fell behind the others. And she was thus barred from any chance of getting a higher (=academic) education because of her inablity to concentrate on her studies.

    Lying in a coma for three weeks, she had suffered a mild brain damage that actually healed after three years. (Modern studies of patients suffering from whiplash-injuries or concussions show that this is possible.) But by then she was 17 years old and her classmates were well on their way to university studies and professional careers. Nowadays, there is adult education for people who have run into problems along the way.

    But this is not really what I want to write my novel about. I want to write a novel or short stories or poems about people that have not lived, but really should have. Or maybe persons that we can be glad that they don't really exist.

    Always a pleasure!

    My very best wishes,
    Anna

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