I have been the nervous, temporary possessor of The Writer’s Packet for too long. I will not tell you how long because I do not want to figure it out and be any guiltier than now. The Writer’s Packet itself is not scary. It contains four or five written pieces submitted by as many different writers for our mutual enjoyment and critiquing. It is supposed to be an informal way in which amateur writers, like me, learn to write.
This time when the TWP arrived in the mail, I laid it on my desk without the usual delight in having excuse to sit down with a cup of coffee to see how many red marks Mary had put on my paper this time. I simply could not face it. I like Mary’s ideas most of the time and I always wonder how I missed that silly typo or this terrible grammatical error. It is horrifying how many marks I can accumulate on one small piece of writing.
In fact, there are a few snags. The first is that I have never been where my story takes place. I have never been in any of the places my story takes place. It would be so much better to be able to write what I personally know about the settings at least. Another snag is that I had my story family traveling north on the Rhine River in a sailing vessel when to my consternation I discovered in my research that they could very well have floated up the Rhine on a flatboat. So I am stuck with going all the way back to where they got themselves and their few possessions on that ship, that is, flatboat and start over. So, how do you suppose it would be, to take a group of families onto a flat boat/s and travel for miles on a wide, slow river? I guess the three year olds could fall in a couple of times, and they could get miserably rained on to add realism. But still, I feel stumped.
My sister April says that we need to write what we are passionate about. I really do not have anything new to say or write. All has been said and written. I tell myself that at least I ought to be reading more. How else does one go about having a pool from which to draw ideas?
So, I have been reading Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. If only I could write as convincingly with the same passion and clarity about a current social problem. Her characters are real folks. You can see them as “plain as day” and hear them. You can almost smell and touch them. Ophelia’s starched, crisp apron crackles and her keys jingle merrily while she works to educate that poor little waif of a Topsy girl. Here is an excerpt to prove my point. The first morning of her regency, Miss Ophelia was up at four o’clock; and having attended to all the adjustments of her own chamber, as she had done ever since she came there, to the great amazement of the chambermaid, she prepared for a vigorous onslaught on the cupboards and closets of the establishment of which she had the keys. The store-room, the linen-presses, the china-closet, the kitchen and cellar, that day, all went under an awful review. Hidden things of darkness were brought to light to an extent that alarmed all the principalities and powers of kitchen and chamber, and caused many wonderings and murmurings about “dese yer northern ladies” from the domestic cabinet.
Thus, Stowe weaves a tale of education, inspiration and entertainment. This simple paragraph catches the eye having a variety of descriptive nouns such as: linen-presses, china closets, kitchen and cellar, and keys. She successfully uses scriptural idiom adding weight to the scene, without being sacrilegious. And it passes the read aloud test. Janice Holt Giles, author of These Enduring Hills, Miss Willie, and more captivating stories of ordinary people living ordinary lives, says that not only should a well written story hold a readers attention; but it should be music to the ears of listeners to whom the story is being read aloud, as well.
Since I hope to be able to write someday, I continue to putter about putting words together. Elv says he did not know before that it was possible to run an ink pen dry. I do it regularly, covering pages in a journal with my scribbling. Will it ever yield worthwhile reading for others? And I wonder, how many of Jack London’s one thousand words a day were actually published?
Stowe, Harriet Beecher (2012-05-17). Uncle Tom’s Cabin (p. 183). . Kindle Edition.