Summertime means a slower pace and a few less responsibilities. For 14 years now, I’ve worked as a tutor for the athletic department at Xavier University. The time commitment pales in comparison to the commitment of brain power to know how to help student athletes understand Plato, Hume, and Descartes. Each student is as individual as each philosophical theory. So, I welcome the summer months when I can focus more on relaxation and working on projects dear to me.
As I write this, my husband and I, and dogs, Molly and Nutmeg, have just returned from a lovely Fourth of July weekend on a horse farm in Central Kentucky. I didn’t have the chance to ride, but had the opportunity to remember a year of riding with a group of women in Indian Hill, a suburb of Cincinnati.
That year, I put on a pair of shiny boots, puffed up, and faked the experience I wished I’d had. From the time I was a child I wanted to embody the cowboy my father was. The women were patient and kind. They showed me the secrets of finding my seat on the horse, bolstering my confidence enough to ride in the annual Independence Day parade. As I watched thoroughbreds graze day and evening, I felt a close connection to them. The dogs, on the other hand, could not figure out what was with these big dogs.
After finishing the Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts, I jumped in with both feet to my historical fiction project. Robert Olen Butler suggests that fiction is nothing without the deep yearning of its characters. Since reading the book, I have come to understand that the yearning within a certain character in my project is worth pursuing. She has desires much like my own, but set in a different time and place.
To further develop the character of this woman, I wrote a letter from her to me regarding an incident that happens in the story. This allowed for new ways to bring her to life. The story is not complete but takes up lots of room in my head these days. Frankly, it feels better to have them consume my thoughts than the usual committee, burning up my thoughts with meanderings beyond my control.
I continue to make headway in removing filter words in the memoir project, too. Our minds work in such a way with patterns of speech, but your reader will find words to be cumbersome in the process of reading.
Here’s a few words you may want to consider eliminating from your manuscript: something, that, this, huge, tiny. I admire poets for the economy of words they use to make a point. In the end, it makes the work stronger.
On a beautiful day in mid-June, a group of people gathered for a day of reflection, rest, and writing at Potato Hill Farm. The group, made up of people from all walks of life, coalesced around the central theme of writing through to a better sense of individual peace and spirituality.
Fall Sanctuary Retreats will offer one-day experiences at Potato Hill Farm for church groups, book clubs, or other groups, as well as one retreat that is open to all. We provide a day of directed activities and time to gain a new perspective. Look for more information soon. Or contact me for more information.
Women Writing for (a) Change celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this fall. I am glad to say that I’ve been part of the organization for many of those years. Craft classes in basic fiction techniques, as well as telling your best nonfiction story, are coming soon. Keep your eyes open for these opportunities.
Also coming this fall, informational sessions on what a book coach does to help you tell your story. These sessions will be held at various locations around Cincinnati.
A Summer Memory
Camping along the Ohio River on one of the few remaining beaches at Meldahl Dam east of Cincinnati, I woke to the softness of a river morning. My companions lay near a smoldering pile of ash that had been the site of glowing fish tales just the night before. I walked to the lapping waters edge, listened to the mechanisms of the locks as water changed in the balance to bring a boat to the western side of the river. The tip of a stern wheeler emerged, lights swaying along the upper balcony, deckhands eyeing the sides of the boat. When she was free of the lock walls, I knew the beauty of what she’d been to me in my younger years, the Delta Queen.
Through screened windows when I was so much younger, the music of the calliope played in my dreams and filled me with possibility. As I watched her paddle turn softly with the current that morning, I knew again what dreams are made of, they are memories commingling with yearning in a trance like state.
Where do you draw from when you go to the page? Is there a firefly-in-a-jar moment for you? Or perhaps a crisp mountain morning?
Until next time, I’ll meet you on the page,