Saturday, September 6, 2014

For the Love of Critters

My husband and I enjoy feeding wildlife. We always feed them what's good for them--no potato chips or bread--fake foods that deteriorate over the winter. It is a joy to watch them; although the critters soon expect to be fed. Here's a poem I wrote about what happened this summer when we forgot to close the door.

Open House

Door open wide,
a place to abide
with a banquet for all
who venture inside.

Donald and kin,
still wet from a swim,
climbed up the steps,
the first to drop in.

Never one to be shy,
Jay stopped by,
ate all the nuts,
and then had to fly.

Peter came, too,
Alvin and crew,
stuffing their cheeks,
the place was a zoo!

It went on for days
this party-like graze,
'til the tall ones returned,
shocked and amazed.

The floor was a fright,
the crashers in flight,
so they cleaned up the mess
and shut the door tight.

Ginger Dehlinger
August 2014

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Annie Proulx's Song

"You fill up my senses," wrote John Denver in "Annie's Song." It was a song meant for another Annie, yet his words could be my words when it comes to how I feel about Annie Proulx's stories. I haven't read everything she's written, notably her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Shipping News; however her short stories blow me away.

I began reading her work in earnest after I found out she'd written the short story, "Brokeback Mountain," and that was after I'd seen the movie. I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about life in the West while doing research for my novel-in-progress, a story set in Colorado that's inspired by the life of my great-grandmother.

Topping my list of writers of the West is Annie Proulx followed by Louis L'amour (he's not as hokey as you might think), and Wallace Stegner. Annie Proulx has the courage to write about life in the West as it was and is. No sugar-coating from this author. Louis L'amour was guilty of including a lot of stereotypes, but he was a great story teller. Wallace Stegner, another Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote about relationships and how living in the West changed people. My favorite piece, out of everything I've read by these authors, is Annie Proulx's short story, "Them Old Cowboy Songs." It staggers me every time I read it.

I don't have Annie Proulx's courage, but I've learned from her to avoid stereotypes--no Indians attacking isolated settlers, no gunfights in my novel. Instead I'm writing about a young woman who leaves a privileged upbringing in Philadelphia for a hard but satisfying life in the Rockies. When finished, my novel won't be as gut-level real as if Annie Proulx had written it; however it may move some of my readers to kiss their modern appliances.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What's It About?

Whenever I tell someone I've written a novel, their first response is almost always, "What's it about?" Most authors are ready with a simple answer to this question; however when I tell people Brute Heart is about a young veterinarian who's deciding whether to euthanize her terminally ill father, I can't seem to stop with that. I think it's because I'm afraid of horrifying potential readers, notably those who love their fathers. 

So I yammer away, adding details such as:
  • Her father is an alcoholic. (He's not the perfect father.)
  • He's been mentally and physically abusive to her and her family. (far from perfect)
  • I usually add, "not sexually abusive." (No salacious details in this story.)
 If what I've said so far still produces a blank expression, I might add:
  • The father can't understand why his daughter won't do for him what she does for an old or wounded animal.
  • Then I feel compelled to mention the young woman had to work her way through college and veterinary school, and if she were caught she would lose her hard-won license and end up in prison.
Soon whatever interest this person may have had is replaced by a polite nod once in a while followed by a reason they have to leave. As usual, I've said too much, and it still wasn't enough.

If you've read Brute Heart, what would you say if a person asked you, "What's it about?"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Bit of Humor

Most of my posts are rather serious, so this month I'm sharing a bit of humor.

Gender Poetry from Slice of Life

(first from the woman)

Before I lay me down to sleep
I pray for a man who's not a creep.
One who's handsome, smart and strong,
one who loves to listen long.
One who thinks before he speaks,
one who calls, not waits for weeks.
Oh send me a king to make me a queen,
a man who loves to cook and clean.

(next from the man)

I pray for a deaf-mute gymnast nymphomaniac
with big boobs who owns a bar on a
golf course and loves to send me
out to go fishing and drinking.
This doesn't rhyme,
and I don't give a shit.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Linear Writing

Many writers feel they have to write a story from beginning to end. When telling a story or a joke, we can't skip around or those listening will lose interest. The beauty of writing as opposed to telling is time; time to think, change direction, rewrite, and so forth. We can jump around as much as we'd like, work on this chapter for a while, that paragraph, the conclusion until we are finished and satisfied with what we've created. (Completely satisfied never seems to happen for me, but I have to stop revising at some point.)

Writing is sort of like putting together a puzzle. Perhaps we feel like working on the blue pieces that make up the sky, or the maze of branches that forms the trees. It is probably a good idea to complete the border (the general framework of the story) before filling in the middle, but even that isn't a hard and fast rule.

If we force ourselves to write linearly, we are setting ourselves up for a bad case of writer's block. Stressing over "what comes next" could make us give up on a project; whereas working on another part of the story could help us fill the gap we abandoned. At the very least it will give us a sense of accomplishment and a more positive attitude about what we're writing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Snow

Ah the joys of spring (unless you happen to live in Bend, Oregon) where spring is a season that arrives for a week in February, and then disappears until about May. We are teased with a warm day now and then, but a spring bursting with blossoms, the kind that turns a young man's thoughts to love,  takes place somewhere else. Below is a  poem describing a taste of spring I experienced on Highway 97.

"April Snow"

Beads of snow dust my windshield,
bounce off the hood,
scurry across the asphalt.

Where are the robins?
Five miles south of here
it was sunny.

April 2013

Friday, March 7, 2014

Must Reads for Aspiring Writers

     Over Christmas I had coffee with a friend of mine. At one point in our conversation she told me about her son who’d had more than his share of bad luck including spine surgery followed by a serious accident. In pain most of the time and unable to do many of the physical things he used to do, he was thinking about being a writer.
     I suggested he read through my blog—all the way back to when I started it forty-four posts ago. My friend then asked if there were any books about writing I could recommend to him. I knew exactly what to tell her, and the fact I could do so without hesitation made me realize I am taking this writing business more seriously than I thought.
     Neither of us had anything except a napkin to write on, so I whipped out one of my business cards and listed my three favorite writing books on the back of it. I hardly ever remember to hand out one of these little marketing tools, so I was pleased to find a use for one of them.
     Here are the books I wrote down. I have added their Amazon descriptions.

     The Elements of Style by William Strunk
     This book is intended for use in English courses in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature. It aims to give in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style. It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention (in Chapters II and III) on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. The numbers of the sections may be used as references in correcting manuscript.

     On Writing by Stephen King
     “Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

     Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
     Think you've got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn't afraid to help you let it out. She'll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott's witty take on the reality of a writer's life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer's block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.