I haven’t worked with photoshop in a long time. Starting over was NOT like riding a bicycle. But I did it, albeit in a slow, Carolyn fashion. As most of you know, I am currently writing my fourth novel set in 1963. As my dad used to say, it’s a booger-bear. So, writing children’s books gives me a breath of fresh air. (Yes, I go to sleep rhyming, then pull out my hair.)
Here’s a sample of my latest. It is a reminder for children to keep their imaginations open and active as they listen to a Grandma tell her granddaughter about a magical place.
As always, dear writers, the ones with the blocks,
Simple, really. Life experiences affect the way you write. And, as authors, you have the power to change, modify and/or right the pains you may have endured when younger.
Sometimes, when writing, you don’t even expect a terrifying childhood event to pop into your consciousness. Especially if that incident has nothing to do with the story’s plot line. But memories pop in, don’t they? When that happens, your fingers peck down on the keys and type a different scenario, a different outcome.
I won’t go into the gory details. But I’d like to share a disturbing memory.
It’s my fault. That’s what I thought as a ten-year old.
After my friend discovered our missing eighteen-year-old Cocker Spaniel dead in the creek, she gave me a new puppy for my birthday, part Lab, part Beagle.
‘Buffy,’ named after the girl in 60’s show, Family Affair, was still young–two, I believe. I let her come with me across the quiet residential street to play with neighborhood friends. She was so happy before she ran in front of a parked car. The driver didn’t see her. (To this day, I accuse him of speeding, especially when he was driving past a group of kids playing in a front yard.)
Not disclosing the images still in my mind, my dad called me from the vet clinic. “Carolyn,” he said, his voice choking with tears. “Since she’s your dog, you have a decision to make. She can live with three legs or we can put her to sleep.”
Back then, I had never seen a dog with three legs. My young, limited brain had to make a choice. Guilty Carolyn said, “Every time I look at her, I’ll remember my mistake.” Compassion Carolyn said, “I don’t want her to suffer.”
“Put her to sleep,” I whispered into the phone, because I didn’t have the life experience to tell me otherwise.
Later in life, when I had children, I sat in the living room in our new house, my five-year old daughter next to me on our sofa. As we watched my baby-grand piano being set up, she said, “Mommy, why does it only have three legs.”
Spontaneously, I said, “Because, sometimes, that’s all you need.”
Then, I thought of Buffy.
Now, fifty years later, I’ve met many three-legged dogs.
In my latest WIP, THE MOONSHINE THICKET, the plot line doesn’t require a dog. Even so, eleven-year-old, Emma June has one.
Page 41: I’d asked Daddy why Choppers had the guts to forget he lost something so important as a leg. “Because, Jellybean, he got used to the change. He adapted,” Daddy said, then pointed to temple. “Choppers knew that, even with three legs, he still had plenty of life to live and enjoy.”
And there is was, a theme relevant to my novel. The new outcome put a different kind of smile on my face. Buffy (Choppers) is happy with three legs.
One way or another, aren’t we all three-legged dogs doing the best we can?
If you’ve had a memory-thumping moment while writing, I’d love to hear it! Please share!
So, I took that morsel, ran with it, and didn’t “return” until five years later.
Hmm? How to make this brief?
We own our family homestead.
My great-great grandparents set their belonging on the land in the 1840’s and said, “das ist gut.” And it was. And it is.
In my dream, the essence of me stared into an old photo. In the frame, the couple turned to one another and smiled. Then, the screen door opened. The farmer stood in the doorway to greet his wife, but couldn’t enter.
Most nights, I see Papa in my dreams. In a slower-than-life pulse, in a not-so-common four-count measure, he smiles as he grabs the knob of our screen door and opens it to enter. His movement repeats. He smiles and opens the door. Smiles and opens the door. Each time, he never enters. He never falls.
But Papa did fall; collapsed before crossing our threshold into the house his neighbors helped him to build. Four years ago now, all of the notes of Papa’s life faded away with his last breath. A stillness so loud that my ears still burned.
If only Papa hadn’t died.
I’m not living in 1901 anymore. I’m no longer in a bordello, in a lunatic asylum, or attending a Women’s Christian Temperance Union or Suffrage meeting.
I’m in 1928. So far, it’s the cat’s pajamas. (The Moonshine Thicket– working title)