Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Laidback Writer

KangaOn the  100 Acre Personality Quiz I discovered I'm a Kanga. It's not far from the truth, except that kids don't know not to misbehave around me. Just the opposite, really. I say, "Everyone gather around me here at the table," and three-fourths of the children ignore me. Where do you get one of those "I mean it" voices that successful teachers and coaches use? 

It was the same with horses. I spent my childhood dreaming of owning a horse someday. Rather than an imaginary friend, I had an imaginary horse, Jerina. White, graceful, with the delicate face of an Arabian, the two of us galloped effortlessly across the farm. My parents finally got me a real horse when I was fourteen, and I discovered I have little talent for riding. I took good care of Lady and she was fond of me, but many of our rides turned out to be long arguments about where and how fast we should be going. She felt her opinion was at least as valid as mine. When my cousin or anyone who knew horses rode her, she was a different animal: obedient, smooth, predictable. Just not with me.

Maybe that's why I enjoy writing so much. The characters in my stories sometimes surprise me, heading off in directions I didn't anticipate, but I have the ultimate power to let them roam or call them back. In the end, everyone behaves, or misbehaves, just as they are supposed to. I've always been a live and let live sort of person. I don't like being bossed around, and I don't try to boss others. I live a lot of my life inside my head, and maybe that's why. In there, I'm (more or less) in control. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Living History and Family Treasures

We just returned from a visit to various relatives, including my husband’s grandmother, an amazing woman.  She thinks she was born in 1917, although there is some doubt because she was born at home and her parents didn’t get a birth certificate until a few years later.  Officially, though, she’s ninety-seven, living in an apartment of her own in a senior facility, and doing her own cooking and housekeeping. She still has sharp hearing, a sharp mind, and judging from her geraniums, a green thumb. I want to be her when I grow up.

We did a little sightseeing on the trip. We saw Cave-in Rock, a notorious hideout for bandits including the James gang, and some beautiful cemeteries, and lots of corn. But mostly, we chatted. My husband’s grandmother is a walking history book. She was there during the depression, WWII, the moon landing, and everything since, working hard and raising a family. She grew up on a farm, married a farmer, and then after her husband died, went to work as a hospital aid. It was never an easy life, but she’s not the type to complain. "We didn't have much, but we grew vegetables and had chickens, so we always had enough to eat." 

The town where she lives celebrates a fall festival called Corn Days, but she mentioned Rooster Day, when someone threw a rooster from the upstairs window of an office building and people tried to catch it. We were able to find a record of Rooster Day on the internet, to her great satisfaction. “See, I didn’t make it up.” It took place in the thirties. Kiwanis promoted the day, encouraging farmers to bring their roosters to sell in town, and she remembers.

She's seen so much, stored up such wisdom, it's a shame that she won't always be there to share her experiences. I love to include characters like her in my books. They've been through all the stages of life and recognize BS and melodrama, although they're usually too polite to say so directly. The curiosity of children, energy of youth, balance of middle-age, and wisdom of elders: all add richness and depth to a story, and to life.