One Person’s Story

Ann Minnett MWW photo By Ann Minnett

“The story of one person is the story of humanity.”

~Paul Coelho

Earlier this month my husband and I walked the grounds of the American Cemetery in Normandy France where 9,387 American military dead are buried. Some sections were open to the public to stroll between the markers and perhaps find lost loved ones. Although we had no family members to locate, the memorials, the beautiful setting, and pristine white markers moved us to silence. Each headstone listed the man’s name (4 women were buried there), service rank, home state, and date of death. I lingered over a few markers, concentrating on each man’s name as I zigzagged through the maze. It felt wrong to skip even one, and that’s when the impossible task of honoring all of them overwhelmed me.

D-Day markers

D-Day single headstone

Plot D, Row 11, Grave 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I headed toward the central path, and there was a cross bearing the name of Raymond F. Eggers, TEC 5, from Oklahoma. Both sides of my family come from Oklahoma. I was born there. The enormity of war and killing and dying settled onto the headstone of this one young man who died in France 72 years ago. The fact of his grave stone touched me far more deeply than the enormous maps depicting American and British divisions landing on the beaches or parachuting into the countryside behind German lines or even the regimented rows of gravestones stretching in all directions.

Later, on our way through pastoral Normandy toward a seaside village up the coast, it dawned on me why one stranger’s grave stood out among the enormity of the events memorialized in the vast cemetery.

I could relate to the personal story of one man. His background. The loss of him.

And isn’t this where good authors excel? For readers the grand story emerges in telling the ‘small’ moment of one individual.

Enjoy your Memorial Day. Let us be grateful for those who came before and for those we touch today.

 

The Mystery of Mystery

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By Karen Wills

My adored one and I have been discussing elements most found in best-loved fiction. We came up with the following: mystery, conflict, suspense, doubt, implied or real sex, implied or real violence, and resolution.

Mystery to me is that haunting element in a character, situation, place, or series of events that eludes easy explanation. It’s the thing that keeps us reading to grasp or comprehend. We don’t want to be hopelessly mystified. We do want to be endlessly intrigued. It’s why we want to talk about the book afterwards with other readers. It’s something that made an internal shift in our thinking and feeling and awareness. My mystery is an element, not a genre centered on crime and murders. The mystery I mean can exist in any genre.

It is to literature what outer space is to the physical world.mystery space

 

For example, how could Lonesome Dove’s Woodrow Call refuse to ever acknowledge Newt as his son? Yes, Call is stiff necked and proud, but this has to do with a paralyzing personal reticence. Where did it come from? And what about the fairy tale element in Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See? Fairy tales always have mystery.

Mystery isn’t magic realism, because the explanation for that is that it’s, you know, plain old magic, and so we don’t have to think and search for explanation. Likewise with reports of religious miracles where the conclusion will always be that God caused them. End of story.

Poetry always has mystery, so perhaps poetic writing, prose with metaphors and similes that reveal amazing connections, has it. A deep connection to nature or any passion may have it.

Mystery is delightfully hard to pin down, but think about your favorite books. mystery intrigue

I’ll bet they have at least a little tantalizing mystery.

A WRITING RISK TAKER

Capture

By Janice McCaffrey

I’ve been stuck in my writing, avoiding it at any cost. You know the drill: scrubbing floors, sorting closets, and perfecting files. After months of avoidance, I decided to reflect on reasons. As a social worker I learned that most of our negative behaviors are based on fears. What fears are stopping my writing, I wondered?

The word “critique” gets my heart racing and palms sweating. Rejection. That’s it. Rejection is the fear I need to overcome. I need to become a writing risk taker.

To begin the journey I looked back through the years and identified risk takers I’ve admired. Two sit on the top of my list:

Shawn White (Olympic gold snowboarder),shawn white

and currently, JB Mauney (professional bull rider).

What makes these two guys stand out for me?

  • They believe they can do whatever they can think up – they set goals not just to win, but to be the best.
  • They hone their skills–practicing with purpose.
  • They’re not quitters–they keep on even after serious physical injuries.
  • And they have fun doing what they do best.

JB Mauney is a two-time World Champion Professional Bull Rider and THE # 1 Fan Favorite. He believes he can stay on the back of any bull for 8 seconds, he practices between competitions, when he has a choice he picks the rankest bull available, he never gives up, and it’s obvious that he’s having fun.

Because of these qualities he is exciting to watch. Whenever JB enters a chute the audience ignores the popcorn and drink vendors, united in watching and wondering, “Will he ride this one?” When JB sits on the back of a bull, I’m on my feet, mesmerized as he fights to hang on. I have to remind myself to breathe. Yes, it’s a downer if he doesn’t stick the full 8 seconds, but when he does all witnesses are smiling and cheering.

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Yes, even home alone watching TV, I jump up and down, clap, smile ear to ear, and shout, “Woo Hoo! Yes, JB, I knew you could do it!”

Determined to be a risk taking writer, I took my first page to Montana Women Writers’ March meetings’ first impression activity. I did, however, spend most of the two hours talking myself into actually sharing it. Listening to others’ first pages and participating in critiquing each was not only fun, but informative. Finally, it was asked, “Did anyone else bring a first page to read?” Hesitantly my arm went up.

I thought, if JB can get on the rankest bulls, I can overcome my fear of rejection and read my writing to these good women. I stepped into my fear and read. Immediate, positive comments filled the room. Woo Hoo! echoed through my mind, I’m a writing risk taker! I happily noted the suggested changes and the really good news is since my debut, I’ve written more consistently. So, like the risk takers I admire, I have set a goal, I’m honing my skills through practice, I’m committed and will not quit, and, thanks to my fellow authors, I’m having fun.

Thank you, Montana Women Writers.

The Write Day

FullSizeRender (23)By Anne B. Howard-   It’s so easy to pour a hot cup of coffee and retreat to the writing cave for hours, during our long grey Montana winters, but when spring finally arrives, the procrastination and excuses begin. I’ve fought the same battle with myself for years. Give me an inch, and I’ll take The Wild Mile above Bigfork every time. The good news is that this year I’ve called a truce, which doesn’t involve crawling out of bed at four in the morning, as several of my writer-friends happily do, or closing my eyes, ears and soul to the reasons I moved to Montana in the first place.

It’s my way of touching base with the natural world, getting some exercise, and carving out the time to actually plan and commit myself to new goals. Instead of “time I could have spent writing,” I consider this meditative daily four-mile-walk as the first and most critical stage in my writing day. It’s where I brainstorm for ideas, hit upon solutions, and gain insight, confidence and enthusiasm for tackling the tasks on my to-do list, renewed and inspired by the never ending miracle of new life around me.

Some days, the ideas come so hard and fast I have to sit down and make notes, which is why I never leave home without my big screen iPhone 6-Plus, or the iPad with keyboard.  “Idea traps,” I call them. And, fortunately, if I look closely, great places—no, actually, perfect places—to sit, sip a little coffee from my thermos, and record these ideas abound along that trail, inviting and enticing me to take my time. It’s all good. No second wasted.

Once home, I water the flowers, tidy the house, and prep a quick lunch for the hubs before heading upstairs to the cave, without guilt or resentment, filled to the brim with new plans for committing to paper the stories I feel inspired to tell.

How do you balance the need to write with making sure all of life’s bases are covered?