Ode to the Fisherman in the Woods

fisherman

This is a sad post that was supposed to be a joyful one. As in, I’d meant to write about the fisherman last week—when he still existed—and never got around to it. But now that he’s gone, I’m moved to write. What’s that thing they say about absence and the heart?

I came upon the fisherman quite by surprise a couple of weeks ago, while walking the dog around the pond. Having traveled that same path nearly every day for over two years, I knew immediately that I’d never seen the guy before. Yes, lots of people fish in that area, but none quite like him. He—and I’m going to refer to him as male, because almost every human I’ve ever seen fishing in that pond has been male—was a simple but beautiful sculpture made of pieces of wood from a dead tree.

He brought an immediate smile to my face. How cool, how clever, how lovely of someone to chop up the dead trees on the ground—victims of our harsh New England winter—and make something so lovely and sweet. I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture to show my family, and smiled inside for the remainder of the walk.

The next morning, out on the trail again, the fisherman was a popular topic of conversation among the various dog walkers. All of us were adults who’d seen our share of artwork over the years, but there was something about the fisherman that made us all so happy. “I took a picture of him,” I said, only to discover that all the other dog walkers had done the same thing!

We learned that he’d been created by a scout troop as part of a public art project, which explained the precision with which he’d been built, and the attention to detail. Despite the fact that the fisherman wasn’t nailed together, it was clear that he’d been put together carefully; he’d been designed to stick around for a while.

And so, during his brief lifetime, I had at least a dozen conversations about him. People out walking or jogging would turn the corner and be surprised to come upon him sitting there, fishing so peacefully with his unruly hair, oblivious to the fact that his line didn’t quite make it down to the water.

I’m sure he evoked many different thoughts in many different people. For me, it was memories of my son when he was little, and absolutely obsessed with the idea of catching a fish. Now as my son grew older, he actually did become quite a skilled fisherman, but I’ll never forget the days when I’d take him down to the pond with his little fishing rod from the five and dime, and stand with him on the shore as he waited for a fish to come along. That’s what the fisherman sculpture reminded me of: that innocent, patient optimism.

But yesterday afternoon, as I turned the familiar corner with the dog, I saw that the fisherman was gone. In his place was a pile of logs and the clump of dried grass that had been his hair. The sight broke my heart. My first thought was to try to reconstruct him, but I was in a rush to get home to make dinner, and besides, I had no idea which parts went where.

Who would do such a thing? was all I could think. We haven’t had any violent storms in recent days, so the fisherman’s demise wasn’t the work of Mother Nature. Someone destroyed him willfully, and I can’t get my head around that.

All those people whose days were brightened by that silly, inanimate guy. What will they think now, when they see what he has become? Perhaps some won’t notice, as they jog by, trying to burn off calories, steam, or anxiety. Others will be engrossed in conversations, either face-to-face, or on cellphones. But for me—and I assume for others too—his loss feels like a small tragedy.

But then again, like Shelley’s Ozymandias and all other art made by humans, the fisherman wasn’t destined to live forever. Perhaps part of the reason so many people were touched by him was because of his ephemeral nature. Thinking about him now, I realize that although he probably would’ve survived some good rainstorms, a hurricane or Nor’easter most likely would’ve knocked him over.

And yet, he’s gone way too soon, and I’m angry at his destroyer or destroyers, whomever they may be. So maybe, if I have some time later on, I’ll go over there and see if I can reconstruct him, at least partially. The world certainly seemed like a nicer place with him in it.

Posted in art, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Truth Is the Best Answer in #Deflategate

Creative Commons Share Alike Photo by Keith Allison

Creative Commons Share Alike Photo by Keith Allison

If you live in Boston—or anywhere in the U.S.—there’s a good chance that you’re at least “generally aware” of the “Deflategate” scandal involving the New England Patriots and their golden boy quarterback, Tom Brady.

I’d like to say right off that I don’t watch football, but many, many of my friends—men and women alike—do, and they adore Mr. Brady. Therefore, I’ve been hearing about how terrific Tom is since my now-teenage kids were babies. He’s also a consistent darling of the local media; hence I know quite a bit about his lux life, his marriage to Gisele, his beautiful family, his Ugg wearing, and his admirable charity work, especially with the Best Buddies organization. And hey, the guy seems pretty adept at throwing a football too. Not to mention that every time the Patriots win a Super Bowl, lots of people in my life get really happy, and it’s nice to be around happy people. In short, I’ve never had anything against Tom Brady. He’s always seemed like a sweet, decent guy, and a positive addition to the Boston area.

But now we have Deflategate. And I simply can’t understand why the Patriots and Brady can’t just come out and say something honest or apologetic. Because there are facts in this case. One being that the footballs, when checked at halftime, were below the allowed pressure in the NFL.  There’s also video footage of one of the Patriots’ workers (Jim McNally, a man who in text messages refers to himself as “The Deflator”) taking the game balls into a bathroom right before the game for no apparent reason.

Of course, there’s so much more too. The 243 page Wells Report, which concludes that Mr. Brady was “at least generally aware” of what was going on with the balls, provides a plethora of information.

But the Patriots? It seems as though they can’t accept any blame at all. And I just don’t understand that. As so many people have pointed out, no one’s accusing Tom Brady of being a murderer, a rapist, or a woman-beater—although sadly, some football players have been convicted of those heinous crimes. In fact, other football teams have done things in the past to alter the air pressure in their footballs, and they’ve gotten caught. But they’ve taken their punishments, and moved on.

So again, my question is why. Why is it so important to the Patriots organization that they be perfect? Perhaps more importantly, why is so important that Brady be perfect? Sure, he’s a role model–and a positive one to countless young athletes–but he doesn’t need to be perfect. Isn’t it OK just to be talented, and honest most of the time? Can’t role models occasionally make mistakes, apologize, accept the consequences, and then try harder to do the right thing? Isn’t that what life’s all about?

Today, however, the Patriots have issued a 20,000 word rebuttal to the Wells Report–a big, expensive, arrogant smokescreen written by lawyers and scientists–asking people to believe, among other things, that Jim McNally nicknamed himself “The Deflator” because he was trying to lose weight. Seriously? So if that’s all it was, then why won’t Tom Brady turn over his cell phone? He was promised extraordinary measures of privacy by the investigators–all they cared about were any texts, calls, etc. that dealt with footballs and air pressure–but he has repeatedly refused. Does he realize that this makes him look like a person who gets pulled over for drunk driving but won’t take a breathalyzer test?

And is it even healthy to try to turn a regular guy–albeit a handsome, super talented athlete–like Tom Brady into some sort of god? Because the man’s human. He’s allowed to make mistakes, like the rest of us. And I’ll bet he can handle being suspended from a few games and losing some money.

In fact, is it possible that his fans–and detractors too–might actually like Tom Brady more if they saw him as fallible?

There’s been a lot of talk about Brady’s legacy recently. Because of the overblown nature of Deflategate, there will probably always be a blurb about the scandal on his Wikipedia page, and in every biography written about him. So I’m just putting it out there: wouldn’t it be better if at the end of that blurb, it said, “Mr. Brady eventually admitted to ‘being generally aware’ of the deflating, vowed never to be involved in such a thing again, and accepted his punishment.” Wouldn’t that ultimately make him more of a hero and role model for young athletes?

Finally, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be inside the head of Tom Brady, but if it were me, I’d want to clear my conscience and get this thing over with. As people have pointed out, continuing to deny any wrongdoing could land this case in court, in which case, Brady would need to come clean with everything. Not to mention that a court case would probably be drawn-out and exhausting. And unless he really is completely innocent–and he may be–I don’t think going to court will be very enjoyable for him.

So come on, Tom! Please, think about what you’re doing and saying. And if you’ve got something to say, this would be a really good time to come out with it. Don’t worry, your New England fans will still love you. Maybe even a little bit more.

Posted in football, honesty, legacy, sports, truth | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Getting a Dog to Boost Your Immune System? Please Don’t!

Spencer_on_couch

Out on the interwebs recently, I stumbled across an article about strengthening the human immune system. I can’t recall the website or the author of the article, but it mentioned some sensible, natural solutions. Things like eating healthier, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.

I was nodding along until I got to the line that said, “Get a dog right away.” Now I know it’s true that owning pets can help prevent allergies and asthma in kids, but the person who wrote this article was also suggesting that dogs help increase the good bacteria in our bodies. Which may very well be true. But the idea of “getting a dog right away” in an effort to add better bacteria to your body doesn’t sit well with me.

Let me start by saying that my family has had a dog for the past two years and we love him very much. I also believe that in a perfect world, every household would have a dog–or some sort of pet. (I understand that some people are afraid of animals, and others have allergies, but in a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any fear or allergies, right?)

But although our kids started asking for a canine friend when they were in preschool, we didn’t get one until they were teenagers. Perhaps we did their immune systems a disservice, but until recently, our family simply wasn’t ready; we didn’t have the time, bandwidth, or fenced-in backyard for a dog. And one of the saddest things a person can do is take on an animal they can’t truly care for. But rather than talk about animal neglect and the societal trend of “disposable pets,” here’s an article from the Alameda Patch about this disturbing phenomenon.

Still think you’re up for getting a pooch? Awesome! But for what it’s worth, here’s a brief listing of some of the ways my life (and the lives of my family members) has changed since we brought Spencer home to live with us. I’ll start with the good points, but if you’re seriously considering a dog, it’s probably more important that you read the negative ones.

  • We all believe we picked the world’s best dog. Yes, Spencer can be a pain in the butt, but he’s a true sweetheart, and it’s so comforting to snuggle up with him when we’re in a bad mood–or a good one.
  • It’s really fun to take him for walks. We’re lucky enough to live near several wooded areas, and before we had a dog, we hardly ever spent time in those areas. Now, going to the woods is part of my daily routine, and I’ve not only developed a better appreciation for the nature in my town, but have met so many wonderful dog owners. Honestly, when I think about my life before Spencer, it seems somewhat empty.
  • I spend more time walking and thinking. Before having a dog, I spent many days alone with my computer, writing for hours. And while that was good, it could get frustrating, especially when the words weren’t coming. Now, I’m out with the dog early in the morning, some time after lunch, and at least once in the evening. Sometimes I get irritated if I’m on a writing roll and need to take a break, but those breaks often get my blood circulating better, and help bring new ideas to my brain.

OK. Now for some negative stuff.

  • Lots of things got chewed up. We got Spencer at a shelter in Massachusetts, after he’d been rescued from the woods of South Carolina. He was about a year old, and was found loaded with parasites and a lame leg. We couldn’t believe how mellow he was when we first brought him home, but most likely, he was in shock after going through so much transition in a short time (rescued, brought North in a truck, taken to a shelter, cleaned up, medicated, neutered, sent home with our family). So for the first week or so, he behaved wonderfully. Then, once he got comfortable, all hell broke loose. He destroyed an entire couch and two ottomans, numerous pillows, at least one area rug, too many pairs of shoes and flip-flops to count, several pairs of glasses (including two prescription pairs), two remote controls, and many, many other items. Eventually, with the help of a trainer, lots of chew toys and even more patience, he stopped chewing everything in sight, but still destroys random items on occasion.
  • My time was seriously reduced. Yes, you’ve heard this a thousand times, but when a family gets a dog, most often it’s one of the adults in the household who takes care of him/her. Our daughter was the one who wanted a dog most, but despite the fact that she and her brother both adore Spencer, he needs a significant amount of exercise, and I’m the one who usually has sufficient time to walk and run with him. I now spend at least two hours a day outside with the dog. This isn’t a complaint (see above), but if no one in your home has that kind of time, you might want to seriously reconsider getting a dog.
  • We’ve spent thousands of dollars in just two years. When people talk about the financial cost of dogs, they often say things like “dog food’s not free,” but if you get a dog, food will probably not be your biggest new expense. Of course, routine veterinary care (checkups, shots) isn’t cheap, but when your dog gets sick, you can often count on spending a pretty penny on finding out what’s wrong and getting him/her better. On three different occasions, we’ve brought Spencer to the vet because he didn’t seem well–once it was extensive diarrhea, once vomiting for more than three days, once lethargy–and on each of those three occasions, we spent close to $1000 on testing and medicine. Unless you have pet insurance–which is also somewhat costly–or your pet is extremely healthy, you will most likely end up having some “sick visits” at the vet. Oh, and if you go away on vacation and need to find a dog sitter to care for your pooch, most of them charge between $40 and $60 a day. Likewise, if you can’t walk your dog as much as you like, dog walkers normally charge at least $10 for a walk. I know of one local dog walker who charges $35 an hour.

That’s probably enough for now. My point is that it’s important to consider all the positives and negatives of bringing a dog into your life before taking that plunge. It’s almost impossible to turn on the TV or go on the internet these days without seeing ads from animal shelters, begging people to adopt homeless pets. And yes, there are so many living in shelters and foster homes. But please, get a dog because you really, really want a new friend, and are prepared to care for him/her as you would a family member. Don’t get one just to boost your immune system!

Posted in animals, dogs, health, life | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Music and Writing: Guest Post by K. Williams for #MusicTuesday

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had a guest for #MusicTuesday, and I’m very happy to have K. Williams today.

———————————————————————————————————-K williams

Music and Writing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Until recently, I thought I was the only one out there crazy enough to make play-lists for my books, as I’m writing them. Other authors will recognize the loneliness expressed in that statement. Writing is a solitary art and often the artists behind written art do not get out much or come into contact much with many others of their kind. In all honesty, I think a great many things I do are weird, but are simply an aspect of the personality Author.

Perhaps the loneliness is what makes authors reach out to music for an amplification of their work. I don’t know about you, but I find that when I am able to express my work I get high. I’m reenergized and want to get back to work. For me, music provided that expression. I wasn’t literally having a conversation with anyone about my work, but I was seeing my thoughts and ideas reflected or, at least, working in tandem with other artists. Thus, the book writing play-lists began.

The lists began small; one or two songs that made me really think about the work—day dream even. The one that sticks out the most for me is Ride On, performed by the McKrells, a band local to my area with national renown. You can listen to a blip of it here. I pictured the cavalry horses, the troops—the sweeping landscapes of Vermont and Emily’s thrumming heart as Joseph came to visit for the first time in the light of day—after the fire. Blue Honor grew out of those hazy day dreams. “Eyes of green…You ride the horse so well…I could never go with you no matter how I wanted to.” To this day, the images snap into my head like a film trailer. Hopefully one day that song will grace the film of the book, because the two are twined, at least in my mind.

When I wrote my next book, there was no play-list to really speak of. It’s hard to piece together music from the 40s. But for the sequel, I have managed to get some Glen Miller and others together and created a huge playlist of band and jazz that is just epic. What I did have was recording of German Sea shanties which came to me as part of a visual aid resource of the interior of a VII-C U-Boat. The scenes requiring that research, which was extensive, weren’t all that long, but they’re enormous in my mind because of the time and care I spent on them, including the music. I played the shanties while writing the scene one night. They were magnificent—both chilling considering to what they represented at the moment and aesthetically captivating.

My newest work has benefitted the most from my opening up to the play-list as a tool for visualization and focus. It was probably a lot easier to create this one, considering it was a science fiction/fantasy and set in more modern times. Historical work can be limiting for me, because I want authenticity. Digging up Civil War music and music from the WWII era is time consuming and can be expensive (a couple songs aren’t enough; I need to own nearly the whole catalog). The trilogy play-list runs the gamut of genres. They’re songs from the period that inspired the writing, songs that make me think of the period, or aspects of the story and songs that help me clearly see the dreams that also helped to inspire the work. Where the music helped me to day dream in the past, it wasn’t always just about the work I was on at the moment. Different music inspired different scenarios in my head—or a dream from the night before was being mulled over as I commuted to and from work, music on blast. These songs became weaved into the tapestry. You can listen to the playlist on Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/user/arguspicks/playlist/3nC3w0GX9DQRM7osvF4gk9. A friend of mine made that list for me to share with others. It was exclusive to the launch team, him and myself until this moment. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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Born in Saratoga Springs, New York, K.Williams embarked on a now twenty year career in writing. After a childhood which consisted of voracious reading and hours of film watching, it was a natural progression to study and produce art.

K attended Morrisville State College, majoring in the Biological Sciences, and then continued with English and Historical studies at the University at Albany, home of the New York State Writer’s Institute, gaining her Bachelor’s Degree. While attending UA, K interned with the 13th Moon Feminist Literary Magazine, bridging her interests in social movements and art. Topics of K’s writing include the environment, animal welfare, gender limitations, racial disparities, and the trauma of war.

Published novels by K include the Civil War drama Blue Honor, the Second World War spy thriller OP-DEC:Operation Deceit, and the controversial science fiction/fantasy series The Trailokya Trilogy. In addition to writing novels, K enjoy’s the art of screenwriting and has worked on the screen spec 8 Days in Ireland, and the adaptations of her current novels. Currently, K has completed the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program for Film Studies and Screenwriting at Empire State College (SUNY), and is the 2013-2014 recipient of the Foner Fellowship in Arts and Social Justice. In 2015, K. Williams became an official member of International Thriller Writers.

K continues to write on this blog weekly, producing commentary Mondays and Fridays on hot topics with some fun diversions for your work week. Whether it’s cooking, learning a foreign language, history or dogs, you’ll find something to enjoy and keep coming back for.  Always a promoter of other artists, K uses Guest Blog Wednesdays to showcase artists from around the web and bring you interesting readings to expand your horizons. A sequel to her second novel, OP-DEC, is in the research phase, while the screen adaptation is being considered for production by film companies.

A devoted dog mom to Miss Sadie Sue Shagbottom, K is also a visual artist, producing the ZoDuck Cartoon, painting and sketching–digitally or traditionally, as well as an accomplished Photographer.

Her books can be found here.

Posted in #musictuesday, guest blog, guest post, music, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why I Adore #MondayBlogs, and Why You Might Too

mondayblogs

It all started so innocuously. About a year ago, I saw a tweet from an author friend with a link to her latest blog post. I can’t recall what the post was about, but I noticed that she used the hashtag #MondayBlogs.

Interesting! I thought. I was just getting familiar with Twitter, and figured #MondayBlogs was just a hashtag people might choose to use if they blogged on a Monday.

But then, over the next few weeks, I started seeing the hashtag again and again. And I liked the sound of it. Monday—the first day of the work week—seemed like the kind of day readers might enjoying reading a few blog posts before getting back to business. Rainy days and Mondays can get people down (as the song goes) but some insightful blog posts might brighten it up.

So one Monday, I decided to try it. I got up early, wrote a post about something (again, I have no idea what) and tweeted it out with the #MondayBlogs hashtag. And guess what? It got retweeted. A bunch of times.

Now I’d learned enough about Twitter by that point to know it’s considered courteous to retweet something meaningful for a person who retweets for you, so I dutifully went through my list of retweeters and retweeted things for them. And lo and behold, a lot of them had posted that day with the #MondayBlogs hashtag. Still, though, I didn’t really understand.

Fortunately, an author friend explained the phenomenon to me shortly thereafter. #MondayBlogs, it turned out, is a real thing! It’s a worldwide Twitter event that was started by the inimitable Rachel Thompson (@RachelInTheOC), and it takes place every single Monday.

Here’s the lowdown on it. Anyone can use the #MondayBlogs hashtag if they tweet a blog post, but only on Mondays. Actually, it gets started on Sunday nights in the US, because people in other time zones are already experiencing Monday at that point. I should probably restate that the only things you should tweet using the #MondayBlogs hashtag are blog posts. No pictures and nothing pornographic. AND ABSOLUTELY NO BOOK PROMO. #MondayBlogs is for blog posts about pretty much anything EXCEPT book promo.

Finally, after you tweet out your post, you should search for other posts with the hashtag #MondayBlogs and RETWEET as many of those as possible. In other words, #MondayBlogs users scratch your back, and you scratch theirs as well. It’s up to you if you want to retweet a blog post you haven’t actually read. Usually, I set aside a couple of hours on Monday morning just to read #MondayBlogs posts, and there are very few that I don’t retweet. That doesn’t mean that I love and agree with every single thing I read in all those posts, but I’m happy to share other peoples’ opinions, as long as they’re not being hurtful or mean.

There are a few more rules that I’ve linked to here. Don’t worry, it’s all very simple.

So why have I come to love #MondayBlogs so much? Well, in three words, for the relationships. If you’re a writer, you’ve probably been instructed to use social media to cultivate relationships with readers and other writers, but if you’re like me, that can seem pretty daunting, especially when you’re starting out. For the entire first year I was on Twitter, I met only one new person. She was very nice and we had a few things in common, but after chatting back and forth a bit, we sort of ran out of things to say. As for Facebook, the only people I knew on there were people I’d met in the flesh. Which is great—my friends are great—but I wasn’t cultivating many new relationships.

But #MondayBlogs changed all of that. Once I got a sense of what it really was, I started using it on as many Mondays as I could. Then I found out something even more exciting. You can tweet a blog post using the #MondayBlogs hashtag, even if you didn’t write the post on Monday. Heck, you can even tweet a post you wrote and posted years ago. So there’s no pressure to crank out a brand new post each Monday morning.

Soon, I started recognizing lots of names. Many of the posts I read brought me to tears, while others made me laugh out loud, for real. I started commenting on the posts that moved me most, and people started commenting on mine. Some of us started following each other on Twitter, and friending each other on Facebook. I read some of their books and some of them read mine. If we liked those books, we wrote reviews. If I thought I could make a comprehensive list of all the great people I’ve met through #MondayBlogs, I’d do it here, but I know I’d forget at least one or two, and then regret it

It took a while, yes, but #MondayBlogs has truly helped me understand the true meaning behind social media. For a while, I thought of some of my new acquaintances around the world as Twitter friends, but now I just think of them as friends. And almost every week, I meet someone new.

So thank you, Rachel Thompson, Kate Tilton, Will Van Stone, Nillu Nasser Stelter and all the other people who work so hard to make #MondayBlogs work so well. Mondays would be a lot less fun without you.

Posted in #MondayBlogs, events | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Low Book Sales? Consider the Petrified Forest

Just one tiny part of the Petrified Forest

Just one tiny part of the Petrified Forest

I was feeling serious rock overkill yesterday. My family has been vacationing in Arizona and New Mexico for over a week, and we’ve seen and hiked through some of the most breathtaking rock formations on the planet: The Grand Canyon, Sedona, Tent Rocks, and various others. So as we drove from Flagstaff to Albuquerque, I almost suggested to my husband that we skip the Petrified Forest. Maybe we needed a day off.

There was also part of me that wanted to get to the hotel in Albuquerque as quickly as possible, so I could find a quiet spot to sit with my laptop. I’ve got two novels currently published and am hoping to send a third manuscript to my wonderful editor in a week or so. Therefore, I was itching to get some work done. Like almost all writers, I’m conscious of book sales, and would like mine to be higher. I’ve also heard plenty of people say that the more books an author has available, the better their overall sales will be. Meaning that the sooner that third book gets published….

Anyway, that’s where my mind was as we pulled up to the Visitor Center at the Petrified Forest. We’ll look at some trees that are now rock, then get back on the road, I thought. But when I actually saw the amazing, colored crystals that had formed inside trees that died and decayed 225 million years ago, I began to view the whole “book sales” issue in a different light.

You see, the Petrified Forest consists of thousands of dead trees that fell into river channels during the Mesozoic Era. Over time, the insides of the trees decayed, but they retained their external structures, and those structures were filled with silica from volcanic ash and dead organisms, which crystalized into various masterpieces of natural artwork.

At first, I was simply stunned by the beauty. But then, I began to think about all the components of those crystals. The plants, the birds, the dinosaurs, who’d unwittingly lent themselves to the spectacle. None of them is individually “famous,” but they’re now blended together in unimaginably gorgeous structures they had no idea they were creating.

And that reminded me of classes I’ve taken over the years about periods of art in history. I recalled how teachers—pressed for time—would focus on the “stars” of various periods: DaVinci, Michangelo, and Raphael during the Renaissance; Monet, Renoir, and Manet during the Impressionist period, etc. But what about all the other artists that teachers seldom have time to focus on? Would those art movements have made the impact they did on society if there hadn’t been hundreds—even thousands—of other people painting in similar styles? Of course not.

Which brings me back to the topic of book sales. Because I honestly don’t know any writer—famous, just starting out, traditionally published, self-published, hybrid published—who doesn’t wish he or she were selling more books. But stepping back and looking at those crystallized trees, I realized that even though many authors won’t become “stars,” we’re all part of something too. And some day—long after we’re gone—people will look back on the books of the twenty-first century and classify them in some way.

So don’t let lagging book sales frustrate you! As you keep writing, try to remember that you’re contributing to a movement, to a period in history. It would be pretty presumptuous to try and figure out exactly how this period will be remembered, but like those creatures whose remains created the wonder of the Petrified Forest, we’re components of something much bigger than we can understand.

Posted in #MondayBlogs, art, natural artwork, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Write What You Mean: A Lesson from Ancient Petroglyphs

petroglyphs_2

While traveling in the American Southwest the other day, my family went on a guided tour of a rocky park where we were able to view ancient petroglyphs dating to Pueblo tribes from the 1400s. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. If you’ve never seen petroglyphs, I recommend that you try to do so sometime.

My favorite part of viewing them, however, was when I learned from our guide—an archaeologist—that even today, we don’t understand the meanings of these ancient rock drawings. The ones we saw were carved into what is known as desert varnish on basalt, and although some of the images were clearly of animals, others were much more ambiguous. There were spirals, concentric circles, squiggly lines, and other images open to interpretation. Apparently, there are many theories about their meanings, but even the tribe elders, who know more about them than most people, have been ambiguous about what they symbolize.

And yet, these petroglyphs are incredibly beautiful. And they took a very long time to carve into the rocks where they exist. In addition, some of them are in areas that were dangerous to access. Whatever they mean, they were very important to whomever carved them.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since I saw the petroglyphs. As I edit and re-edit my third novel, I’ve been agonizing over word choice and sentence structure, trying not only to get the story right, but to make sure it has meaning to potential readers. And some days, as I rip a chapter apart—trying to get it to sound better, trying to make sure potential readers understand exactly what I’m trying to say—I wonder if I’m overworking it. Maybe it’d be better to just make sure the story works for me.

After all, I have no idea if this new novel will appeal to a wide audience. Certainly, it doesn’t fit into any neat category. It’s a love story without much romance, and a non-graphic story about violence. Also, in many ways, it falls into the genre of women’s fiction, and yet, one of the two main characters is a sixty-year-old male ham radio operator. I guess what I’m saying is that there’s a chance nobody but me will “get” why I wrote it.

But it’s important to me. It’s held my attention for the better part of the last three years. It’s a story I want to write.

Now, in no way would I ever equate this new novel with the breathtaking petroglyphs of New Mexico. But the idea of taking time to create art that means something to the artist and not necessarily everyone else is hitting home with me right now. Which isn’t to say that I don’t think people will enjoy the new novel. Of course, I hope they do! But really, when a writer is at this phase—this stressful place in which he or she is about to hand a manuscript over to an editor—there’s no telling what the reaction will be. However, rather than get my stomach in knots about the possibility of rejection, I’d rather think about those Pueblos who bravely carved their ideas into basalt, knowing that what they had to say meant something to them.

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