Category Archives: Writing

Treasures on the Shelf

Do you prowl used book stores, library sales, flea markets or garage/yard sales wondering what odd or unusual book you may find? Maybe you work from a favored authors’ list to find the ones you’ve
missed in a recent, or old, series. A friend told you of a must-read and you are willing to pay the 50 cents, up from the dime or quarter of years past, to try something you aren’t sure of.

And as you mosey along, does some quaint title, odd or old fashion looking cover grab your attention?  You pick it up, see it’s over a hundred years old and has lovely artwork or a long deceased but famous author’s name on it. You slide it into the middle of your stack and sidle up to the check-out, not sure if they’ll snatch your treasure back and tell you it’s NotForSale.

Or maybe you are a master of the quick perusal; you know exactly what to look for, its value and even have a client who wants that book, that edition and will take it in that condition. In other words, you are a professional Book Scavenger. You are lucky to have developed your craft while the rest of us are still
struggling, even inept amateurs.

But we are also lucky who wander about with little knowledge and just admire something because it charms us with its beauty, its age, its author. I’ve stumbled into such finds over the years and snatched up some treasures to place on my shelves.

I’ve also been dumb enough to sell treasures at my own yard sales and lived to regret it.  Oh, for that early ‘60’s set of Shakespeare….the Mark Twain and Zane Grey collections, my childhood book of rhymes and stories I loved so much. Where are they now?

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913 Disappeared in Mexico)

at Bohemian Grove with George Sterling and Jack London

Recently I paused to take a look at something I bought in the last year at a library sale…and not in the rare book section, for I never go past that gate assuming I can’t afford them!  It is a republished edition, in 1971, of Ambrose Bierce’s WRITE IT RIGHT: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults, originally published by Walter Neale in 1909. My edition from Grabhorn-Hoyem, with an introduction by Oscar Lewis, was the first
re-issue but several have followed.

I decided to run it by one of the best known rare book sites on the web: www.AbeBooks.com . I found it for sale at $200…wow! Who knew? And my book is in excellent (not “near fine”) condition with not a smear,
turned corner or crayon mark to be seen.

Not only that, the book, a 44-page style manual, is delightful in pressing for precision and correctness in language…tho’ some of his ideas are now quaint, obsolete or beside the point:

“authoress. A needless word—as needless as ‘poetess.’

brainy.      Pure slang and singulary disagreeable.

chin whiskers. The whisker grows on the cheek, not the chin.

illy for ill.  There is no such word as illy, for ill itself is an adverb.

pants for trousers.  Abbreviated from pantaloons, which are no longer worn. Vulgar exceedingly.

seldom ever.  A most unusual locution.

unkempt for disordered, untidy, etc.  Unkempt means uncombed, and can properly be said of nothing but the hair.

vulgar for immodest, indecent.  It is from vulgus, the common people, the mob, and means both common and unrefined, but has no relation to indecency.”

It’s time to return my treasure to the shelf and search out something else there to charm, amuse and perhaps even educate but not to sell.

               What do you have on your shelves, on your shopping list?

                              What treasures are hiding there?

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FROM MY READING CHAIR

THE TELLING OF LIVES, PART III 

Previously in this series, I have explored biography and autobiography as ways in The Telling of Lives.  Now, I want to turn your attention to fictional autobiography.

Clara Estby, the real-life protagonist in Jane Kirkpatrick’s The Daughter’s Walk, had no understanding of her mother’s farfetched idea to walk across the United States in hopes of winning a $10,000 prize that would save the family farm near Spokane. Helga was a very determined Norwegian immigrant, a believer in women’s right to vote and even to wear the “reform/bicycle dress” that the backers of the contest were putting forth. In near financial ruin after her husband’s disabling accident, the family was in desperate straits. 

In May 1896, mother and daughter set off on a journey of 3500 miles, a multitude of hardships and some kindnesses along the way. Their destination was New York City by December 13. Their route went along railroad tracks. It was to be a test of feminine stamina. It was also seen by Helga as a means to protect Clara from making a mistake in falling for the son of her rich employer. Clara’s plans for college and a life different from the farm literally fell by the wayside. 

The story draws on truth from the many newspaper accounts and records of the day, on interviews with descendants and on interpretation or speculation from those facts to fill in the unknown parts of the story. Two weeks late at their December arrival and losing the challenge, mother and daughter are left to make their way back home nearly penniless. On arrival, desperation greets them. Two of the younger children have died and the family is in quarantine. Helga collapses and Kirkpatrick catches the emotions of grief eloquently and succinctly:

“Grief has many siblings. Anger, isolation, sadness, guilt, and, yes, distraction, avoidance, pretense. I met them all in the weeks that followed. So did our family.”

 Feeling detached from the only family she has known, Clara leaves, assumes another name and is befriended by two older women. They offer her employment and the fulfillment of her college dreams. The women are furriers and have many contacts in New York as well as overseas. As Clara is drawn into the business, she is also drawn to the company’s salesman. Clara moves from bookkeeper to business owner/manager; she seldom turns away from a challenge, including learning to trap and going out by herself into the wintery woods.

Jane Kirkpatrick writes strongly of human relationships in the characters she depicts. The author shows us the attitudes, values and mannerisms of her characters:

            “Design doesn’t interest me,” I said.

            “To humor you: where would we trap?” Franklin asked. He wasn’t scowling now. He  looked more curious, surprised even.

             “I’d buy land. The right kind of land, where I’d trap.”

            “It’s not women’s work. You’re already thin as spaghetti,” Louise said.

             Franklin shook his head.

            “Women’s work is defined by women doing it,” I said.

 

The issue of Clara’s estrangement from her family is woven throughout the story and explains or accounts for twenty years of silence. This, too, is a source of grief and it seems Clara relies on relentless work to stave off its “siblings.” Reconciliation eventually occurs.

A talented writer like Jane Kirkpatrick takes the tiniest thread of a story and weaves it into a whole with fact and fiction.

* * *

At her website, Susan Vreeland writes on the origin of her book The Forest Lover, a biographic novel of the Canadian artist, Emily Carr. Vreeland poses and answers a question: “Then what are the differences between biography and fiction on a historical person? A biography reports while a novel shows. A biography is read in order to become informed about a person’s life. A novel is read in order to feel what it might have been like to live that life.”   

Do you agree with Vreeland? 

Do you have a preference in form?

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FROM MY READING CHAIR

THE TELLING OF LIVES, PART II

Autobiography

Emily Hahn wrote for The New Yorker for a period spanning the late 1920’s into the 1990’s; a prolific writer, she wrote various autobiographies, including No Hurry to Get Home.

A unique person and writer, Hahn went her independent way in a world awakening to feminine realities. Of her parents’ six children, she appears to have been the precocious one, always testing the standards and mores of her time. When Hahn describes tales of her childhood, it is easy to see her emergence as a singular woman. She makes her own mark in the family, little understood, always loved and marveled about even when her parents were mystified by her.

Bought up in St. Louis and Chicago, she was the first young woman to graduate with a degree in mining engineering from the University of Wisconsin. She took a job out west and saw men assigned to the oil fields while she remained a file clerk despite her training. After that, she seldom took a routine job, turning to horse trail guide in Santa Fe and eventually finding her way to Columbia University and the bohemian lifestyle of NYC.

Always a writer of letters to her large family, it was her brother-in-law’s 1929 submission of her work to the recently developed New Yorker magazine that gave Hahn her start as a writer. Her life was made by her into one huge adventure throughout the world. She wrote of what she saw and felt against the backdrop of history-in-the-making. This book, and her earlier autobiographies, came out of her many articles written for The New Yorker. As such there is a certain scatter and the feeling of missed stories hinted at by Ken Cuthbertson in the introduction to the 2000 edition of No Hurry to Get Home.

At Christmas 1932, Hahn was trapped in the Belgian Congo after following an archaeologist there and seeing him turn into a colonial tyrant. She took refuge with a British couple while trying to get a ride to the coast from a trucking company. Her request was denied for nefarious reasons. I found her description of the area very lyrical:

            “…I have a vivid recollection of the country, the unfenced miles of red soil open to a brilliantly sunny sky. Far off, mountains crouched like blue tigers.”

To discover the rest of the Emily Hahn story I will have to seek out four of her earlier books: China to Me (1944), Hong Kong Holiday (1946), England to Me (1949), and Kissing Cousins (1958.)

My thanks go to author Sharon Hamilton for bringing this exciting woman to my attention.

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FROM MY READING CHAIR

THE TELLING OF LIVES, PART I

In the telling of lives, writers may choose any number of forms: biography, autobiography/memoir and fictionalized biography/autobiography.  My recent readings included one of each type.  Max Perkins; Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg is a biography I first read when it came out in the late 1970’s and reread this spring.  Emily Hahn wrote for The New Yorker for a period spanning the late 1920’s into the 1990’s; a prolific writer, she wrote various autobiographies, including No Hurry to Get Home. Much historical fiction takes the form of fictional biography or autobiography and Jane Kirkpatrick has often written of the lesser known heroines of the American West, including Clara Estby of The Daughter’s Walk.

 One reviewer of Max Perkins complained that there was not enough about Max’s personal life in the book. I didn’t find that to be the case for the other part of the title is Editor of Genius. This indicates the focus will be on the man’s work-life and, in this case, that of a workaholic. Max Perkins nurtured, financially supported and coached or coerced some of the greatest writers of the 1920’s through the 1940’s in producing their memorable works.  His “stable of writers” at Charles Scribners’s Sons continues to impress with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Edmund Wilson.

Perkins had a strong sense of each author’s quality and gifts; he worked hard to bring their best into the light. The editor would travel to Europe, the Florida Keys, California or wherever his writer of current concern could be found. He’d help Fitzgerald have Zelda admitted to care, make loans out of his own or Scribners’s purse, and talk of the WIP (work in progress) to encourage changes he deemed necessary. Cajoling a reluctant Tom Wolfe to produce, to edit, to eliminate often meant seeking him out in a NYC London or Parisian garret and walking long miles in the dead of night with the “lone wolf.”

 While Max’s family of five daughters and his would-be-actress wife (she promised not to act when they married) went to upstate New York in the summers, Max seldom joined them. He worked long hours, often well into the night at his office, or read manuscripts on the train and over his weekend. When Hemingway finally induced Max to join him in deep-sea fishing, he loved it but fretted if he was away more than four or five days.

 Tireless, committed to excellent writing and loyal to his writers, Max Perkins showed genius in his choice of authors to bring into the company and in his intense work with them. We will not see the likes of Max Perkins again in this dramatically changing era of book writing and selling.

Scott Berg has done all readers and writers a great service in this greatly detailed and extensively researched volume. He writes beautifully as he wends his way through the life of Max Perkins: Editor of Genius and the lives of his writers.

 

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TRAVELING ON

 

I got out of Dodge very quickly after the HNS conference and headed toward the Huachucas and Cochise County, AZ, one of my favorite places in this marvelous country. Temperatures quickly climbed as I left  fog-cooled coastal San Diego. I’ve spent time here before and enjoyed the sights, friends and culture of this sparkling village. This time, I had more urgent business calling me east.

 The farther I went, the hotter it got. My first destination was Yuma, home of the Arizona Territorial Prison. After two weeks of intense palaver with friends, most of whom write, and strangers of the same ilk, I entered into a period of virtual isolation. Well, not “virtual” for I Skyped with my son and granddaughter regularly, as in “When are you coming home, Grandma?” followed by either giggles or tears. Calls to others and from my dirt-digging daughter (the archaeologist) broke my silences as I tried to figure out if I could go to the Huachucas. Reason prevailed, helped by heat edging toward 115 degrees and  the Monument Fire in the Huachucas that started after I left home. Well, so a fire broke out near Yuma, crossing both state lines AND the Colorado River on my second night. I soon turned north and west to seek out the welcome chill of the Pacific where a sweater is a summer must-have.

 I’m writing to the music of Enya on Pandora Radio.  I hope you enjoy my fragments.

            YUMA                                                      READING JEFFERS

Blistering heat beats down                       His poetry sings of the land

To meet fire’s great flames                       Finding the graveyard of

In pungent gusts of                                       Deer bones old and newer  

Severe black smoke,                                      He brings us into the

Skyscraper high.                                              Scene and the life now gone

                                                                                 His words create images of emotion.

Ash flittered about

Raining all around                                        MONTEREY BAY

A small maelstrom                                   Storm clouds gather

Imitating its elders.                                   to the North and West

                                                                            Sun huddles in

Homes evaporate at                                   cumulus blanket

Monument and Wallow                             While kayakers stream      

Hero firefighters  sleep                                around and through

Wherever they can flop,                              Kelp beds brown as

Dreamless, to revive.                                    burnt toast on a gray table.

                                                                                              The otter rests.

Trees succumb

Shaving mountains and desert

Shear to the stony base,

Rage devours all.

I cannot go farther………..

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Conferencing and This Writer

What did the ancient poet say to the historical novelist?

 “Fancy meeting you here!”

 

            I have written about the importance of writer conferences in my life and that of others, here and elsewhere (Redwood Writers June  newsletter.) Today, I am just barely off the boat from the seaside San Diego fourth bi-annual conference of the Historical Novel Society in the United States. The Society began in Great Britain some fourteen years ago and has spread its wings to varied parts of the world as historical novels have flourished. This was my third conference, having missed the 2007 in Albany, NY.  Like Topsy, the sessions have grown in number and relevance.

Invariably, HNS attracts the likes of Susan Vreeland, Diane Gabaldon, Cecilia Holland, and Harry Turtledove. With sessions devoted to a multitude of topics, some may be thought to favor male writers (who attended hugely!) but were found to be attractive to both sexes: World War II and Naval History. Sessions included: Historical Fiction Goes Digital with Women Writing the West’s Michelle Black, Ann Parker(also of WWW) and others spoke of Keeping a Series Fresh, and Persia Woolley (of WWW and Redwood Writers) spoke of Second Harvest: New Life for Your Earlier Works…a smattering of the 25 meetings available to 300 participants in thee days.

Famously published, debut writers, the “pre-published” met, dined and socialized with agents and editors looking for new clients. Then, there were the Friday Night Fight Scenes readings after the dinner and Turtledove’s keynote. Saturday evening’s comments by Cecilia Holland with gorgeous display of period costumes from ancient Rome to 19th century Americana found me ” too tired, dear,” to stay for the Saturday Night Sex Scene Readings.

What purpose did the conference serve me?  Persia as a charming friend and roommate; meeting the incoming president of WWW, Pam Tartaglio; chats with Ann Parker, Brigitte Goldstein,  and new acquaintances; immersion in the gifts and energy of other writers; free books(10?) and those I purchased.

I also gained the interest in my work by one agent and two editors. Not a bad ratio out of three pitches, hmm?

Readers: sorry I haven’t mastered the use of photos or this page wouldn’t be so gray. I will keep writing until I build that skill.   Next up: travel tales and book reviews. Watch out world, Arlettawrites is back!

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“ANALYSIS-PARALYSIS”

 

In recent weeks I lost it. That yen to write, revise, or theorize went out the window and into the gutter. Several things brought this about and so, you see, I know the sources. If I knew them, why couldn’t I just jump over them and get with it, you ask? The sources of my freeze-up were devastating one-by-one but, in combination, they were deadly. It all resulted in what blogger Linda Formicelli (The Renegade Writer) calls “analysis-paralysis.”

What a great term that is! The more I tried to talk myself out of the condition, the more paralyzed I became. And more mis-speaks, typos and avoidances grew in number and volume until I wrote not at all. No journaling where I might have worked through the problem, little facebooking, no work on my latest editing task, and no blog.

Deserting the blog made me feel guilty, but not enough to put me back to work. It has taken me until now to see my way clear to connect with you again. I knew I wanted to write about this pervasive form of writer’s block. I’d come to blocks before in my fiction writing or in my social work report writing, but I’d never been so totally blocked. I forced myself to try to write but it just wouldn’t flow and so I set it aside once again.

My editor proposed a major (to me) re-structuring of my novel, Huachuca Woman, that had me gnawing on a subconscious bone for two weeks. Finally, the light bulb of resolution came on and stayed on. I dedicated Easter weekend to revision and got the work done to great satisfaction. I also made a list of twelve questions to put to my editor for our meeting last Thursday. That session was very powerful in re-charging my writing batteries. That’s when I tried the aborted blog entry.

This past Sunday afternoon I attended *Marlene Cullen’s session on Writing and Art Collage and found doors and windows opening to my imagination. The first two hours were spent writing of life issues and a little sharing. Mostly, this was private writing, not given to sharing. The last two hours were dedicated to collage and what a wealth of material Marlene provided! My collage evolved in unexpected ways, showing the evolution of womanhood from the little girl sitting in a hammock with her doll to the myriad choices open to her. Perfect lines jumped up from a magazine: “Life isn’t about finding yourself; Life is about creating yourself” (anonymous) and “Dreams fulfilled…Exploring, challenging, learning.” (anon)

The next day, I started a contemporary love story of middle age. It came, in part, from personal experience and from a recent dream. My critique group loved it…but could still offer up suggestions and corrections. It was wonderful to have the words flow again. They also said I should do more art collage.

Here I am today, back on track and telling you of my bout with “analysis-paralysis” and how I got out of it.

*Marlene has many irons in her fire of help to writers. Check her out at www.thewritespot.us

What do you do when your creativity takes a dive?

 Have you ever been so totally blocked as I described?

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NATIONAL POETRY MONTH

                                               

The 2011 National Poetry Month poster designed by Stephen Doyle.

The Academy of American Poets (www.poets.org) instituted National Poetry Month in 1996 to encourage the love of poetry among Americans. Each year a designer is asked to contribute a poster to the celebration and this year it was Stephen Doyle whose work is seen here. The quote “Bright objects hypnotize the mind” is from the poem “A Word with You” by Elizabeth Bishop. Go to the website to see what Doyle has to say about the poet and her work as it inspired his design…”illuminating.”

“Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands…”  may be the most “memorable” of Longfellow’s poems simply because of the numbers of schoolchildren made to memorize it. Was it your first poem?  Probably not.  After all, our nursery rhymes and prayers were poetry.                         

Now I lay me down to sleep,   

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.                                                                  

                                                              OR

                                                                                      Mary, had a little Lamb,

                                                                                       Its fleece was white as snow.

                                                                                        Everywhere that Mary went,

                                                                                         The Lamb was sure to go.

 As we grew, the most dominant exposure to poetry probably shifted to the songs of our teen years, whenever that was.  Words of love, imagined, lost or savored, reflected the angst of our age and our emotional state. In thrall, we may have composed sonnets or dedicated words to our love, or poured out our misery when denied.  We use poetry in our commitment ceremonies, in remembrances, and in greeting cards. Poetry surrounds us in advertisements, music and, increasingly, on the printed and on-line page. The quality varies, as does the form, style and impact.

 Chapbooks are thriving, perhaps as never before. Workshops on form and arousing the muse are more frequent. Writers who may never have tried poetry find themselves delving into the process. Haiku, story-poems, sonnets, rhyming or non-rhyming forms, epics or free verse are finding their audiences in readings, newsletters, chapbooks and larger tomes

For me, poetry is becoming more and more important as an expression and examination of mood, feelings, incidents and the complexities of life.

 WHAT IS THE ROLE OF POETRY IN YOUR LIFE?

DO YOU READ POETRY REGULARLY?

DO YOU WRITE POETRY?

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THE WRITING PROCESS

INSPIRATION…

      NOVELS: often begin with a dream, a fantasy exploration and the “what if”

 1. Begin with character- who is she, what marks her as different, what are her attributes and what is her story? Rancher,      businesswoman, artist,healer, psychic? What is her challenge: survival, search for meaning, helping others?
 2.Who threatens, challenges or supports her? Protagonist? Can I see him, it?
 3.Setting/s? Where and how does it impact the character/s? Do I know the setting, draw on own experience..yes.

      POETRY:  often springs from an experience with great emotional impact (nature, family member’s illness, death) but also comes from stories told to me (The Apple Factory), out of my experience(White Girl, Black Heart,) or tidbits of historical research (Pancho’s Sister.)
 

PROCESS:
 1. From idea, get words on paper, rough or smooth, with energy/emotion behind them.   “Mother said the Arizona Territory was good for only two things: tame Indians and wild children. Me and William Ebert were her wild children and Geronimo was our Indian.”
 2. Research for Content: could journalist John Reed have been in El Paso and meet Jo in the spring of 1914? Yes, he’d just come back from Mexico and following Villa and Carranza.
 3. Setting: Have I been there, what’s in my journal, what other place do I have personal knowledge of that will fit the story?  Without first- hand knowledge, go to museums, internet and library research for displays, books, news articles, photos.  Be open to serendipity: as when Jo’s stopping the Ford story showed up in Bisbee Museum and what did the Tiffany Studio look like in 1898 since it no longer exists?
 4. Because it is historical, what is the timeline?  I plot out  the story arc with sensitivity to what was happening in the world, area to incorporate later.
 5. Write, rewrite, research, read aloud, write some more, stay open to critique, rewrite/rebuff and write again.
 6. Get frustrated, let it rest, go at it again.
 7. Get Writer’s Block, kick the imaginary cat, turn to another format (Short Story,Poem, Essay) , write in longhand, journal over it, write again.
 8. Along the way, rest on my laurels…perfect dialogue, gorgeously conveyed setting, strong plot twist, praise from others.(ahem…)

Throughout all this, I attend writers organizational meetings, gather with writer friends, take on writerly tasks (ie, coordinating contests, participating on panels,)  keep up on Face Book, Blog, follow others’ blogs, find my personal Max Perkins and attend conferences. I do all for the purpose of honing my skills and making connections to aid the writing process and move me toward publication.

WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?  HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM MINE?

I HOPE YOU WILL SHARE YOUR PROCESS SO WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM YOU.

 

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END-LINES or WHAT I DID ON MY WAY TO THE BEGINNING

In last’s week’s post on novel beginnings, I cited Noah Lukeman’s First Five Pages and Les Edgerton’s Hooked. So, what did they do in their final lines? They sent us back to our drawing boards (aka writing tools.) 

     Lukeman:  “Ask yourself what you would do if you knew you would never be published. Would you still write? If you are truly writing for the art of it, the answer will be yes. And then, every word is a victory. 

     Edgerton:      “Play the game forward. I’ll be looking for you on the bookshelves.”

 These are what might be seen as “optimistic” or happy endings. They leave the reader satisfied, pleased and glad that s/he read the work.

 Glen C. Strathy on his blog: How to Write a Book Now offers up an analysis of endings, suggesting they begin at the beginning with the writer’s choice of story goal and outcome:

“Based on these two choices – outcome and judgment, the four possible endings of any novel plot are as follows.

1. Comedy (happy ending): the protagonist achieves the goal or solves the problem, and his success turns out to be a good thing.

2. Tragedy: the protagonist fails to achieve the goal, and his failure is a bad thing.

3. Tragi-comedy (Personal Triumph): the protagonist fails to achieve the goal, but his failure turns out to be a good thing.

4. Comi-tragedy (Personal Tragedy): the protagonist achieves his goal, but his success turns out to be a bad thing.”

Other writers, other analyses:

Linda Lindsey via Sheryl Tuttle’s blog: Hope and Faith, May 26, 2009:

  1. Explicit-all is answered
  2. Implicit-rests on interpretation
  3. Twist-new revelation
  4. Tie-back-tied to clues planted in the beginning
  5. Unresolved-main conflicts left unanswered
  6. Longview-tells the future of the characters

In combing the works of my favored, traditional writing teachers (Natalie Goldberg, Oakley Hall, John Gardner, etc) I found little that covered endings. Okay, stronger than “little.” I found nothing. Is that because they expect that endings take care of themselves if the writer has done their job? Quite likely. To follow Strathy’s paradigm, it seems transparent that the ending will take care of itself when the writer follows the goals of the novel as developed through plot, character, story arc, etc.

Looking at the novelists I referred to last time, there are some illuminating endings:

 Harper Lee, in To Kill a Mockingbird comes full circle when the book ends with Jem’s broken arm:

     “He(Atticus) turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the   morning.”

Atticus, the dutiful citizen/lawyer is ever the dutiful father burdened in the belief he brought on Jem’s injury in going after racist/child abuser Ewell, whose end comes at the hands of an uncommon hero.

In Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, the story that started with references to “rivulet marks” as the drought builds concludes with a major flood of the migrant campground, taking lives and belongings. Seeking refuge in a barn, the Joads find the starving man whose life is saved by Rose of Sharon when she offers her milk-giving breast after the stillbirth of her child. It is an ending that stirred controversy from 1939 to this day.  Even the author had his doubts:

            John Steinbeck, Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath, page 90  had this to say:

            “My mind doesn’t want to work—hates to work in fact, but I’ll make it. I’m on my very last chapter now. The very last….the last scene that has been ready so long. I don’t know. I only hope it is some good. I have very grave doubts sometimes.”

 Then, there’s Cormac McCarthy in Blood Meridian whose poetic repetitive style was noted in last week’s beginnings. In the final paragraph (pre-Epilogue,) the judge dances the dance of death or is it life? A threesome of repetitive words provides the beat, the cadence of a heart throbbing to hear itself:

            “He never sleeps. He says he will never die.” ..and so he dances on.

 It’s your call to categorize these endings by whatever standard appeals to you. Mine: they end as they began, full of promise.

 Sonoma County writers take notice:Saturday, March 12, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Join Guy Biederman and Ken Rodgers for a one-day writing seminar, “Endings.” Suggested fee is $75.To enroll, contact Guy Biederman at guyb@sonic.net or 707-292-9040 707-292-9040, or Ken Rodgers at ken@kennethrodgers.com

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