Women and Children in Need

living in poverty
Photograph by Steve Liss

When my husband was a little boy, according to court documents, his mother, a widow, left him and his sister in the care of “vicious and immoral people, without proper food or sanitation.”  Due to her neglect, the county removed her youngest two children—my husband and his sister—from the residence and she lost all parental rights.  The older daughter, thirteen-years-old and pregnant, was sent to a state school for girls, where her baby was born and placed for adoption.  An older son, age sixteen, joined the army.  My husband and his sister were ultimately separated from each other.  When he was two and a half and she was five, they were adopted by different families.  They never saw their mother again. Continue reading Women and Children in Need

Verisimilitude: Sometimes a Four-Letter Word

creative-writingI know verisimilitude is a long word but it is the perfect word for what it means. Sometimes one word, and none other, will do. I came across the word, verisimilitude, for the very first time in a creative writing class. It had been scribbled in the margin of one of my short stories by the professor. “Good verisimilitude,” she had said. It happened to be a short story set during the Depression, with a lot of dialogue. The characters spoke in good ol’ rural East Texas vernacular.

Now, I know that lingo very well, in all its shades and off-colors. I was taught early on to write what I know, and apparently, the teaching stuck, for the particular jargon common to this area surfaces often in my writing. The East Texas culture seems to dominate the gene pool from which most of my bucolic (I have always wanted to use that word!) characters evolve. I know that a fictitious person, of any particular ethnicity, using uncharacteristic words, speech patterns, or body language, would finish me off before I even get started, discrediting me completely as a writer of true-to-life fiction.

I have to admit, the nature of the language and the acts of some of my characters, which is most definitely the case in my novel, The Velvet Bridge, often conflict with my own inhibitions. However, verisimilitude in my work must prevail. Any reflection of real life must portray events as vividly and believably as if the reader was actually witnessing them. Whether or not the reader approves of the reality being witnessed, or of the language being spoken, is a moot point. However, I have been subjected to some criticism, for the use of a few “bad” words, which sometimes a character insists upon using. I suspect this is a common problem among writers, one with which we must come to terms in our own way.

It has been said you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, and that is so true. Some things just cannot be prettied up and some characters absolutely refuse to speak and behave politely! The character says what she says, and he does what he does, pure and simple. As a character-driven writer, dedicated to verisimilitude by creating honest and mature fiction—work that is believable and true to itself—I will never censor my characters in order to appease my own hang-ups, or the folks back home.

The Spirit of Poetry

bluebird sings
E. M. Forster, the English novelist, short story writer, and essayist whose work was one of my earliest inspirations, remains one of my favorite English authors. Forster’s creed of life can be summed up in two words, “only connect”, taken from the epigraph to his novel, Howard’s End.

The first of Edward Morris Forster’s work I read was his essay, What I Believe, and his words had a very personal affect on me.  It seemed as though I had met a new friend with whom I shared a “secret understanding” and felt reassured about my own beliefs. Continue reading The Spirit of Poetry

Reflections of Real Life in Fiction

write bravelyMy greatest challenge in writing the Velvet Bridge was to tell the tale in such a way to expose the flaws in my protagonist, Mattie Featherstone, and not leave the reader disliking her. Even though the behavior and life decisions Mattie makes in the beginning are below the standard of acceptable behavior and decency, particularly for a mother, my job is to make sure the reader loves her anyway. Continue reading Reflections of Real Life in Fiction

Things We Collect

roses on clockCollecting stuff is a great hobby. Many collectors find their desire to have more of the same, insatiable. They scour flea markets, garage and yard sales, antique shops, and vendor booths in a wide variety of locations, for that one piece of something they just have to have! Before someone else gets it, and at a price they can brag about to everyone they know who knows anything about the kind of stuff they collect. And when they find it, and it is proudly displayed amongst the others of like kind, a new search begins. It’s phenomenal, really, how the propensity for collecting seems to be growing among older people and younger ones alike, although from my observations there seems to be quite a difference in the stuff each group finds collectible. Continue reading Things We Collect

April’s Fool?

aprils foolJackson, the superstar of Gayle’s hometown, was everyone’s James Dean, Buddy Holly, and Roy Orbison, rolled into one. He drove a ‘57 Chevy painted a shade of plum mist purple the locals had never seen in real time. He introduced drag racing, glamorized lethargy, and intrigued everyone with stories about his friendship with Elvis’ bodyguard. He excited them all, bringing a kind of agitated disturbance slightly out of sync and somewhat intimidating. A distraction from the Dairy Queen routine of their small town existence, he aroused suspicion in all the parents.

Jackson went out to West Texas in May of ‘61 with a seismograph crew that had come through town. He returned in the middle of August, much sooner than anyone expected. His unannounced homecoming, typical Jackson theatrics, did not surprise Gayle, his girlfriend’s sister. No, his unexpected return did not surprise anyone, but the news that he had come back married stunned them all. Continue reading April’s Fool?