Tag Archives: storytelling

Tug the web

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“Stories are webs, interconnected strand to strand, and you follow each story to the center, because the center is the end. Each person (character) is a strand of story.”       Neil Gaiman in Anansi Boys

Deep inside Neil’s novel, I realize he’s writing about story making, he employs meta story technique. Meta story is one story embedded within another or a story about stories themselves, among other definitions. Anansi Boys is a story about stories. Remember its’ been said that all stories are Anansi’s, even though Tiger claims they were his first. It’s one thing I love about Neil’s writing, he’s telling a story and talking about telling the story, too. I’ve practiced metapoetry in this post and now I’m liking the idea of writing with meta story and using it in a braided essay.

“There is an old saying that a giant web, like a spider’s web, connects everything in life. We humans tend to forget about it and act out of ignorance of it. Yet, when a true storyteller begins, it is as if the web has been tugged on and we feel its presence again.”        Susan Strauss in The Passionate Fact:  Storytelling in Natural History and Cultural Interpretation.

 

I’ve been challenged by incahootswithmuddyboots to the 3 Day Quote Challenge. Check out her blog. Impressive photographs! Her image of a spider on its web is much more impactful than mine! It’s in her slide show low on the post.

The rules to this challenge are:

  • Post on 3 consecutive days
  • Post one to three quotes per day
  • Challenge three different bloggers each day

Today I nominate these bloggers for the 3 Day Quote challenge. Check out their blogs!

https://brucekthiesen.wordpress.com/     This should be a snap for you, Bruce. I see quotes in so many of your posts.

https://cybeleshineblog.wordpress.com/     Dune Mouse is one heck of a story teller and a darned good photographer.

https://bythebriny.wordpress.com/     I just can’t get enough of Salal Studio’s Gulf Islands photography.

 

Harv

man walking away on prairie

In the Depression Harv moved around. He didn’t have his own home. Harv stayed with different relatives. He’d stay on one ranch and help them out. Then he moved on to another kin’s place and helped them do chores and fix things. He tried to be handy, but he was more in the way than useful. He stayed a couple of months usually. He wasn’t always appreciated, but he was family, so folks let Harv live with them to help him out. For a while. Harv made the rounds living with one brother or sister, then the next, and that’s how he got by in those days. After several rounds of putting him up,  Fred had had enough of his mooching brother . You see, Harv drank a lot and wasn’t at all helpful.

Fred liked to get up early and get at the chores. There was a skating rink in the town and Harv would go there every night and drink himself blind. He came home, Fred and Letha’s home, when the joint closed and slept it off until late in the morning. Every day. One morning when the shadowed edges were beginning to darken into things we know, Fred took Harv’s knife while he lay sleeping. He walked to the chicken pen in dim lantern light and selected a young hen. He twisted her head until he felt her spinal cord snap and then he cut her throat with the blade. Then he plucked out her feathers , dressed her out, and sliced her in pieces. He dropped the pieces in a pail hanging on the side of the hen house. He tossed the slick innards into the hog pen. And then Fred carefully slipped back into Harv’s bedroom and put the bloody knife back where he found it. Letha came humming across the yard to the hen house swinging a basket for fresh eggs, the way she did every day. She folded up the bottom of her apron forming a pocket and held it tightly in one hand. Then she picked up the bloody chicken parts and dropped them into the fold. She carried the flesh into the kitchen, rinsed them in the sink, and put the pieces in a bowl in the ice box next to the new eggs. They’d have chicken dinner tonight.

When the sun was well up, Harv sat in a kitchen chair waiting for his breakfast the way he did every day. Fred poured a cup of weak coffee for each of them and looked down at his brother. “Harv”, said Fred as he set the cups on the embroidered table cloth, “Were you at the skating rink last night?” “Sure I was” said Harv. “Every night.” Fred looked at Harv for a long silence. “Harv, the Sherriff was here this morning. He wanted to talk to you. Said there was a fight at the skating rink last night and a fellow got stabbed. He didn’t think he’s gonna live. Sherriff wanted to ask you if you saw the fight, if you know anything about it.” Harv looked at his steaming cup for a long silence. He didn’t remember any fight the night before. He didn’t remember much at all from last night. Harv left Fred and Letha’s ranch that day and he never came back. That’s the way Aunt Jewel always tells it about Harv.

About this story: Duree Shiverick, Eagle, Idaho, told me this story in her shop January 22, 2015 while she replaced the string attachment cord on my antique violin. I was wandering the shop examining imaginatively carved fiddle heads while she spoke. And then I sat on a beautifully upholstered chair opposite her while she worked and gave me the tale. I asked her permission to embellish the story and use it in my storytelling bag. Harv’s name is real but I created the others. After telling the story several times it will change. When I am telling stories to an audience, that’s often when the language emerges by itself and makes a better fit. Repetition of words and phrases like “every night” is common in storytelling. I tried to keep the language simple and straight forward. I am putting more dark or magic or mythical elements in my story making since taking a writers workshop last year in a http://www.mccallarts.org/cabinfever program sponsored by the McCall Arts and Humanities Council, and in anticipation of the Horror Writers Workshop in Transylvania this summer.

How this story originated. After I published this story I was contacted by Miki Odendahl who says she is the original author. She says she wrote it in a high school creative writing class. Duree, who gave me the story, is her mother. I put my own storytelling style to it and the tale above is the result. Stories change over time when they are passed down orally. I want to give credit to the young lady who first composed the plot. She owns the story, though her version is much different from this. I am grateful that she came to me and set me straight, and allows me to publish it here.

In the original author’s words:

Duree is my mother. I grew up in Eagle, Idaho–first on Pimlico Drive, then in the cul de sac on North 2nd Street where she now lives with my 96 yo grandmother, Velma.

The story about Harvey was originally written for my creative writing class at Meridian Senior High School, about my own rabbit in the guise of another, and was a tribute to my friend, Valerie Harvey’s, brother who drowned when we were in grade school at Eagle Elementary. Yes, my mother can spin a yarn, and does so often, especially about me (according to her, I’m a serial killer, too), but this particular story was entirely mine.

Your story was forwarded to me by one of my childhood friends, who knows this story well.

About this photo: Someone took this photo of my nephew on either his family ranch near Sweet and Ola, Idaho, or in Wyoming. I adjusted curves and gave it a shape blur in Adobe CS4. I think it gives a ghostly image illustrating Harv leaving that day, although it’s a sunrise shot. Memories and stories retold have a blurry quality, rather dreamlike and that’s the mood I was trying to capture in this photo.

I found a book. It hasn’t yet been written.

old letter in cursive
The first letter, exuberant after the dance.

I found a book. It hasn’t yet been written. But it has begun. And I am the writer. After Mom died in 2006, I emptied her house and put it up for sale. She had tons, really tons, of clutter. Sorting took months. She kept everything! I found some treasures in the slow thorough process.

In her basement I uncovered her desk, the one she used for her church secretary work. It was heaped with papers and file folders and books, a knitting project, plants, and too much more to remember. Inside a deep drawer, in an unlabeled folder mixed with church papers, I found photocopies of letters.

They were written in 1918 and 1919 by my grandfather, courting my grandmother. I found the beginning of their relationship right up to the day he married her. I found the story of families living in the Pacific Northwest during World War 1, haying with horses, building the railroad, and joining the army. I found a book to write, based on the courting letters.

The letters document the influenza epidemic, boats stuck in the river by deep ice break ups, barn dances, a locomotive derailed by a mud flood and much more. Most importantly, they reveal human hopes and struggles, concessions, forgiveness, and celebrations.

The storyline moves along the tracks of the traditional plot diagram. It has complexity in its conflicts. The action rises to the turning point and ends with resolution. It’s so ready to write.

My problem is how to develop the details, how to bring the characters and setting to life for modern readers. How do I write the story so readers will care and get a deeper understanding of their own lives from the book? Each letter gives enough information to inspire creative writing. What is really the story behind the story? How can I tell it?

I am a storyteller, a performing storyteller. I know a lot about folklore weaving magic into tales. I teach writing, literature, and history. Now, I have a book to write, one letter at a time. I’m scared. Can I practice the crafts I teach? It’s a challenge I give myself, to write creative non-fiction. How do I even categorize the genre? Could it be a novel of poetry telling the story like Out of the Dust? Will I write chapters? How about short vignettes? How will I link the ideas together? How long will the book be? Will anybody be interested in reading the story, the little stories within the stories?

I have a lot of research to do. How did men work hay fields with horses when tractors were just emerging into the industry? What was the sphere of devastation by the influenza pandemic in the Pacific Northwest? What was transportation like then? The letters stand in place of telephones and texting.

How can I show, don’t tell, the depth of humanity revealed within the letters? I’m going to need a lot of feedback as I progress, a lot of help. I am asking you to follow my postings as I write this story. Please tell me what you think of my writing, what changes I should make, what’s written just as it should be. How is the story affecting you?

I posted a first draft of the first page yesterday in Cat Rock, the First Dance. One blogger, gave me powerful feedback in her comment. Thanks Wendy! http://wendybarronwrites.wordpress.com/

That’s what I’m looking for. Will you help me?

What do you think right now about this story idea? Please tell me.