Friday, May 30, 2014

Tighten Up That Iron!

After dropping off the kids at school and am too tired to write, have dishes in the sink, and an (almost) overwhelming desire to eat popcorn and watch The Sound of Music for the millionth and one time, I hear my Creative Writing teacher, Dave Holper, calling whimsically out over the land from northern California:


So, I trudge my way over to the over worn but not overly comfy chair and start writing.

Damn that Dave Holper.  If it weren't for him and that class in which he also demanded that we write at least a line a day, I would be basking in a bag of Spice Drops--the only decent candy left in the world--and laughing about piano playing cats on the internet.  Life would be much more decadent and lazy, as well it should be.

And then, to add more to the cauldron of teachers with wickedly good advice, my picture book instructor, Diane D'Andrade, from long ago whispers firmly in my ear to tighten up my writing.  Okay, I whisper back. But can't I keep this one little tiny paragraph that has absolutely nothing to do with the story but shows how great of a story teller I am? Can't I keep at least that? I mean, give me something here, woman.

And into my ear, from years ago, she kindly, mildly, screams NO you may one keep that paragraph.
And that adjective? She adds, cross it out, not needed. 


Okay, I meekly respond.  And I highlight and delete the words and my ego. Now stricken from public view for an eternity.

At the end of a rough draft of each chapter, when I go back to review, there is a third teacher who haunts my tales.  Her name is caught somewhere in the mysterious folds of my brain, meaning I do not remember.  "I don't know where I am in your story. Give me setting. Ground me."

So, I dutifully go back and place her spirit gently on the floor in the middle of the story and show her where she is.  She is blindfolded, so I have to describe every silly little detail.  

Now that I think about it, Dave used to tell me the same thing.


Hand in hand, step by step, word by word, I show them.  We travel about the room, smelling, feeling, touching, sensing, seeing where we are.  We look out every window and examine characters in every mirror.  Finally, we all breathe sighs of comfort when we gain the grounding essence. It is a magical moment.

It is not until these past demanding teachers have been appeased every day that I can grant my self rest. And yet, I still search out writing classes and add more teachers to my list of words to attend to. Why am I so crazy? Oh, that's right, I almost forgot. It is because I am a writer.

And for that, I have only myself to blame.

Heather Leigh

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