Monday, August 29, 2005

Our NCCAT Anthology

Donna Pumphrey turned in her story last night--let that be a nudge to the rest of us! She writes: "Keep in touch and thanks for all the tips. I feel like I stepped up my writing a whole notch at NCCAT."


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Timothy's teapot!

Yesterday my youngest child and I stopped by NCCAT and saw Linda. The three of us poked around in the garden; I took a picture of my son in the green tunnel crowned with virgin's bower, and we went to visit the koi in the pond. Our week at NCCAT seems very far away, so much has happened since then.

But in the dining room I saw Timothy Cherry's teapot on a pedestal. And Linda says she will send me a picture to post...

Regards to you all,

Monday, August 08, 2005

Finding a welcome--

If you've just arrived, go to the earliest post and find a welcome. Then ramble as you like--please pause at Linda's questions. And come back often. Note: To add a comment or ask a question, click on the word COMMENTS (below each post, just left of the tiny envelope.) Click; a window will open. You are "other"--sorry! (Ignore the envelope unless you want to send a copy of a post to someone else on line.) THE NEWEST POST WILL ALWAYS BE THE ONE FOLLOWING THIS ONE. NCCAT image credit: see

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Ready, set--

I've heard several times from John Dufresne, so perhaps we'll have a message from him before the week is out. In the meantime, have a good journey to Cullowhee, or "the valley of lilies."


Thursday, August 04, 2005

An unbearably smug moment, with a goodly number of birthday candles

Linda Kinnear (one of the fearless leaders of PPP) and I have been having a wee bit of a dust-up over whether Dufresne is pronounced du-FRES-neh or du-FRAIN. The latter is how the French Canadians around my husband's family home would say the name.

And now I want to tell her that I now have it from the man himself that it is . . . du-FRAIN.

So there!

Do I win something?

In other fearless leader news, today--August 4--is the birthday for Carrie Gates. It has been a big week for birthdays around here. My father turned 80 on August 2nd. I won't say how old Carrie is. I'll keep it to myself.

But since she's a mountain storyteller, she'll probably have some sort of whopper on hand.

Happy Birthday, Carrie Gates!


The Size of the Story

Here's a quote from Norman Friedman's essay, "What Makes a Short Story Short?":

To sum up, a story may be short because its action is intrinsically small, or because its action, being large, is reduced in length by means of the devices of selection, scale, and/or point of view. No one can tell in advance that, if a story is short, it is short because it has a certain number of words, or because it has more unity, or because it focuses upon culmination rather than development. All we can do, upon recognizing its shortness, is to ask how and why, keeping balanced simultaneously in our minds the alternative ways of answering these questions and their possible combinations. And then we may win increased understanding and hence appreciation of the specific artistic qualities of this curious and splendid but vastly underrated art.

* * *

While the above is directed to readers, it's suggestive for readers who are also writers. He divides stories into two kinds: those that deal with material "of small compass," and those that cut and shape the material to increase "the artistic effect."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Pint-Size Bottle

What dictates the size of the bottle into which we pour our wine--or vinegar? Certainly not deliberate consideration, for then one would have written nothing but stories of from ten to thirty thousand words . . . The whole thing is a puzzle. Why should one have to write a novel when a certain figure, incident or idea takes possession of the imagination; a short story about a second incident or figure; and a tale of medium length around a third? I cannot answer; but I am convinced that he is in luck to whom the unseen hander-out of bottles offers the pint.

--from John Galsworthy

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Under One's Nose

After much ferrying, I have come to a rest, mind still buzzing... This morning I've been reading Charles Causley's poems and thought I would post something he wrote about finding a subject and about inspiration:

As a small boy, entranced by the written word, I never had the slightest desire to drive a locomotive, pilot an aircraft, captain a ship. The supreme achievement seemed to me to be that of one who had written a book: any kind of book. All through my teenage years I struggled with the short story, the novel, the play, the poem. I was like the man in the story who leapt on his horse and tried to ride off in all directions. Another difficulty lay in finding something to write about. I looked at the circumstance of my small-town rural life and decided, with supreme snobbishness, that it didn't match up to my literary ambitions. Unfailingly, I wrote about worlds I had never known. Poetry--and poetry was becoming my principal interest--was away and somewhere else. Nobody told me that the raw material of poetry, like the raw material of all art, resides quite simply under one's nose. Certainly, this didn't become plain to me until my experience of the Second World War.

Poets are often asked, in a dauntingly high-flown phrase, how and when they are "inspired." For myself, too often at such moments a deeply superstitious Celt, this is a word best avoided. If you ask me why I write, I would say that I write because I must. It's a compulsion, and--with luck--a means of resolving inner conflict. Poetry, for me, has been a particular form of autobiography. The general theme of one's work becomes self-evident, I think, in its early written stages, but the subjects may be many and various. And there's a certain danger in a too-active search for a subject. In my experience, a subject consciously sought is rarely found. It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge who warned us, wisely, that the writer's greatest danger is impatience. "We must be right by nature, says Coleridge, "so that good thoughts may come before us like free children of God and say, Here we are."

--from "What Gift?," an acceptance speech to the 1990 T. S. Eliot Award of The Ingersoll Foundation. The late Charles Causley, a marvelous writer of ballads and lyrics, was the author of more than thirty books of poetry and prose.

Here's a small poem by Charles Causley to accompany that quote invoking his first understanding that subject was near, an idea that came to him as a sailor in WW II:


Draw the blanket of ocean
Over the frozen face.
He lies, his eyes quarried by glittering fish,
Staring through the green freezing sea-glass
At the Northern Lights.

He is now a child in the land of Christmas:
Watching, amazed, the white tumbling bears
And the diving seal.
The iron wind clangs round the ice-caps,
The five-pointed Dog-star
Burns over the silent sea,

And the three ships
Come sailing in.

* * *

In those stray moments--mowing the lawn, folding the fresh laundry--perhaps we can do a little dreaming about the places and subjects that are near.

See you soon!