Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Return of the Native

Hi everyone. Probably no one notices this blog any more, so I doubt if anyone will read this, but that’s okay because it will give me a chance to get warmed up again. That is if I can get back into the habit of writing. I still can’t continue with my WWII project because of a fatal computer crash, which seems to have destroyed my notes – my backup and main hard drive crashed at the same time. The notes represent months of work so I’m pretty bummed out about it. I have one last thing I’m going to try, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll probably give up. I just can’t bring myself to go through all that research again.

I have been inspired to write again though, by a writers’ conference sponsored by the Chickasaw Press. I was asked to do a presentation myself, and so had to think of what I learned during the process of writing and editing Wenonah’s Story. Even though my motivation for writing was to record the events of my mother’s life and to honor her memory, I did enjoy the process, and learned a lot.

The conference inspired me by reminding me of some of the tricks, no methods I learned to make my writing more forceful and interesting, and also I really enjoyed listening to the other presenters. One was a writer of “creative non-fiction,” Rilla Askew, a successful writer and a dynamic and interesting speaker. The other was Towana Spivey, former curator of the military history museum at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

In the past I have looked down my nose at writers of creative nonfiction. In the sample of those books I’ve read, I got the idea the author used the past to make up for a lack of imagination, distorting it in the process. Some even encouraged me to do Wenonah’s Story as fiction, but I refused, taking pride in being able to tell a story that was interesting without embellishment, a plot that made a riveting story, and was true at the same time.

But Rilla’s talk was all about creative writing, and expressing your feelings, and it got me to thinking. It’s important that someone reads what you write, so if you have to imagine some “alternate facts,” or fabricate a love story to grab the reader’s attention, maybe that’s not so bad, if it draws attention to an important time in history. Not everyone has a resource like my mother, who was not only an eyewitness to history, but also an eloquent story teller, and frankly I couldn’t have told her story any other way, because I have no imagination.

The other speaker, Towana Spivey, was a fascinating person to talk to, a fountain of knowledge about the history of the Southwest, in particular of the Native Americans, and of the military. What impressed me though was that he emphasized the same point as Rilla, the importance of engaging the reader, making your writing interesting. In his book he told the history of the region around Fort Sill from the perspective of a tree, a huge tree at Fort Sill, about 250 years old.

He said he avoided including too much detail in his writing, so that it wouldn’t be boring. In fact he tells forty or fifty stories in a book of only 80 pages, and includes lots of pictures. I got a copy. He doesn’t fudge the facts like Rilla, but he does what he needs to make his subject interesting.

So, now I’m humbled but inspired, and I’m going to try to restart my blog. I don’t know what I’ll write about, but hopefully, when a few of you begin to notice it, you’ll enjoy what I have to say.