Category Archives: The Bent Tree Path

Some Cherokee Tidbits

Some Cherokee Tidbits

A few years ago, I had the privilege to travel in and around Cherokee, North Carolina. My daughter and I chose to spend a morning at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Here we not only met but also sat and listened to a great storyteller and renowned Beloved Man, Jerry Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe was 92 years young at the time, the first man to have received the honorable title ‘Beloved Man’ among Cherokee in over 200 years. It was well-deserved. He was a World War II veteran, a survivor of D-Day on Normandy, a stonemason who lay stone throughout the Smoky Mountains, and a dedicated volunteer who spent time with children, teaching them Cherokee stories, language, ways and games. He volunteered daily in the museum, greeting visitors and giving talks. That’s where we mer him. His interest shifted readily from what he was reading (a New Testament, written in Cherokee language Tsalgi) to the visitors entering the museum.

Jerry Wolfe Cherokee Beloved man cropped

Yours truly with Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe, a year before his passing.

He told us delightful stories. He shared traditional Cherokee stories, woven like fables, with funny twists and important lessons.

After listening to his wonderful stories, we slowly meandered through the museum. Here we found a beautiful talking stone with the Cherokee syllabary engraved and backlit. As each “letter” lit up, museum visitors heard a recording of its sound.

Did you know that rather than an alphabet, the Cherokee have a syllabary? What’s a syllabary, you ask? A syllabary is a set of syllables that make up the language. The Cherokee syllabary was developed and published between 1815 and 1821 by Sequoyah (English name George Guess). After trying to devise pictures for each Cherokee word, he realized the task was too much. Instead, he thought long and hard about the syllables that made up each word and identified 86. This made symbol creation feasible. He soon taught his brother and daughter the new form of communication.

Before long, Sequoyah was arrested and stood trial for sorcery, which could have been the end of him. During the trial, his people saw that he and his daughter were able to communicate with one another by making symbols on pieces of paper. His captors soon helped him spread the news to their people.

As it turns out, the syllabary is a remarkably easier way to learn to read and write a language. Students learning the syllable forms could learn to read and write in a few weeks as compared to our years of study. Within a matter of months, a great number of Cherokee in this time became literate. By 1824 most Cherokees could read and write using this syllabary. By 1828 both the Cherokee Phoenix and the Cherokee Advocate, regularly published newspapers, employed this syllabary and publishers in Boston worked toward translating it into print for the Bible and other notable works.

It is the language of some of my ancestors, but it is long forgotten in my family’s line. It is a language of harmony with nature, with one another, and with the Great Spirit. It is a language that is coming back again.

For too long, Cherokee, as other indigenous peoples to this land, were suppressed. Our American forefathers forced them into schools in an effort to eradicate their language and culture. As recently as the 1900’s, our government leaders and respected professionals took part in what was no more than a witch-hunt to identify and isolate from mainstream white America any who were part “Indian,” and categorizing them as Blacks, discriminating equally against the two groups so they could not receive government assistance, schooling or medical care.

Imagine what that would be like to us today, to have a foreign invader come and force their way upon us–or death. It is incomprehensible. Yet this is what happened to the indigenous people, here, in America, when this country, which stands for freedom, began.

It is no wonder that so many Cherokee and other indigenous people found refuge by blending in with their European spouses and families, and kept their heritage to themselves. It was a matter of survival, a matter of securing their hope for the future; for their children.

All the years of oppression left the Cherokee in a poor state, with rampant alcoholism, poverty and poor health. This is the stereotype. But they are returning. Their pride is returning. Their language is returning. Their culture is returning. There is something special about this people. They hold truths which will be vital in restoring our nation–even our world.

Tell me–are you descended from indigenous people in America? How has that deepened or enriched your life? I’d love to hear your stories, heart to heart.

Joan T. Warren



Addendum: As an occupational therapist, I’ve been privileged to help many a child master writing the alphabet, sentences and paragraphs. If you’d like to see another alphabet photo challenge, visit my newest blog, OT Interactions.


Blue-pencil Time

Blue-pencil Time

So many of us here, who follow each other’s blogs, are writers who want to publish. Others are writers who just want a place to express, create, share and sometimes just vent.

I’m both. I’ve enjoyed times here when I’ve been very active on WordPress. I’ve taken breaks and focused more on other things, including personal writing. Around 2010, a concept for a novel twinkled my eye. I set out on the journey, and the journey took so many more years than anticipated. But folks, it’s almost ready!

With only a couple of chapters left of the first draft, this thing is a monster! If I were to format it for your basic paperback, it would be nearly a thousand pages. That’s too big! Who wants to read a book that thick? I usually won’t. So, soon I’ll approach blue-pencil time. Time to edit. Cut. Rearrange. Re-phrase. Clean it up.

I’m turning to you, my fellow bloggers and readers. How have you managed parting with your treasured paragraphs? How have you ensured your books are concise and on point, while also richly laced with delights for the senses? Have you paid beta-readers? Have you paid editors? Do you have family who can be that honest with you about what needs to change? How soon before publishing did you start your pre-release marketing strategies?

Please tell me your experiences rather than your advice. That’s what I’m after. Thanks for following, and thanks for sharing your comments and experiences!

Typing away,

Joan T. Warren

Developing a Mission Statement for Fiction Novel


You can help me decide! Here are a few shorter sentences that I’m developing to help guide revision of the upcoming novel, The Bent Tree Path. Here’s your chance to weigh in! Add, subtract, edit, suggest, negate. . . be involved.

A mission statement for a fiction novel helps the self-editing process. It serves as a filter to revise each scene and chapter: if they don’t significantly support the mission, they don’t belong.

The original mission statement draft, shared last week, was nearly the size of one of Ernest Hemingway’s paragraphs! Now it’s time to simplify. Which of these do you like the best?

  1. Interplay stories of ancestral history with modern life to highlight the importance of, and a pathway toward, healthy relationships with God, self, others, and the earth.
  2. Reveal the secrets of generations of women who grew stronger as they overcame oppression and abuse.
  3. Create a path for future generations to find their way through challenges.
  4. Show how generations effect one another; each personal choice bearing on future generations.

I’d love to hear from you!

Joan T. Warren

Writing Through COVID-19


Hello Faithful Readers!

First, my apologies for leaving you so long! Writing is a hobby for me, and sometimes I fall into placing my beloved hobbies last on my list of things to do!

In the last couple months, though, I’ve been writing a lot more. The COVID-19 scare and distancing orders at first gave me LESS time to write (can you say homeschooling?), but then MORE. Fear of early demise reconnected me to the importance of prioritizing that which is most precious to me. Faith leads me to keep that up even though that fear subsides.

As a result, I’ve been tap-tap-tapping away on the novel I started nearly ten years ago! It’s epic, folks. So far nearly 150,000 words! Which, of course, will get whittled away in the editing process. That’s how I write. I overdo, then slice and dice. I’m in editing mode now, for most of the novel. There are a few chapters yet to write.

An awesome self-editing course I took from Mary Kole set me to creating this novel’s mission statement. A mission statement helps the writer stay on course. Each scene is re-read through the lens of that statement. If it doesn’t support the statement, it either needs to be reworked or sent to the chopping block. The mission statement can also lead into log lines, which help attract you, the readers, to be interested in the book.

So here, I entreat your help! Please take a look at the mission statement and tell me what you think. Does it interest you, bore you? Is it too long, or too wordy, or too whatever? Do tell! It’s better to fix it now than spend another day on something that isn’t worth it.

Here it is:

“Through stories from three centuries, The Bent Tree Path follows ordinary women who overcome oppression, abuse and despair and pave the way for future generations to connect with their rich ancestral heritage, their earthly and spiritual interactions, and their personal and relational health.”

So comment away, no worries about offending me. I can only see through my own eyes unless you share your perspective.