Tag Archives: history

The Joan T. Warren Process of Writing for an Anthology (or, Sense & Sensibility)

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The Joan T. Warren Process of Writing for an Anthology (or, Sense & Sensibility)

Has anyone noticed how my blog posts have steadily decreased in 2015-2016? It’s true, I’ve reduced blogging to occasional at best. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, though. Yes, I’m still working on the novel, the one on my bucket list. It’s getting closer to first draft stage (then the hard part begins). As loyal readers know, I also started a blog that draws on my expertise as an occupational therapist and reaches out, forum-style, to therapists and people/families with health challenges. This past year much of my writing effort went into a project that diverted me from my goals, yet is turning out to be a learning opportunity. That’s what I’ll be telling you about today.

My local writer’s group is publishing an anthology through the Florida Writer’s Association. Its many chapters, written by locals, highlight Clay County history. It will be called Embedded in Clay. You can read more about it over here.

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From Embedded In Clay FB page

 

I’m used to writing essays for health science. In college, I impressed my English professor with the best CLAST essay score he’d ever seen; the best possible, actually. I’m used to writing various styles of poetry. I’m used to writing recovery curriculum, personal stories–and I’m somewhat comfortable writing fiction. I’m mostly used to writing in my own way, on my own time, as an introvert, for pleasure.

I’m not used to writer’s groups. I’m not used to Chicago-style referencing. I’m not used to historical, referenced work.

When I accepted the challenge to write for Embedded in Clay, I did so with some trepidation. A transplant from Maryland, I knew little of Florida history, and less of my own county. I wanted to learn more, though. Taking on a writing project was a sure way to force myself to learn. You can’t write what you don’t know. My initial trepidation was well-founded.

Months, and several history books, trips to Clay County Archives and internet searches later, I knew more about Clay County history. What did I know? One thing, mainly: that I knew too little to write for an anthology!

Yet the deadline loomed.

I dug in.

My first draft = my first mistake

I took on too much without clarifying the parameters of the project. I thought the chapter could be anything I wanted it to be, any style, as long as I used Chicago-style references. When I brought it to group, I learned we had a 2500 word limit! How did I miss this? My chapter was more like 7000 words. Everyone else knew the parameters. I searched through my emails and contract, and realized I must have not received that page. How could I have embarked on a project not knowing its parameters?  I quietly received feedback from the small group on how to start slicing and dicing. Some people loved my imagery, which was encouraging. Approaching our new, extended deadline, I carved writing time out of what usually is reserved for sleep and family time.

My second draft = my second mistake

Returning to group with a hard-fought (harshly shortened) second draft, I felt relieved and proud of what I’d accomplished. Again receiving feedback quietly, only one piece being negative, I felt pretty good about the piece. I started working on the summary, the loglines and photos. I was happy to turn it all in before the holidays. Now it was time to get ready for family at Thanksgiving, and, before long, Christmas. No time for anything else.

Then the email came. “Please give me a call when you have a few minutes to talk about your story,” our group leader wrote.

This can’t be good, I thought.

It wasn’t. Turns out the one negative feedback I’d received had been hers. She didn’t like the way I’d presented the historical report. “Their lives are interesting on their own,” she said, “It’s distracting to the reader to take them on a journey through time. Just tell the story.” She didn’t stop there. “Why are so many people trying to write about an imaginary journey through time? I don’t understand it. . . just tell us what happened, it’s interesting in and of itself.”

I realized I was face to face with a professional writer who tells it like it is. She likes to read history as they tell it in history books (I never did; I actually liked Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure!). She likes the facts (I like the human interest side–skip memorizing the dates of this battle and that invention). She likes structure (Me? Freestyle, much preferred). Why, we are Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811): both valuable, but very different. She, however, is the founder and leader of the group.

After a few questions to clarify the knock-me-off-my-feet-but-okay-I-must-learn-from-this feedback, I swallowed hard and thanked her. After hanging up the phone, I decided to abandon the project. I just couldn’t give it any more of my time.

Then my conscience bothered me. I don’t give up, it’s not my style.

Instead of giving up the project, I gave up that Sunday and rewrote the chapter. I savagely edited everything flowery–all the parts that made it come to life for me. I took out the imaginary journey. I cut the imagery that transported the reader 200 years back in time. Sensory experiences: gone. I’ll reserve those for another publication, I figured. If she wants the facts, okay, she’ll get the facts. I was mad, but I did it. I didn’t have time to figure out how to keep sensation and imagery without the imaginary journey.

I read it aloud a few times. It was okay. It told some pretty interesting stories that really happened. There was only one problem: I didn’t really like it. It didn’t move me. I didn’t feel proud of it.

I decided not to turn it in. I went on with holiday preparations. So what if I’d spent the last nine months nurturing this chapter for naught?

But it wouldn’t stay dead. As the new deadline approached, I decided to take it out again, just to be sure I shouldn’t turn it in. The chapter tells the story of three women in history who faced some serious challenges and made some serious differences. Their stories are truly worth reading. I still didn’t really like the writing style I had to use, under the circumstances, but I decided to turn it in anyway. I promised myself I wouldn’t do much more, though. The holidays are for my family.

My third draft = Apparent success

Wouldn’t you know it, she liked it! I still don’t like it much, but I went ahead and (fairly heartlessly) crafted a summary, loglines and some photos from the archives. It’s all been turned in and is in editing now, so I’m still not sure what it will look like when they publish it.

Will anyone else like it? I honestly don’t know. This is a learning project for me. I’ve thought about publishing both versions here, and asking for your feedback, to see what my readers think. Yet,  I get few comments on my blogs.  I don’t know what to do at this point. I don’t really feel like promoting the piece, since I’m not really proud of it. . . but the women whose stories I told deserve to have their stories told. It’s not about me, it’s about them. It’s about you, the readers, and the encouragement, inspiration and enrichment you may gain from what three amazing women–in what is now Clay County–did between 1806 and 1906.

Final Publication = ?

Still in process. . .

Joan

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Joan in Nov 2016

I Feel Cherokee

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My Great-Great Grandmother Elizabeth Sophia Grey. Eastern Tribe. Can you help me find her true identity? She likely changed her last name at least.

My Great-Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Sophia Grey. Eastern Tribe. I believe she changed her last name. Do you know her?

I feel Cherokee.

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Shrouded in secrecy after hiding from Indian Removal in the 1800’s, my 1900’s family seemed unable to pass on important information to support our Cherokee heritage. We can trace all directions but this one.

Though just a small percentage runs through these veins, my Cherokee blood is mighty. I feel it when I look at the sky, when I walk near great waters, when I head toward the mountains, when I read their stories.

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I feel Cherokee.

I feel Cherokee values, these from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation website:

  • Spirituality, which creates a bond among Cherokee people in good times and bad, and is a source of hope.
  • Group harmony in community and kin relationships, and freely sharing and giving time, talent and treasures.
  • Strong individual character, with integrity, honesty, perseverance, courage, respect, trust, honor and humility.
  • Strong connection with the land and commitment to stewardship of the homelands of the Cherokee.
  • Honoring the past by knowing one’s ancestors, identifying with and belonging to the tribe, and living and preserving Cherokee culture.
  • Educating the children by providing values-oriented education and recreation, and by being strong role models for them.
  • Possessing a sense of humor, which can lighten pressure in serious situations and help people make good decisions.
Mary Agnes Grey Burris, my Great Grandmother

Mary Agnes Grey Burris, my Great Grandmother

Not knowing these values were Cherokee, they have been my values–except that I don’t know my ancestors. Not yet.

I want to know my ancestors. As a garden bed needs turning, I  feel the need to dig into the rich soil of those who have gone before.

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I feel Cherokee.

I feel Cherokee land. My husband and I sometimes dream about different places in the world we may like to retire to. When we are finally free of the commitments we have to our present locale, where will we land? Where is home? We could go anywhere.

Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

The land that feels like home, though I wasn’t born or raised there, is the land of the Cherokee. It was their homeland for unknown centuries, until immigrants (whom they largely welcomed and helped) forcibly drove them out of it. Former leaders of our United States misled them, broke promises and cheated them out of their homeland. Now they have reservations. It all used to be theirs.

Winter in Higher Elevations, Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

Winter in Higher Elevations, Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

My daughter moved to their region recently. Nearly every day she posts pictures on Instagram, and expresses her pure joy and love for these mountains. I am moved. I can’t help but click ‘like’ on every photo! We love that land. We want it protected, nourished and cherished. We look forward to knowing and loving the people as well. If you would like to see more of her inspiring photography, you can follow her on Instagram, she is DENESIACHRISTINE.

Wildflowers in Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

Wildflowers in Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

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I feel Cherokee.

I feel Cherokee history and culture. I love the way Cherokees welcomed and worked with settlers. I’m intrigued by their prophetic awareness of the Great Spirit, how they saw peril coming from the new people, yet they embraced them, believing in a greater good in the long run. I endorse their respectful practices regarding hunting, caring for all living things and wasting nothing. I love how their “good medicine” includes healthy relationships.

I have much to learn about and from the Cherokee. As I write my first novel, I will be doing just that. One of the main characters in my upcoming novel is Cherokee. We will explore and learn in and through her character. I hope to learn important information to support my family’s Cherokee heritage for future generations, and to support the Cherokee nation as a whole.

I feel Cherokee. It feels good. I hope you’ll enjoy feeling Cherokee with me.

©Joan  T. Warren

To begin learning more about Cherokee, and Appalachian history,  try these links:

http://www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/655-at-long-last-cherokee-telling-their-own-story

http://appalachianstudies.org/resources/docs/97whisnant63.html

Excuse me, but, um, They’re Killing People! Part 2

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“. . . writing from heart to heart toward healthy relationships and living, involves both personal lives on a small scale AND global relationships. After all, we are all individual people on this earth, and we are one humanity.”

Welcome back! This is part two in a three-part series. In part one, we learned some background information that is crucial to understanding this portion. Here is a link to part one:

Excuse me, Part 1

After reading Brian McLaren’s articles addressing the need to speak up about extremist Muslims targeting Christians for death, I shared some background with you on my history of personal experience with author and activist Brian McLaren, and initiated this series as a means to personally respond to his suggestions and to invite further discussion and thought on the matter with you, my readers. This series of three posts can serve as a platform where we can begin to speak about the rising tide of religious violence, and engage in meaningful conversation that has the potential, given form and shape by its partakers, to become a profound and guiding philosophy in our present day challenges.

Personally, I had many questions and concerns while reading McLaren’s articles. I hope that in sharing them here, our mutual engagement may advance my own thinking as well as, perhaps, our global consciousness. Here are my responses to part one of Brian’s article:

First, I must say that I agree with Brian’s assertion that the persecution and murder of Christians and other non-Muslims by extremist and terrorist Muslims is appalling. I agree, too, that the lack of reporting, discussing and acting upon these matters is also abhorrent. As Brian explores possible reasons for the relative silence on the matter, he suggests six possible reasons. Here, I review four of the six that, in my view, need further exploration.

First, Brian suggests that people are silent perhaps because we fear being counted as extremists, but that the resultant silence aides and abets extremism and is in itself evil:

“But wrongly and unwisely – many simply remain silent. In so doing, they aid and abet extremism in both Christian and Muslim communities. As Powers stated, quoting Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”

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Bonhoeffer

On this point I struggle.  Read the rest of this entry

Independence Day in the USA

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Happy Independence Day! Click on Independence Day and it will take you to a site where you can read a brief history of our highly prized national holiday, July 4, Independence Day. Then come back and enjoy this quick video from Washington, DC fireworks! Keep reading, we’re not finished quite yet!

I especially like how this article points out that we celebrate the day we proclaimed independence, not when we achieved it! It serves as a reminder that when we make our minds up to be or to do something, our firm decision and proclamation is the true turning point!

Happy Independence!

P. S. How do you define and declare independence? Is there a time when you proclaimed something, something that took a lot of guts and you knew wouldn’t come easy, and then you made it happen? Share by commenting in the box below. . .

Joan T. Warren