Monday, February 28, 2011

Storytellers Part 2

My grandmother, yes the one who left her family when my mom was 16, possessed a colorful expression for story.  I don't mean in the expletive way, but she truly described incidents, objects and people in a most memorable way for only having an 8th grade country school education.
I thought of her descriptions as  I crossed the Shenango River which to her was "that black river".  She worked as a nurse's aid and she told me once she was in the elevator with a tray of breasts, and they were just a jiggling.  A doctor entered the elevator with her holding this tray and he made some strange comment and she felt so embarrassed.   I suppose she was a very young woman, and health care was a bit different in the late 19teens.
Pat Nixon was "Grinny Pat"  Even though Grandma was a staunch Republican, if there was something she didn't like about a person, she didn't hold back.  As an ardent supporter of Alf Landon, she walked 6 miles from Sharon, PA to the Tam-O-Shanter golf course outside of W. Middlesex to hear his kick off speech in his campaign against FDR in 1936.  Maybe that's when she left Lew.
When my mom asked her why she married my grandfather, Grandma replied sweetly at first, "Oh, he was so handsome and all the girls wanted him, but I got him," ending with a disgusted tone to her voice.
Grandma got dreamy when she talked about her daughter who died.  "Somewhere My Love" would come on the radio or play on one of her music boxes, she held her hands to her chest, look upward and say, "Oh, I love this song, because someday I'll be with June."  I could almost see her in heaven with Aunt June and I didn't even remember her.
She was the first to try to explain April Fools to me.  I still think of people parading around in white pretending to be something. Her images left a great impression on my young mind.
Grandma had the flair for dramatic.  She even won an award for allucution. Her tone and vivid words brought her stories to life. A good hearted laugh often accompanied her stories.  She gathered an audience, too.  Take her to the mall and by the time we were done shopping, she had made a friend with a complete stranger on the bench.
When she did write, she had a dictionary handy.  I used to think it was for spelling, but I now believe it was for meaning and new words.  Her words and expression set the tone for great storytelling and I am back in her living room watching her face telling another story that ignited my imagination.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Storytellers Part 1

My mom was a great storyteller.  Her mind was sharp and she gathered the stories like badges and would show them whether you wanted her to or not.  Ask my brother, Dan.  Katie, when she was little, would crawl up into my mother's lap asking, "Tell me a story about the Depression."  Now Katie had heard so many, but she wanted to hear about a little girl in the Depression. I loved listening to them, too.
She regaled us with stories of ice skating with skates too big and having blisters, babysitting at age 11 for a quarter after school, dating boys with the mother driving to her freshman dance,  Uncle Eddie thinking it had rained during the night because Uncle Bill was too tired to trot downstairs to use the bathroom, how they tried so hard to hide the dog, Trixie, at night, but Grandma always knew and would call her downstairs.  I felt I was in those stories.  As I walk Buhl Park, I still hear her stories of swimming all day in the lake or ice skating there.  She made it sound so happy and I'm sure in some respects it was.
That is the art of storytelling, to get a mood across.  Yes, it is information and morals, but mood says so much more.  I knew some of my mother's pain, because other times she told me of the bad times.  Her parents were drinkers.  She got beat a lot, of course that was the method of discipline, then, but with a strap?  They made her sit at a table for hours till she finished her meal.  We were never made to finish a meal and our meals were happy times. In her day, children were seen and not heard.
Her mother left the family when my mom was 16.  As Grandma was leaving she told a neighbor, "I just can't take it anymore."  My mother helped raise her two younger siblings in 1936.
Because of my mother's stories I was given a window into the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's.  I can imagine raising 3 kids under 3 years old when mothers ironed little ruffly dresses and having a cranky uncle in law living with you and telling you need to can these vegetables fresh from the garden, Jean, the household chores can wait, vegetables can't!  History came alive because of my mother's storytelling and her imagination.  
I love those stories and I love to tell them.  I could make a whole blog of just my mom's stories!
She is probably the first and most important influence on my imagination and storytelling.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


What motivates me to write?  I've heard for most writers it is ego, and that is true to some extent.
Prayer is the first thing I do before writing.  I want to please God, and honor Him.  I know He brings ideas and research together.  Anything goes better with prayer.
The movie Julie and Julia pushed me to keep writing.  Watching Julie learn to not only cook a new recipe from Julia Child every day, but to write a blog about the experience put some steam in my engine to continue writing my story.  I was at a low when we saw the movie.
I tend to write what the weather or season is also.  The Labor Day picnic scene was written in early Sept.  As I thought of the woman living over the livery stable in the early part of their marriage, I was privileged to see a new born donkey and I was drawn to write about a new born colt. It was so exciting to have my fiction and life blend together.
An area in northern Trumbull Co., OH is so flat, so wide, so open, that I feel my imagination soaring as I fly over that road.  I think of ideas, people, actions when I'm driving.  My patients have many stories of which I use bits.  19 years of home health have given me much soil.
I write because I enjoy telling stories.  I hope others will enjoy my writing.  Motivated by expressing my self!

Friday, February 25, 2011


What keeps a person from writing?  I read Jan Karon can't write until her housework is done.  If anyone has been to my house or knows me, that is not my block.  Ted Dekker has to go to a "cave" and listen to really loud rock music, maybe why his novels are so off the wall.  I know there are as many methods to starting to write as there are authors.
I prefer early morning when I'm alone.  When I first started this quest to be an established writer and was keeping it quiet, I was secretive and changing the setting on the computer if I heard any noise.  I told so few people, because I didn't desire them to scoff at me.  But that didn't hold me back.
What holds me back?  My computer work from the nursing job hangs over my head like a suffocating blanket or worse.  I try doing that the night before I want to write, but most times that doesn't happen, as I scurry the kids from here to there or I get home late and just don't want to face that laptop one more minute.  I resent it, but I do have standards and paying work has to be done first.
I walked into a big name bookstore and see all those titles and doubt fills me.  Why do I think my writing could be popular or sell?  How is mine going to be different than these millions of titles?  Sometimes, I think I can't even get people interested in authors I'm reading at a time, how am I going to sell my own stories?
To whom am I writing?  To paraphrase a quote,"to mine own self be true."  I'm writing for myself.  I love the stories and crafting the words.  I may be the only hit on this blog, but I check it and yes, this is a first draft, not as polished, but I think I enjoy reading it. I really like the way the blog looks so far.  The house is beautiful.  I do find pleasure in writing.
So the other rule in writing is write, write, write, then revise, revise, revise.  Katie loves the revision more than the writing.  I do love when the writing just flows and my keyboard isn't sticking, like the other day...
Which brings me to the other hesitancy, computer problems.  The day after I started this blog, the computer was so slow and the keyboard was sticking, I imagined my writing as stilted as that keyboard.  Just before I finished my first story, the printer and computer needed marriage counseling, as they weren't communicating.  I ended up putting it on a flashdrive and taking it to Staples to have it printed it, but that took me months to accomplish.
Atmospheric, internal doubts, other demands on time and mechanical, techy problems keep me from writing.  This blog is to help me overcome these blips in my road.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


The seed is planted with inspiration.  The story begins to unfold in the quietness of my mind.  It grows in seclusion.  I keep the ideas from everyone.  I work over the words, I type, I plan.  I don't tell anyone about the process for a while.  I tell only a few that I'm even aspiring to write a story, let alone what it is about.  I ask for prayers that I will be steady and bring it to birth.  And like a pregnancy, the story has growth spurts and then it is hard to conceal it anymore and a few more people notice.  I talk about it a little more, but still wary that it make not to light.  Even when the story is finished, I need to mold it some more.  It is not ready for the world or even a friend to see.
Three paper copies sit on my dining room table to take to the nannies, governesses to proofread, edit some more.  They are in a box, just waiting for the light of day.  They are still in the gestation period, not ready for scrutiny.  Not ready for day care, preschool or kindergarten.  Or is it the momma that's not ready?   

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I'm always fascinated of how a story comes about, where the idea originated.  We were watching the special features for Gilmore Girls, last evening and the writer mentioned on their travels they stopped in a town in CT and that was the crystallization for  the TV series.
Sometimes, I'd rather read about writing the book, the research, the inspiration than the actual story.  Some of my favorites were Eugenia Price and how she lived on St. Simmons Island, interviewing the descendants of her characters, exploring the locales, breathing the air.  Laura Ingalls Wilder was prompted by her daughter.  It has been said, Rose did most of the writing, but I don't believe it.  I also read Rose's writings and she didn't have the charm of Laura.  Laura wrote for years, before the Little House books.  Her inspiration was the life she lived.
I remember in 6th grade after seeing the movie Cabaret, I incorporated the scene with the dead dog into a story I wrote for English.  We had started reading about the Nazis and the assignment was to write our own.  I had been sheltered from the atrocities until then and killing a dog and placing on the front porch seemed about as horrible as you could get.  Life was more innocent then, at least for me.
The stories I'm writing now came from the seed of wondering about how the house I grew up in was different than many houses.  I started seeing more houses with the gables and gingerbread in Trumbull Co. where I drive many miles with my job as a home health nurse.  Andrew Jackson Downing had a whole philosophy about architecture in the 1840s and many of the houses in his books resembled the homes I was seeing.  First, I thought I could write about the builders, the first owners, but then another story came to me.  I felt drawn to the beginning of the 20th century and since I knew my house, I set it there, with some rumors I heard when growing up.  I enjoyed how it unfolded.  I love the research, wish I had more time for that.
Oh, yes Mr. Lyon, I am middle age, because I plan to live at least till 100!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Setting up a blog

I did it!  I'm starting a blog with my niece, Lori's and my daughter, Katie's help!  A fun way to get together this afternoon.  They helped me set it up while we talked about girl stuff.  We decided on the name together.  "Musings" was wandering around in my brain, so we all thought Miss Mollie's Musings was perfect name for a writer's blog.  I do muse a lot, too.
Sometimes, I amuse myself.  I hope to interest the reader with my postings.  I also want the discipline to write.   I have been pursuing  my dream to be a published writer for about 2 years, now, in earnest.  I started writing and illustrating stories in 3rd grade- the first one cleverly entitled "3 Dogs for Mollie"  Guess what I wanted for my birthday?  I finished a story last May.  I entered a contest for the Youngstown Vindicator this month.  Didn't win or place, but I had fun and I still think of Dave and Kelly.
I love words which is why it takes me so long to read a book.  I read each word and pay attention to the sentence.  But I'm also afraid as I have been out of school so long, I forget the grammar rules.  As I am a registered nurse for 32 years, if you count being a nurse's aid and nursing school, my writing suffered as charting must be concise and done in a hurry! Supervisors don't like overtime for flowery reports.  Yet, as we went to lap tops, with keyboard charting, my typing improved to the point where it is now hard to write long hand.  It is what I do every day. Writing on the computer helped with the spelling and grammar.
I enjoy telling stories, but writing is more difficult.  I want the stories of my ancestors to live on for my kids. The triumph of the human spirit with God's direction fascinates and inspires me.
I'm not sure which direction this blog will take me.  Life is a journey with joy in that journey.  I pray each day that I may have strength for the day and joy in the journey.  I hope you will join me in the journey of a middle age woman finding her dream.