Posted in Travel, Travel Writing, Women traveling

Travel Back in Time

On vacation last month we traveled to visit friends in Wisconsin we had not seen in many years. As we followed the Wisconsin highway and turned onto a two-lane county road, then to the unpaved road into the forested overhang of our friend’s retreat home on Lake Michigan, we knew we were almost there. As it is with old friends, we fell into old habits of eating, drinking, story telling, reminiscing, filling our glasses again and catching up on the years in between. 

A TRIP DOWN ANOTHER MEMORY LANE

But I must interrupt our current good time to walk the dog, Murphy, who travelled with us. So he and I trekked back up the long driveway to our friend’s house and I was transported to the Scottish Highlands, particularly the Isle of Skye.

I had visited the isle decades ago, where eight other tourists and I missed the last ferry of the day for the mainland. We ended up spending a night at the inconvenience of locals who found lodging for each of us, couples, singles (like myself traveling alone), and singles traveling together.

We spent a riotous dinner together laughing about how we had become so entranced by the island that we simply forgot to catch the ferry. At least I was not alone. 

The road Murphy and I walked that day took me back in time to why I missed the ferry. In wandering the lush undergrowth that was so mysterious then, I decided–just knew in my bones–that elves had to exist on that island.

Did they call them pixies, sprites, fairies, leprechauns (no, that would be Irish)? 

I could not see them, but I just knew (without really knowing) they could see me. They were watching my every move. And here again in this forest near the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin I could feel their presence then and there again. 

I WONDERED 

Were they observing me from the turn of the underside of a fern? 

How small were they and how many were there? 

 

Did they sit and twitter with each other about how funny we look and sound? 

Could they leap from leaf to leaf to get a better view of us? 

 

And did they listen from the creases of a tree?

Could they hide in the center of a flower, seeing us without being seen?

TRAVELING BACK IN TIME

I will never know the answers, but I will remember that unexpected overnight stay on the Isle of Skye. And then how my time in Wisconsin took me back, just as our drive had taken us back in time to visit old friends. What joys!

A TRAVELER’S QUESTION

When you travel what kind of alertness do take with you to explore even the mundane? 

 

 

 

Posted in fiction, Historical Fiction, Travel, Women's Fiction

Debut Novel Coming Soon

Book Description: Song of Herself

Fiona Weston, an Iowa horsewoman in trousers, sails to India in 1906 to discover her journey is not the quest for which she had yearned, nor the escape from those who ridicule her unconventional ways.

Her uncle offers Fiona and her brother a chance for adventure, to sell the quarter horses to the British Indian army to breed with their Manipuri for polo. The San Francisco earthquake takes the life of her brother. Jacob, the shipping agent, hired to handle the horses, sale and quarantine, works alongside Fiona. Confined below deck to her quarters by the captain, the adventure of sailing evades her, but an attraction with Jacob smolders.

In India everything she encounters rubs against previous experiences. Her host and mentor, Ameera, introduces her to religions, castes, British Imperialism, and the ways of men and women. Fiona will choose between two men: the engaging shipping agent, and an intellectually intriguing missionary who needs a wife. More importantly, she will choose herself above all others.

In Song of Herself, Fiona experiences a journey fraught with obstacles that creates a sturdy sense of self in which she learns to accept irreconcilable differences and still sing her song of self.   

Pre-Order Info Coming Soon

Posted in Craft of writing, Editing & Revision, fiction, Revision, Writing exercises

Three Elements for Power-packed First Sentences

INTRODUCTION: Writers continue to learn the craft no matter where they are in their writing development. Recently, I read in the January 2022 issue of The Writer magazine an article by Alison Acheson, “In The Beginning: Three elements that create a strong opening sentence,” pages 26-29. First sentences draw the reader in and give them a sense of character, setting, and emotion. They carry a lot of weight to gain your readers interest and trust in your writing. The author suggests that there are three elements to carry that responsibility of reeling in the reader. Here is my take on reading her article. I hope you will reader her article.

Three Elements in First Sentences

CHARACTER: Readers want to have a sense of the main character(s). We may not know their names, but we know something about them that will show up again or throughout the novel.

SETTING: The first sentence will offer a sense of place, maybe a location, time in history, or an event.

EMOTION: This may be indirect or implied by the setting or action or event. We likely won’t be told in the first sentence what the emotion is, but the writer will hint at it. We will get a sense of it.

EXAMPLE

I’ll offer an example from Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms. I’ll give you the first sentence then I’ll dissect it to learn what Hemingway accomplished in using those three elements. Your take on it maybe somewhat different than mine, but that’s okay.

HEMINGWAY in Farewell to Arms. “In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountain.”

CHARACTER: The word, “we,” implies two or more people. The rest of the sentence tells us that they live together in a house. My assumption before reading the book would be that it is a couple, which it is.

SETTING: “In the late summer of that year,” tells me it is about a point in time that we will learn more about later. But it happens in a season that is waning, which gives me the feeling that something is in decline, about to hibernate, or die.

The phrase, “a house in a village,” makes me think of a remote location, perhaps isolated.

The prepositional phrase, “across the river and plain,” again gives me the feeling of being in a valley far from the big picture, or where the action occurs.

Finally, the last expression, “to the mountain,” tells me they are looking to what is or might be happening on that mountain. Or perhaps it is just a goal, a wish, or even an illusion.

EMOTION: The setting has carried a lot of metaphorical and emotional weight of distance, foreboding, remoteness. A moment in time that might entail a connection, an affair, an event that does not bode well.

Summary

As you can see, Hemingway’s sentence deftly implies a decision by his main character’s to give up his arms to fight in World War I. The relationship between he and his lover is waning because they are looking at what they need and want, which is not each other.

What’s next in the coming weeks?

Look next week for another example taken from a narrative nonfiction classic. The next week another one from a short story; and finally the last week the example from my own novel, Song of Herself, to be published next year (soon I hope).

What about you?

Does this help you think about the first sentence in your story, novel or narrative nonfiction? Examine your first sentence and tell us what you find.

Posted in Craft of writing, Editing & Revision, First Sentences, Memoir writing

Three Elements to Create a Strong Opening Sentence

INTRODUCTION: Writers continue to learn the craft no matter where they are in their writing development. Recently, I read in the January 2022 issue of The Writer magazine an article by Alison Acheson, “In The Beginning: Three elements that create a strong opening sentence,” pages 26-29. Opening sentences have a lot of weight to carry. The author suggests that there are three elements to carry that responsibility of reeling in the reader. Here is my take on reading her article.

Three Elements in First Sentences

CHARACTER: Readers want to have a sense of the main character(s). We may not know their names, but we know something about them that will show up again or throughout the novel.

SETTING: The first sentence will offer a sense of place, maybe a location, time in history, or an event.

EMOTION: This may be indirect or implied by the setting or action or event. We likely won’t be told in the first sentence what the emotion is, but the writer will hint at it. We will get a sense of it.

EXAMPLE

After last week’s example take from fiction, this week I offer a nonfiction example from Frank McCourt’s memoir, Angela’s Ashes . I’ll give you the first sentence then I’ll dissect it to learn what McCourt accomplished in using these three elements. Your take on it may be somewhat different than mine, but that’s okay.

McCourt’s first sentence in Angela’s Ashes, “My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born.”

CHARACTER: The reference to the writer’s father and mother suggests they who set the action in motion. Even if we don’t know if the mother and father will be key actors throughout the memoir, we do know that they made a decision that impacted the antagonist, Frank McCourt’s life.

SETTING: The phrase, “… should have stayed in New York,” implies they are all on a journey to some place else. They have left a thriving city where previously good things had happened – the couple met, married, and gave birth to Frank.

EMOTION: The setting, like Hemingway’s, carries a lot of metaphorical and emotional weight. In this case, it provides a hint of regret, remorse, or longing for what is left behind.

Summary

As you can see, the relationship between him and his parents implies that McCourt is young and therefore reliant on his parents at this point in time. His first sentence deftly implies a decision by parents that will come to influence or impact McCourt gravely. What we do not know is that Angela is his mother, nor that her ashes are the cigarette ashes of despair.

As writers, when we can weave or at least hint at the three elements, character, place, and emotion in the first sentence of a story, whether fiction or nonfiction, we have successfully sent a message to readers they are in capable hands.

Next week, I’ll take the first sentence from a fiction short story writer. Join me in this series of investigations on first sentences that convey character, setting, and emotion in some significant way.