Monday, October 4, 2021

Wake up, it's Fall, again - by Kathleen Cook

Fall always gets me going on my writing! After the lazy summer days when you're too hot to do anything but sit and read a book or stare at the tube, the cooler air invigorates the brain and gets the wheels turning. I like to anticipate Halloween and Thanksgiving, even though they're a ways off. Actually, this is a great time to anticipate them because smaller publications, with daily or weekly issues, need those stories now. If you have a special memory, write about it and send it out before it's too late. 

Fall also gets me to think of the loved ones I'll be seeing soon, either in person, through Zoom, or perhaps only in memory. I think of Cousin Ed, who somehow always manages to spill the gravy but tells the best Thanksgiving jokes. I ponder all the quirks and characteristics of my crazy tribe, who add an authentic flavor to my stories. 

Everyone has someone they know who is just a bit different. (Some of us have a LOT of "different," ahem, relatives and friends!) The people you know offer realism, familiarity, and humor to your stories. Many famous authors give the advice, "Write what you know." This is so true. The people and places, customs and eccentricities of your own home town, family, or ethnicity will provide you with a rich tapestry to add color to your work. 

Just because these things are familiar to you doesn't make them boring to others. Indeed, while our shared experiences provide common ground, each of us is unique in that shared heritage and so are our family members, colleagues, and friends. Things that may seem normal and dull to you are fresh and funny to others. Write about them! 

As I contemplate the rest of the year with a smile on my face, now that the sweat of summer has left my skin, I look forward to gathering around the table with all of my weird, crazy, silly, and embarrassing cohorts and loved ones. I look forward to hearing their memories, already indelibly affixed in my soul. Once again, I'll hear about the time my sister pulled an apple off the tree in the churchyard, bit into it, found a worm in her mouth and in a panic, screamed and spit it out just as the parish priest was turning the corner. Splat! 

I may mention again the time while I was growing up, when we had a washing machine on the back porch. Invariably, it always held a large laundry basket full of clothes, either clean or dirty. One night, the dog came running out of the porch, barking as he ran away. Mom ran into the back porch and, in the darkness, thought she saw a drunk man sitting on the floor. She started jumping up and down, flapping her arms and screaming like a maniac, "Get out! Get out!" I flipped on the light switch to find that the drunkard was really a huge pile of clothes, which must have fallen off the washing machine and onto the dog. 

After this story, another cousin may talk about the day we found that dog, with no tags and an injured paw. He'll wax poetic about the good times we shared with Chugalug, who got his name when someone spilled a beer and the dog rushed to lap it up as I, a ten-year-old who didn’t drink, nevertheless hurried to wipe it. Old times, but not forgotten. 

There are so many stories in each person's family. Don't be afraid to embarrass yourself, or them. Write about all the good and bad times, the high and low, funny and painful times, so that your memories, shared around the Thanksgiving table, will become someone else's memories, too. 

Kathleen Cook is a retired editor and the author of more than twenty books. A former copy writer/editor for Demand Studios, she also served as the Fictional Religion Editor for the ODP (Open Directory Project) in the late 90s. She is currently the Arizona Authors Association Editor as well as the new Secretary. Find out more about Kathleen HERE.

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