Time to Write Now By Julaina Kleist-Corwin

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Who Is The Storyteller In Your Family?

In my family, my  mother’s sister is the best storyteller. I haven’t seen Aunt Marian, who lives in Washington, for fifteen years until this week when she came for a visit. We all settled in to hear her tell and retell stories about all of us and experiences from her life. She is 91 years old and still keeps us leaning forward to hear what will come next.

Some of my favorites are about the FBI, Liberace, and graves.

The FBI recruited Marian and a couple of her friends in high school during World War II. After graduation, the girls left the small (1200 population) farming community in Wisconsin to share rooms in Washington DC. Their jobs were to message secret reports that were hand-delivered then (reminder, pre-computer days).

She came back home after two years with the FBI to marry the Navy man (Uncle E. J.) she met in DC. He had been  shot while on a PT boat. During his recovery, Marian and my mom worked as waitresses. Jobs were hard to find during the war. The first restaurant owner who hired them was “mean” but they weren’t intimated and asked for a raise after a few weeks of work. Then they were taken to the police station to make statements about one of the staff people who went missing. Marian told them they obviously weren’t guilty of anything because she had worked for the FBI and then she willingly offered help in finding him. They thanked her with assurances they could handle it.

The next restaurant (since their request for a raise was denied, they moved on) was the one where Liberace got his start as a performer. My uncle joined them as a member of the  server crew by then and the three of them often ate sandwiches and had chats with Liberace after serving hours were over.

Of course, she told cemetery stories too. Local vandals switched  headstones to other graves during a two week period. Our ancestors were buried there so Marian wanted to solve the mystery and catch the scoundrels, but my mom and uncle talked her out of it after one shivering night hiding in the cemetery waiting for the next “crime”.

Aunt Marian knows how to hook us (often with little laughs before she begins a funny story), she knows how to arc her stories, and how to lead us to the climax. She enjoys our Wow’s or laughter responses. At family gatherings, the rest of us don’t try to tell the yearns even the ones we remember because Marian is the designated storyteller.

Who is the storyteller in your family?  What kinds of stories do they tell? Do you spot the elements of good storytelling that make that person the best?

 

Julaina Kleist-Corwin

Captivate Audiences to Create Loyal Fans

Written Across the Genres

Hada’s Fog

Wired for Story: Lisa Cron

In my writing class, one member, Julie Royce (author of PILZ), suggested I use Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story as a “text” book. I did and we studied Cron’s take on writing for a couple months. Today, I found her TED Talk which I’m sharing here. I like to hear authors’ real voices.

Some highlights are “We think in story.”

“Story is a super power.”

We live vicariously in the stories we read, not to escape from life, but by the protagonist’s experience,  we learn how to navigate reality and  how to survive if we find ourselves in a similar situation. We don’t get “lost in a story”, we are in it, we are the protagonist.  All stories are a call to action. We feel the surge of empowerment when the story is over. “Never underestimate the power of story.”

Learn storytelling from a good writer, not only to improve our own writing, but for effective communication. People will listen to a point if we tell a story around it.

Thank you, Lisa Cron.

 

BTW, I’ve added to the story I’m telling about Hada. The next segment is in Hada’s Fog on the menu bar.  She’s on the plane from New Jersey to Berkeley, California and not happy about leaving home.

Fog 2 for Hada

A Story from Coming of Age Croneicles by Ann Winfred

Ann's House on the Monte

My friend, Ann Winfred in Texas writes poignant stories. Here is one I reblogged from her site:  http://comingofagecroneicles.com/house-on-the-monte/

House on the Monte by Ann Winfred

When my editor at the CACTUS SUN TIMES suggested I cover the demolition of the old Carson house, I jumped at the chance to escape the office. I called my friend Margaret to join me and grabbed a camera on my way out the door.

“Jake,” the boss called. “See if you can come up with an angle out there, something like Last House on the Monte Devoured by Aliens.” The boss loved talking in headlines, the more theatrical the better.

As we drove, history-buff Margaret provided me with background notes. “The Carson is the last of a breed of ranch houses built in this area in the early 1930’s. Joe Carson and his wife, Betsy, ran about 200 head of cattle on 800 acres, a relatively small spread, but the ranching business was booming back then and they did well. They occupied the house and worked the ranch well into the late 60’s.”

“I had a dust-up with that old house back when I was in high school,” I said. “Me and a couple of the guys went out there one night to celebrate a big football win. Going up on the porch, I tripped on one of the steps and damned-near broke my fool neck. Weird thing is we all heard a loud bang come from inside the house at the exact instant I fell. We hauled ass back to town to finish our partying.”

“Boys just being boys, huh, Jake?”

“Bunch of scaredy-cats, more like.”

Pewter skies and a seeping drizzle dampened any picnic-on-the-prairie fantasies Margaret and I might have entertained about the outing. Our sense of gloom deepened as we drove further into a ruined landscape of broken mesquite trees, mangled cactus plants and scorched prairie grass. The once vast, open land lay smothered under rows of houses packed together like fields of giant mushrooms.

The old Carson House finally came into view, floating on its tiny island of yesterday. Outside the yard, a Caterpillar bulldozer squatted on a flatbed truck surrounded by workmen, battered pickups, and mountains of equipment. I parked the car out of harm’s way at the far end of the caliche driveway, and we headed for the house.

“Mind that second step,” a voice shouted. Margaret and I stopped and looked around the porch and yard but saw no one.

“I’m sorry to startle you.” The voice was deep and raspy, like a rusty gate that hadn’t been opened in a long time. “Several years back some teenage hooligans came out here bent on mischief. When the first kid started up onto the porch, I pulled a board loose from that step and gave him a hearty thwack to his backside. Scared the bejeesus out of those boys, and I never had a lick of trouble after that.”

Margaret covered her laugh with her hand, and I pulled my jacket collar up over my neck. “Who – where are you?”

“I am right here, Mr. Avery. Welcome back. Please come on up. I trust you remember which step to avoid?”

Margaret’s laugh broke loose as she took my arm to guide her over the vigilante step. I busied myself taking pictures of the front of the house, the porch and the yard.

“Before my executioner over there on that flatbed truck carries out its commission, I would like to tell you a bit about myself. I am particularly proud of this porch Joe and I designed. It wraps fully around me to allow access from all of my rooms, a 360° panoramic view of the monte. Now, please step inside.”

The front door swung open with a creak, and we entered a spacious living room.

“What a magnificent room,” Margaret said. She ran her hand over polished wainscoting and petted the mesquite mantle over the fireplace. “Jake, come look at this workmanship. It’s exquisite.”

“Thank you,” the house said. “Joe was a crackerjack carpenter but depended on me for artistic imagination.”

I shot some close-ups of the mantle then zeroed in on the carved frames enclosing the eight-foot windows. That’s where I found the faded black and white photograph of a smiling young man and woman with two small children sitting on the front porch.

“That’s Joe and Betsy and me with the two kids taken the day they moved in. Would you mind putting it here on my mantle?”

I showed the picture to Margaret then did as the house asked.

“Thank you, now I can see it better.”

A burst of shouting came from outside as a workman drove the bulldozer off the truck. It crouched growling and belching gouts of black smoke at the far end of the yard.

The house raised its voice several decibels. “I’m afraid my firing squad grows restless.”

At the house’s suggestion, we toured the spacious kitchen then stepped out onto the back porch where I took pictures of a large yard of giant mesquite trees marked with orange spray paint X’s. A tire swing dangled from one of the condemned trees.

“I spent many comfortable years with Joe and Betsy Carson and their two children, save for the usual calamities of a broken arm or two, dislocated collarbone, droughts, floods, and teenage angst. After Joe passed away and Betsy moved into town, I stood empty for many years until an elderly woman came by, and I nudged my front door open for her. That was all the invitation she needed.”

The house had to shout to be heard above the cacophony of slamming truck doors, bellowing men, and whining machinery as more workers and equipment arrived. Margaret looked out the window. “Things are heating up out there, Jake. Maybe we ought to…”

The house spoke more urgently. “The old lady and I enjoyed two quiet decades taking care of each other and savoring the soft lights and changing colors on the monte. Sitting on my porch one evening at sunset, she passed away with a soft smile teasing her lips and the breeze gently ruffling her hair. I’ve missed her…”

A platoon of workmen fell into formation at the edge of the yard and advanced toward us, the bulldozer lumbering behind them.

“Jake,” Margaret said, “I think we should go – now.”

“Yes, I fear you must leave and do so quickly. Thank you for coming and listening to my senile meanderings.”

We started down the steps but turned back when the house spoke again.

“Look. The sun tore a hole in the clouds and uses its light to paint the tips of the grasses that soft yellow I love. The mesquites wave at me, and the breeze whispers in my eaves. Adiós mis amigos.”

Margaret gently touched the porch railing and looked up at the house. “Your story will be told, I promise,” she said.

We hurried down the driveway, dodging workmen, equipment and snarling machinery as the horde swarmed the house and yard. When the first bite was torn from the house’s side, it screamed once then fell silent.

Neither Margaret nor I spoke as we drove back to town through the weeping rain.

The boss wasn’t crazy about my headline, but he ran it anyway — “Old Carson House Dies with Dignity.”