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SO YOU'RE AN OLD WANNA-BE

Story ID:1726
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Butte Mt. USA
Year:2005
Person:A Writing Fool
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The following RX for writers article is an amazing third time around for The Institute of Children's Literature at http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/ws03/wannabe.shtml.


SO YOU'RE AN OLD WANNA-BE
by Kathe Campbell

Where was all this natural talent when I needed it? But for my husband's seat on the university faculty in our dark ages, I'd have bit literary dust. Poor old Professor Henry would turn over in her grave if she knew her 'D' wonder was romancing publications with zeal and abandon . . . all with some degree of success, for I flourish in my dotage.

The truth is, I was a late bloomer and any writing talent I enjoy came in my fifties - out of the blue. My folksy fodder spurs pure bliss from living on the edge and perceiving life through bold, and often quirky views. I've become a non-fiction short story writing fool and I like being a rebel. Nonetheless, when I'm moved, I can rope in enough pity and passion to leave you agonizing, but always ending with a smile. These trademarks just happen while I journal memories.

It's a feast or famine hobby, for I refuse to pay anyone to publish me and gratefully accept any pittance while contemplating the next yarn. I have a good memory, amazing energy and grit at 74, and when they stop publishing me, I'll hang up my story spurs and play scrabble. It pleasures me to sit in my den overlooking my little donkey herd, belting out my life with one old tired and crippled left hand. This essay stuff is like a burr 'neath my saddle. It keeps me alive and kicking.

At the risk of ignoring first class advice by my peers, I'll come clean. I'm defiant about rules (except my own), and what's worse - I don't read! I'll bet I haven't read an entire book since school days. I'll pass on what I've learned, what I've rebuffed, and how I've lassoed words into stories and journals for my kin.

We're all in leagues of our own, thank goodness. We must seek natural and distinct flairs that work for us. We must hone them and embrace uniqueness instead of feeling we should drop off an assembly line to qualify as a literary genius. Read the writers you admire most, unravel the breed of language they spin, and let them be your teachers. You can learn a great deal about their mechanism of writing, but the real picture lies in your understanding of the human heart. No school can teach you that. Only your own ears and eyes. Compliment your brand of writing style by your subject matter. Be passionate and exciting, but above all, be yourself and be interesting. I hope at least one of these kindles your soul. And, forget that great American novel right out of the shoot, for it means sitting before your keyboard sweating blood.

Talent or no talent, a wanna-be writer must be in love with words. Wrangling a herd of words into breathtaking imagery paints splendid mind pictures. Take care, for repeating one word too often defeats its purpose. Forget "very," "really," "quite," "extremely," and steer clear of "that" when you can. Clichés are taking the easy way out, and unneeded words litter. Short, smart lines balance well with more colorful sentences to make the mind take flight. So mix and match. Nothing irks an editor more than plowing through common, dreary language. As I outline my objectives, I begin with a hook, strategically position lines, narratives, and phrases to intrigue and anticipate, and end with pizzaz. Write for yourself first, take a grammar course on line, join a writer's group. Your hidden style will emerge as you cut, revise, and edit, for if it doesn't flow, it won't go.

How I made the most of writing is possibly a fluke. After the loss of my mom to wretched Alzheimer's in the early 80's, I sat at my typewriter to lend myself a dose of closure. This was my first serious effort at writing much of anything, lest a grocery list. The life and times of her disease was snapped up by our newspaper in three full Sunday "Big Sky Life" pages. A remarkable ode to literate excellence? No, just a candid and touching story about a mysterious disorder rarely discussed. The following week my daughter called to say that the Seattle Post Intelligencer had run the story under the Associated Press banner. Physicians and loving caretakers called and wrote from far and wide to applaud my incentive and daring. Then, the pièce de résistance, a national ladies magazine spilled the story over ten pages to the tune of a very nice check. Good Lord, had some Lit.101 osmosis finally penetrated my brain?

It seemed my literary prowess had been satisfied, for I wrote nothing again for ten years or better. A ghastly incident had taken my dominant right arm and I still struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. My son brought me a computer and patiently taught me the basics. Friends and family urged me to tell the world about the unusual accident, so again I sat before my keyboard for more closure. It worked. My humble story, all in CAPS, was published on several internet ezines, the beginning of fan mail and awards. What a fun rush!

But was I in the same league as my much envied Chicken Soupers? We've all been turned down time and again as we play the waiting game while they either love us, or leave us. Gratefully, Chicken Soup For The Soul has loved me six times now and I'm still 'writing' off into their beautiful sunsets.

Hammering out a piece of non-fiction still comes hard for me. I concede that study groups and courses may help my frailties, but sophisticated I'm not. So I outline, I begin, then begin again with a clever first line or two, and then edit the daylights out of my work. When the piece reads smooth and easy in my own mind, I'm happy. I often send my work off to writers I admire for their overview because I'm still insecure. Silly, I know, but invariably I'm told to mind my commas and tighten up here and there. Will I ever learn?

**************************
Born a city girl, Kathe still lives her mountain ranch dream amongst her beloved tame and wilderness creatures. She has one son and two daughters. Eleven grands and three greats round out the herd. Her Montana adventures create never-ending stories and essays for ezines, newspapers, magazines, and a variety of books. She insists that if wanna-be writers truly yearn to produce magic, it's possible with diligence, organization, and sacrifice. Because, freeing one's mind for a story at hand can only be successful if house and critter chores are done for the day. That's probably her strictest rule!