Writing Out Loud


Even If the Light Should Fail

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While going through some storage tubs a few weeks ago, I once again came across the hard copies of all the newspaper articles I’d written during the last 10 years or so.  Each time one appeared in whatever newspaper I happened to be writing for, I removed the page it was on from the paper, folded it up, and added it to the pile. Over time, that resulted into quite a large stack that was not organized in any particular way. So I decided that it was time to do that.

The impetus for this grew when I acquired two new and unused scrapbook albums, which I realized would be perfect for this task, and so I started out. First, I spent several days going through each newspaper page and clipping each article out. In some instances, that was pretty easy, as the articles were all published in the same corner of a single page of the paper. It got a bit trickier with newspapers for which I wrote several articles some weeks, as many were divided among several pages, with some even appearing back-to-back! After organizing the clippings by year and date, I was ready to paste them into the albums. It didn’t take long before I realized that those two scrapbooks would not hold 10 years’ worth of work, so I commissioned a couple of spiral notebooks for the remainder of the task.

It took me nearly three weeks to complete this project, but I didn’t stop to consider its meaning until I was able to step away from it and consider it objectively. At no time during those 10 years did I ever appreciate the enormity of the body of work I’d created, both as a newspaper reporter and as a columnist. At no time did I ever notice how tall that stack of newspaper pages had grown; and not until I started clipping those articles out and pasting them into scrapbooks did it hit me how much of myself I’d invested in every single word I’d written.

Now that I am able to stand back and look at those albums, I can also appreciate what they represent: a chronicle of the time I spent doing all that writing, which, as any writer can attest to, involves so much more than simply putting words to paper or computer screen.

Before a single word ever begins its journey to wherever it will end up, it first does a little dance in the writer’s mind with a thought or an idea. Then sometimes, it takes a detour through the soul where it usually picks up small nuances of emotion before emerging as a heartfelt testimony. Even in the case of newswriting, where the author must remain objective, I have seen something of the writer if only in his or her style, how he or she strings the words together, or how he or she begins an account of whatever subject matter is at hand. No matter what type of writing it is, it bears the mark of the author, making each line produced unique in that no other writer would have handled the subject matter in exactly the same way.

Those four scrapbooks represent 10 years during which I spent a great deal of time living in the place where inspiration derives from. Yes, much of that work is also stored away somewhere on this computer or on a disk. But there is something so much more intimately meaningful in seeing it in tangible form, in allowing the newsprint to rub off onto my fingers, and announce its significance with a soft crackle as I open and close those albums.

For something of me is in them, between those pages, making its way even now along the narrow pathways that exist between each two lines or each two paragraphs. It touches each word gently as I go along, as though touching one of my children, saying to them “I thought you into being and dreamed you onto these pages, and so you shall live forever, even if the light should fail.”





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Trees...the sun and I...

For all who wonder what the purpose is of writing a book, I don’t have a ready answer, as the motivation is unique to each writer. A piece of writing can be the result of sudden inspiration, a message that absolutely must be shared, or a story that just won’t go away until it’s consigned to paper or word processing screen. Some writers become wildly successful, while others enjoy a modest sense of accomplishment. Then there are those who write simply because they have something to say that they think is important enough to share, and they don’t really care if they make a dime.

I’ve come to believe that what a person chooses to write about also says a lot about his or her reason for doing it. In my case, I write primarily about Nature. That takes the literary mantra “Write about what you know” to a whole new level, as I don’t just write about something I know a lot about but because it makes more sense to me than anything else does, especially now in these very troubled times, when NOTHING “out there” makes much sense. And when something makes that much sense and leaves no room for doubt, well, the words just flow.

That’s how it is with Nature and me: I get her and she gets me. And together, we make some pretty good music. In our world, there are no loud voices or disputes, and other than birds twittering, the wind blowing in the tops of pine trees, or the rustling of chipmunks chasing each other through the dry leaves, there is no sound at all. The benefit of that? I get to hear what my thoughts sound like, and what’s more, I hear whatever it is that Nature is trying to tell me. We have secrets, she and I, and from time to time, we share a few, and that is why I wrote this book.

It was time to let others in on it…




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Second Nature




Much has been written about how important reading is to the writing process. That might seem to some like putting the cart before the horse; but in the case of writing, it makes perfect sense. Of course, it’s entirely possible to read simply for the sake of reading, to soak up the narrative in search of the moment when the mystery is solved or the infidelity discovered. This type of reading does not take much into consideration beyond the story; and that’s fine, if one reads merely for pleasure.

For writers, however, reading is different in ways that can’t be adequately explained. Yes, writers also read for pleasure. But something else happens along the way that has nothing to do with the destination and everything to do with the journey there. Writers tend to notice things, usually unintentionally, that have to do with voice, style, sentence structure, and even the more mechanical aspects of a text such as punctuation and spelling. But what came first, the writer or the reader? And is it accurate to say that, for some, the seeds of the writing craft had already been planted and it just took the fertilizer in the form of thousands of written words to feed and nourish it?

I’m not sure how many writers would agree with this, but I have decided that writing, at least in its early formative stages, is more mimicry than anything else. A budding writer remembers what he or she has read in such a subliminal manner that it works its way into whatever he or she writes. This is a totally involuntary reflex, and yes, it comes from long years of reading that involve many different authors using a multitude of writing methods in the many different literary genres. To write poetry and write it well requires long years of reading poetry before an author finally finds his or her own mode. What started out as simply copying another’s style evolves eventually into a totally new one once the author finds the courage to speak in his or her own voice. The same goes for fiction or any other type of writing, for that matter. The first tentative baby steps involve imitating someone else, while the subsequent larger more assured strides are taken through new territory but that lead directly back into the writer’s own psyche.

In my own reading and writing life, I’ve noticed that it’s also possible to take that a step further. In my case, my love of nature impacts and transcends just about all that I do. Not a day, or even a few moments, go by when I’m not focused on some aspect of nature or not being distracted by something going on outside the realm of the human experience. And now, I find myself even looking for it in my reading, and when I find it, it’s almost a reason to celebrate. At such times, I say to myself…there it is, that reference, direct or subtle, to nature or to some aspect of her personality, or how she relates to our experience or to her influence on our perceptions of life and the world around us. I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t much writing, if any at all, other than the most technical sort, that doesn’t touch upon nature at some point or at least gives her a passing nod.

Right now, I’m reading Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis,” a long letter he penned, while serving a short prison sentence, to a friend and alleged lover in which he mentions nature many times. I would not have expected to find such references within those pages. But Wilde, as so many other classical writers, routinely inserts mentions of the natural world in the form of gardens, flowers, woodlands and birds, in nearly all their works, because they knew instinctively that there really is true division between us and nature, and that no matter what we think, where we go, or what we do, it somehow and in some way, has to do with nature.

It’s thus a serendipitous joy for someone with a great love of nature to come upon these references and allusions in her reading. I’ve gone beyond wondering now if it will happen to almost being sure that it will, which makes my travels through the writings of others all the more pleasurable.



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Nothing Else


Yesterday, I took a short drive to a place I’ve only just recently rediscovered and where I sat on a bench beneath a great old maple tree. During the late spring and summer, this tree’s leaves are a bright vibrant green. But at this time of year–late October–they’re intensely yellow almost to the point of glowing when touched by the sun. And yesterday was just such a sunny day, so that tree was literally on fire.

I looked up through its branches from where I was sitting and found there were no words…none at all…that could adequately describe how that felt…to look straight up through a startlingly intense tangle of leaf and bough that was, ironically, in its last throes before the next strong wind or storm decimates it for another year. But that’s the thing…for just another year, not forever, unless someone comes along to cut that tree down, thus ending its life for all time. But in the place where it stands, protected, well-cared-for, and revered, I doubt that will be happening any time soon.

When I first got there, I was alone. And the only sounds I could hear were the wind in those dazzling yellow leaves above me and the calls of birds. Every few seconds, the wind increased and a few more leaves fell from the tree, some doing a small pirouette as they descended, others simply floating on the breeze in a to-and-fro motion. At that point, I heard voices in the distance and noticed two women walking toward where I was sitting.

As they passed, they never stopped chattering, and that, of course, spoiled the silence and serenity for a few moments until they moved far enough away so I couldn’t hear them anymore. It occurred to me how vastly perceptions of certain places and experiences can and do vary. There I was, needing no other sound other than that of the wind and birds, while they walked along talking nonstop. While I can’t be absolutely sure, of course, I suspect that they missed the true wonder of that place, lost as it was in the sound of their own voices.

I hope that, at some point in their lives, they and others like them, DO take a moment now and then to be still and listen to what Nature has to say, because she’s got plenty to talk about in that wordless way of hers that I love so much. Trees communicate, too, and yesterday, that maple I sat beneath was singing for all the world to hear…something along the lines of…”Let your gaze linger on me and you’ll know there is nothing else you need…”



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Mica Ice


For the last few days, I’ve been watching the ice as it starts to build on the pond. At first, it was a thin shim of a coating along the shorelines. Then, almost overnight, it took up over half the surface, creating a clearly cut contrast between moving and still water. At this point in time, it assumes a quality that is not unlike the bits of mica I find on the ground when I’m out walking. And it’s not unreasonable to imagine, based on that, a vast piece of the stuff serving as a lid for the water still alive and restless beneath it. From a distance, it appears that the boundary created by the ice’s edge is arbitrary and fixed. But that’s not the case at all, as the open water continues to lap at that jagged edge, reshaping it as the air warms and cools, warms and cools.

In some spots, the shards of ice protrude upward like tiny icebergs, while elsewhere, they join horizontally to form a flat smooth metallic strip that resembles galvanized steel. This catches what sunlight there is and sends it off in all directions, glinting here and there from the rough-cut gems of undedicated ice shards that have not yet been shaped by sun’s heat or settled into a permanent form or pattern. This went on all day until night fell, dropping its curtain on this final act between me and the stage it was all playing out on.

The tension between the two forms that water takes on a pond mirrors that which exists inside the mind of anyone whose mission it is to take raw materials and shape them into something beautiful and lasting. As malleable as these raw materials are, nature always succeeds in achieving some sort of end, regardless of the fact that it, too, is subject to reinterpretation. Writing is a lot like that…taking one group of words that seems to have achieved a solidified state and putting them up against the lapping waves of those that don’t know quite yet just where they’re going or what form they will ultimately take.

The pond is once again liquid today, mirroring the point I am also at as I try to thaw an old story just enough to let it flow along with a new one.



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Just What the “Doctor” Ordered

Now that the final touches have been added to my new e-book covers, things seem to be picking up regarding visibility, hits, and interest. That is, after all, what it’s about, is it not? I’ve read of some authors spending their lives writing only to shove everything into a desk drawer, under a rug, or behind a secret wall panel, only to be discovered years later when said writer is no longer around to care. I’m not that humble or forward-thinking. Yes, I want to leave a legacy for my children and their children, etc. But I’d also like to feel some of the joy now of being recognized and appreciated, as well as the sense of accomplishment inherent to this process, while I am still able to.

When I started publishing back in April 2014, I did the best I could with what I had to work with as far as covers go. By the fifth book, I knew I had to do something about those covers, as they weren’t inspiring even to ME, and I wrote the darn things! One night, I happened to mention this to a Facebook friend, Shawn Poland, who is actually a friend of my daughter’s, and whom I have never actually met. He said, “Send me what you have, and I’ll see what I can do with it.” When I opened his next message and saw what he had done with my very first cover for “The Snowing,” I was hooked. And from that point on, we have been on a joyful collaboration that I hope is finally starting to produce results. I may have done all the writing, but if it weren’t for Shawn and his graphic abilities, I doubt that my books would ever have been noticed a first time, let alone twice.

So this is my tribute–and thanks–to him for his efforts, his creativity, and his willingness to help.

The Snowing Cover 4


The House Cover 3




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Blinded by Science (and Writing)

I admit it: science was one of my favorite subjects in school. And yes, I even liked dissecting dead animals. SMALL dead animals, you understand. Nothing bigger than a fish or a frog. I drew the line at a bird. Even then, I loved birds too much to want to see inside a dead one. Besides, my cat had shared that privilege with me himself on more than one occasion, so I needed no extra help in that department. That said, another aspect of science that I loved was biology, learning how things came to be, how they grew, evolved, developed. And once again, I can liken the craft of writing to a very basic biological function: cell division.

All writing starts with an idea or a small piece of genetic material, if you will. And slowly, over time, that idea starts to grow, with each bit of material dividing and subdividing again and again until the whole mass reaches a tangible identifiable form that comes to be known as A Story. Then, the process of accretion, as Isak Dinesen called it, begins, and the story starts pulling in what it needs to survive. Detail, background information, explication, narration, dialogue, reference materials, etc. etc. etc. And like those blob-like creatures sent here from outer space in those wonderfully sappy 1950’s sci-fi movies, The Story’s mass enlarges, continues to grow and move about inside the writer’s head and within his or her own experience, pulling in as much new material as it can which enables it to get even larger, until…until…
It hits the page or the screen with a loud SPLAT! And there, the writer’s job is to tame it, to bring it in line, trap it within some predefined boundaries that transform it into something that readers won’t run madly from.
I’ve nurtured several such creatures during the last few months, while another is growing and feeding as I write.
Photo Copyright 2014-Rachel Lovejoy

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