Recommended reading (and listening)
A river of words

Harvesting stories

Flowers and hills  Corrary Farm

From Words Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin:

"Gary Snyder gave us the image of experience as compost. Compost is stuff, junk, garbage, anything, that's turned to dirt by sitting around a while. It involves silence, darkness, time, and patience. From compost, whole gardens grow.

"It can be useful to think of writing as gardening. You plant the seeds, but each plant will take its own way and shape. The gardener's in control, yes; but plants are living, willful things. Every story has to find its own way to the light. Your great tool as a gardener is your imagination.

Corrary Farm

"Young writers often think -- are taught to think -- that a story starts with a message. That is not my experience. What's important when you start is simply this: you have a story you want to tell. A seedling that wants to grow. Something in your inner experience is forcing itself towards the light. Attentively and carefully and patiently, you can encourage that, let it happen. Don't force it; trust it. Watch it, water it, let it grow.

Polytunnels  Corrary Farm

Organic vegetables

"As you write a story, if you can let it become itself, tell itself fully and truly, you may discover what its really about, what it says, why you wanted to tell it. It may be a surprise to you. You may have thought you planted a dahlia, and look what came up, an eggplant! Fiction is not information transmission; it is not message-sending. The writing of fiction is endlessly surprising to the writer.

Corrary Farm  turf-roofed office

"Like a poem, a story says what it has to say it the only way it can be said, and that is the exact words of the story itself. Why is why the words are so important, why it takes so long to learn how to get the words right. Why you need silence, darkness, time, patience, and a real solid knowledge of English vocabulary and grammar.

"Truthful imagining from experience is recognizable, shared by its readers."

Howard in the yurt cafe  Corrary Farm

Welcoming committee

Words: The passage above is from "Making Up Stories," published in Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life & Books by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer Press, 2016). The poem in the picture captions is from Circles on the Water by Marge Piercy (Knopf, 1988). All rights reserved by the authors.

Pictures: Corray Farm on Scotland's west coast, near Glenelg, photographed on our trip north in June: polytunnels, turf-roofed office, Howard reading in the yurt cafe, and the four-footed welcoming committee.

Comments

(((Terri))) you bring hope for our beautiful broken world on this International Day for Peace!

Sending love to you and yours, Mo, on the other side of the world. The world is indeed breaking and broken; all we can do is hold it together as best we can, in our many different ways.

Stories stitch us together, I think of them as mental mending.

Finding Its Way to the Light

"Every story has to find its
own way to the light."--
Ursula K. Le Guin

Even this small green poem,
worming its way to the surface
has its DNA carved into the seed.

Even these tendrils of thought,
green at the core,
are there from the beginning.

Do not think a poem arrives
unbidden. It is a living thing,
pushing through the dark.

Unwary, unweary, moving forward
towards the light.
Always towards the light.


©2017 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Thank you Terri for yet another thought provoking blog -- and I love the photos.


V.

"You may have thought you planted
a dahlia, and look what came up,
an eggplant! "--Gary Snyder

This endless swing,
This odd elipse.

what you think v.
what you do.

What you say v.
What you mean.

What you plant v.
what you reap.



Those brood parasites, cowbirds
lay their eggs in other nests.

Enjoy the poem.
It started with a dahlia.

Now it's an eggplant.
Shut up and enjoy the feast.

©2017 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Hi Jane

What is amazing about this poem is not only the wonderful extended metaphor of the poem inching its way out of the soil toward the light like a seedling but also the rhythm. The wording pattern always the reader to actually sense or feel the poem moving, sprouting into "Tendrils of direction" and determined to bloom, to reach the light.

Do not think a poem arrives
unbidden. It is a living thing,
pushing through the dark.

Unwary, unweary, moving forward
towards the light.
Always towards the light.

Also the play on words, the homonymous use of "unwary" and "unweary" is wonderful. And how true, the poem is persistent and moves ahead even when the writer isn't quite ready for it. I have had poems start and haunt me until I finish them -- often driving me crazy. But again, they demand a right of birth and recognition.

Beautifully Done!
Thank you
Wendy

Hi Jane

What I really like about this poem and its statement on the process of a poem becoming a poem is the unpredictability. Words are organic and evolve into a species with their own will. What we often plant is not what we reap in the imagination's garden.


Enjoy the poem.
It started with a dahlia.

Now it's an eggplant.
Shut up and enjoy the feast

And what a great ending with great advice!
thank you!
Wendy

As ever, your words of admiration, especially on a day parched with rejections, make me smile. Make me remember why I do this.

Jane

For me perhaps, it is harvesting the tinder that ignites into a story. Relics, scraps, tokens or whatever you want to call things gathered and taken to mind & heart from a particular place or experience. Whether it is a stone, feather, wood splinter, grass blade/pine needle, thistle silk or shell fragment , each item holds a story by whomever touched it, shed it or changed it in some way through elemental conditions. In return, when gathered, viewed and reflected upon, they become part of a greater story or poem. a sundry of details ignited by the imagination. And perhaps, what guides the process is the light of moon or sun, dream or meditation that draws out what hibernates in the corners and shadows of our mind, our memory. The process of creating a story is a source of practical magic.

Tinder

The moon slips through my window;.
her scalp shimmering with age
as she tells me what to gather:

splinters from a gate
leading into a garden
of dark pines and withered flowers,

feathers from the lark
who once sang there & alarmed
restful lovers.

flint from chipped stones
tumbling down a wall
a man has breached to hunt the forest

and grass from the field
where a fox awakens ( not herself)
but curled within the hip-
length hair of a woman.

What shade? I ask
and look toward my red
cedar chest -- inhaling the heirloom
scent of its wood.

The crone nods, hooded
by the corner's darkness,
and then mentions how to prepare
the bedding "Carefully, she says,

collect the scraps
and place them in a bag
cut from raw cotton,

tuck it under the mattress
and let sleep kindle a dream.

One sequence flaring
into another."

The next day, she promises,
I will rise with a story. In love
with its plot and characters.

My throat dry
from whispering their names
and deeds.
______________________________________
©2017 Wendy Howe all rights reserved

Such beautiful, inspiring sharings in the post and the comments. What a beloved community of healers. This piece reminds me of the short video you recommended, Terri, George Saunders' thoughts on story (https://aeon.co/videos/a-story-is-like-a-black-box-you-put-the-reader-in-there-george-saunders-on-storytelling). That's it exactly!

I'm writing a new draft of a ms now that I know what's going on inside my characters. This strikes me as so spot on: "As you write a story, if you can let it become itself, tell itself fully and truly, you may discover what its really about, what it says, why you wanted to tell it. It may be a surprise to you. You may have thought you planted a dahlia, and look what came up, an eggplant! Fiction is not information transmission; it is not message-sending. The writing of fiction is endlessly surprising to the writer." I definitely wound up with surprising bloom!

This is as much a story as a poem Wendy. I see it as a prologue to a novel. A novel I hope you write. Even a novella. I would read it with great interest. I love this so much, I want more--about the writer and how she sees the world, about the moon-muse, that old woman with her scalp shimmering with age. Their interactions, iterations, their story.

xxxjane

Hi Jane

Thank you so much for reading and suggesting what this could be. Often, I think a larger idea evolves out of a smaller one, such as prologue or a fragment or glimpse into a wider experience and situation. And yes, it would be fun and interesting to develop the characters and see where they lead me. With writing, there is always that unpredictable factor of the words taking you where they want to take you. The process, I think, is organic.

Again thank you!!
always appreciate hearing you take on my work!

Take care
Wendy

Hi Terri

I agree with Mo Crow, your blogs always inspire and help to heal with their depth of wisdom, beauty and revelations about nature, life and the human experience, especially when it comes to the relevance and power of art ( in all of its forms).

Thank you,
Wendy

I am here, because you have taken time to assemble some of the words we will remember because Ursula Le Guin lived, and she wrote. And she lives because her words do. I am so grateful.

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