The Drive

I took familiar roads; the routes I once used to drive to Kings Mountain and Belmont, North Carolina. The drive averaged 30 to 45 minutes depending on which former textile town I was driving to. I turned on the radio and changed stations. In the age of iPods and iPads, I still have the unhealthy habit of changing radio stations.

Kenny Chesney, Guns ‘N Roses, Eric Church, Usher, Michael Jackson, Queen or almost any pop with a slight techno beat pump me up. I am the 26-year-old mom you see dancing like the white girl she is, because I still get nervous despite six years of experience interviewing people.

The time I spend in my car is when words don’t have to make sense. I don’t have to know them. I just need to shake out nervous energy.

On Wednesday morning—my third road trip for freelance work this week—my son woke up with vomit in his bed. My husband said he would stay home for the morning, and I’d return after my two scheduled interviews to go to the doctor with Charles. I turned the radio on loud.

Perfect music for a 16-year-old girl going through her first break up; an 18-year-old who realizes a one night stand is a one night stand; or a guy who is trying to change his ways played all over the radio Wednesday morning. I could not find anything with a beat. I looked up at the indigo blue and gray filled sky and wondered What was going on with the radio stations today? If I thought too much into those songs, I would go buy some whiskey, pour a shot, and throw the empty glass at a Justin Bieber poster.

A drive helps clear my head whether I’m taking Charles to the park, or on my way to cover something. Cars drive by me. I wonder what is going on in their lives. Possible characters emerge, or I become a rock star in my semi private area.

Where do you go to clear your head? What do you do to calm your nerves before or after writing?


Nominations and Gratitude

Sunrise hides the complexities of the coming day. It tempts me to leave the bed, turn on my laptop and type. Call me crazy. Early morning fires up my imagination. I could be a late night writer. But due to what I’ve come to expect in the coming day, I get up before the sun actually rises over pavement and blooming dogwood trees.

The baby laughs. While his oatmeal heats up in the microwave, I giggle and greet him in his room. An odiferous smell greets my nostrils. His stomach has plagued him. Needless to say, the day begins with a mess and several chores to clean up his messes.

After the baby starts playing and as my husband and I enjoy our Sunday morning, I smile at him. He returns a grin.

“You’ve been writing,” he said after he found me at my desk before the baby awoke.

“Yes,” I replied, “I’ve been working on my novel.”

“Good, I had hoped you were working on it.”

John knows the projects I juggle on my imaginary eight arms. Wonderful opportunities have opened windows in the past week as if to let in the fresh spring breeze. Charles, short-term work and my long-term nonfiction project take up space on the plate. Sons of the Edisto ends up becoming the carrots pushed off the side of the plate.

Believe me, I’m not complaining. I am so grateful that people believe in my work and the push for deadlines is on. It is better than staring at an empty screen with nothing to write. I am grateful for my husband’s faith in Sons of the Edisto; for people’s encouragement in all of my work; and to my primary client for his faith in my abilities.

I am also grateful that people read my blog. GJ Scobie nominated me for the Candle Lighter Award and One Lovely Blog Award. Please check out his wonderful blog and his poetry on .

Since I started the blog in January, I’ve learned so much through quality writing and photographs other bloggers produce. I have learned a new definition of community. I would like to nominate a few blogs that have inspired and encouraged me, and those who write awesome material.

There are many I want to recognize and thank simply publishing awesome content. I enjoy reading so many of you, and I try to keep up with everything as best as time allows. I am just now catching up with the complimentary recognition, which I’ve received. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to stop by A Word or More.

How Many Books and the Age of the Author

Words and Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Outside reveals magic. My 21-month-old had moments Tuesday when he acted like a pistol going off in its holster. With the weather warming earlier, I have taken him outside in the morning after my early work.

Some of the little flowers growing on the trees near the Catawba River.

The problem with South Carolina’s climate is the humidity. It feels like the sun beats on your back during the summer. But Charles and I have taken advantage of spring while it is still spring. A much-needed nature walk calms both our nerves.

Not as much is blooming on the Catawba River compared to the gardens and other parks we visit.

My mind often wonders when I am out. I thought about advice on an author’s website. Most of the information I had read before, but it did not hurt to brush up. She said a patient, expectant author might write fifteen novels before a single publication. If he or she does not, then the writer did not really want the publication that bad in the first place.

Writers also need experience, she wrote. I agree with the claim. Otherwise we have nothing to write about. However, she said most writers should reach middle age or older before they are published. It is a fact most published writers are older, but I had a small issue with the word should.

I questioned: Is being published young like a cat on a leash or a dog in a baby doll stroller?

I wanted a shot of the dog in the bright pink stroller too, but my camera died before I could take it.

I thought about young authors. I do not think it is impossible to acquire life experience in teen years and twenties—like me—to inspire something of quality. From college life to marriage at 22 and a separation at 24; living in England; falling in love with a co-worker 32-years older than me; becoming a mother; work as a journalist and with children gives me some experience at the age of 26. I’m not on the verge of a big break. Come on. I’m somewhat realistic. My point is to write something of quality is not impossible at a young age or at any age, no matter when you start writing.

Any writer, no matter when he or she started writing, has wings within to take off on a fantastic flight.

The other part of the author’s stance—about how many novels a writer composes before publication—crossed my mind as Charles and I walked. I wrote two full books; one in the eighth grade and the other in tenth. They dealt with the “warm-hearted” delights of friendship that were in reality false. (I was a very naïve teenager.)

I wrote six chapters in seventh grade about a girl who was diagnosed with cancer and played soccer for Clemson University. (This was before the life changing moment when I realized I was a South Carolina Gamecock.) Inspired by my mother’s 1970’s music and my interest in Fleetwood Mac, I wrote a book about a band formed in a garage.

I started another one with a fantasy world. I loved old maps and atlases. They looked artistic, and revealed unknown worlds. Someone reminded me the other week of one I’d forgotten. The summer before my second year at South Carolina, I began writing chapters about triplet brothers whose parents decide to divorce. Aside from the triplets’ part, divorce and how it changes families would become completely relatable to me.

My life as a writer began early. I mean early. Before I could write kind-of-early. Manuscripts fill half of my parents’ attic. Newspapers fill old boxes in my husband’s office. Magazines take up shelf space.

How many books must you read before seeking to become an author?

How old should you be to seek publication?

I can only say it is up to each writer to decide how much he or she wants to educate his or herself. You can prove cats do walk on leashes. You can prove dogs are pushed in strollers. You can show the world you are more than a goose standing in the middle of the road. You have wings, and you are not going to be pounded by the car speeding down the road unless you stay there.

See the Art in You

Words and Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Sometimes I need to retreat or go back to basics. Self-confidence fails at the keyboard. Words do not come or they are dry, plain and unimportant.

I go to my kitchen. Pull out a pan and chop up the vegetables, or I get the Crisco and butter. Some days I have to make a pie from scratch. My grandmother would say, “Why go through so much work? You can buy the shell from the store.” Sometimes I need to know I can rely on my own two hands.

In the late 1990s, a band called Jars of Clay released its self-entitled album. At least I think it was late ’90s. Maybe early 2000s. During the ancient days when many kids—like me—went to the store and bought CDs, I found an album I played to the point it scratched and skipped. The band’s song See the Art in Me was not released as a single.

“You plead to everyone see the art in me.”

The song tells about the relationship between an individual and God, but I think many writers feel this way in relation to their art. There are days when we feel like laying down the pen. We want to turn off the computer. We are connected globally on so many devices. Everything within us shuts down from the outside world until we—like the most stubborn computer—are ready to reboot.

We might look outside, whether it is online or literally outside, and see a beautiful piece. I have thought I can’t do better than that. Confidence fails me a second time.

On those days, I try not to over analyze what is wrong with my writing; did I do this; or did I forget to do that in a cover letter? The worries are like the caterpillars on the leaves. They can eat through the confidence.

Writing produces ups and downs, because the fact is a lot of great talent exists in the world. One of the blogs I enjoy so much, Rewriting Life, put up a post that has made me smile.

Whether we write to blog, for a job, creative publication or for ourselves; sometimes pressure builds up in ourselves. We know we have deadlines or commitments. We want time to clear our heads and let the story flow out on the page. That can be the greatest challenge.

And sometimes if we look below the surface, we’ll figure out a big idea and turn it into something. I urge you to just write. It does not matter if you have a deadline or you’re writing a scene in which you’re stumped, write it out. You never know what you might find.

The Writer Asks

Words and Photos By Rebecca T. Dickinson

I did not believe I had much of a story from my childhood and youth. Sure my mom said there were family stories I could write. She didn’t understand those stories, to me, were inside jokes. An aunt told me I needed to experience life and one day I’d be an author … maybe, when I hit forty. Not much inspiration of my personal life reflected on early pages; at least not what I consider good stuff.

I developed a habit at an early age to ask people, who I felt were approachable, questions about where they came from, their family, and what growing up was like. I asked these questions because the friends I made, most of the time, were not main stream. To most who knew me, I did not suit the main stream of having nails done or anything in teen fashion. Most of my friends had something different about them whether they moved from another state, country or were just different in an awesome way. Something about them captured my attention.

When I asked those questions, I gained a skill essential to my career as a history student, journalist and now as a freelance writer. I later found the significance in my personal life. Believe me, I dug up a treasure trove, but the ability to ask questions gave me something some writers can lack if they are not careful: curiosity.

Writers should have curiosity, but it is sometimes lost when we focus on the pressure – which we place on ourselves – from the publishing industry or someone else we want to impress instead of first typing something on the page.

My grandmother told me, like many others, “Write what you know.” I have a lot experience; been many places; and I have some stories. I did not want to write a novel with a character semi based on me.

In a creative writing class in 2005, my teacher invited an author. I do not remember her name or the title of her book. It was a historical fiction novel about a Soviet botanist who was later purged by Stalin. She said a Russian reader was hesitant and doubtful about the work she—the American author—had done. She had never visited Russia, but she did research on the same island where the botanist had performed his research. The author forever changed my perception of writing.

She said you can use what you know, but write about what interests you. I’ve also been told write what you fear.

When I started my senior research paper about Kate Salley Palmer, I interviewed her and a former South Carolina representative—a female—who opposed the women’s rights movement. I heard the pain in Kate’s voice as she told detailed memories from college; girls who committed botched abortions.

I knew I could write, but I was also interested in writing about others or stories influenced by others. Yes, I experienced it through the very pain in their voices on my recorders. I heard the confessions, the nervousness in talking to me, and the setting. Who would know better than the person telling the story?

What was my job?

First, a historian. Ask questions.

“Honest history answers our questions only by asking something of us in return.”
~Edward L. Ayers

As a news staff writer, I told other people’s stories. Like an actor on the stage, I ceased to be myself. I wandered in their heads, pulled at their most sacred thoughts related to the story, and used the information for print.

Sons of the Edisto meant I had to ask my father a lot of questions. I interviewed other people about growing up in the Great Depression down to in what and how people bought their sugar. I took in every detail, and of course, double checked it.

I think writers must ask questions. They must ask each other questions, because that is the only way we learn. Where do you find your stories? Why are they important to you?

Blogging Award Nomination

In 2008, my co-worker Krystal encouraged me to start a blog. With my basic knowledge of copyright concerning my creative work, I was hesitant. Despite being a part of the generation of new technology, I have been somewhat shy towards what is Right Now.

I am happy to have a blog where I share my knowledge of books, writing, creative work and even some of my photography. Thanks to those who read and continue to read. I enjoy your blogs so much!

The Liebster Blog Award

I received a nomination for the Liebster Blogging Award from Pete Denton.

Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, and the award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers who deserve some recognition and support to keep on blogging.

I’ve learned from Pete about the honor of this nomination. Liebster encourages us to continue to write great quality or shoot awesome photos as we grow in the blogging universe.


The rules are simply:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.

2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

4. Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favorite bloggers and keep it going!


I enjoy discovering new blogs, and there are so many I wish to honor just for being awesome. I nominate the following for the Liebster Awards:






Falling in Love with Books

Words and Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson

I hate plants. Perhaps I should x-out my opening sentence, and put something more appropriate. But, I do hate plants. I admire them from far away or I take pictures, but I have nothing to do with a garden.

Water nurtures the seed and soil. I know that much. Reading is the water to my writing. I feel without a strong reading life, I cannot possibly be a good writer.

A few months ago, a man interviewed me, and he asked me to audition by demonstrating my editing/ copyediting skills on his first chapter. The man worked as an engineer and understood technical writing. He said, “I haven’t read a book in twenty-five years. Don’t have time for it.”

Now he’d written a book. In his interview for a contract editor, he wanted someone well-read so he asked about the kind of books I had read.

After my audition as one of the finalists he had picked, I did not get the job. Okay, that’s cool. More opportunities have knocked on my window, but I never forgot what he said.

Books are like a great love story for me. It’s not just taking a book off my bookshelf and reading it. A story begins the moment I either look for a book, or a book enters my life.

About two months ago, my grandmother came to visit. My husband pulled some of his books out of storage. Between the two of us, we own a library and most of our books have to stay in storage for now. My grandmother looked at all the books that were once sold as paperbacks in a corner drugstore.

“Some people would look at you funny because you bought a cheap paperback,” my grandmother said and smiled. “They were considered dirty books, and now and then you just need a good dirty book.”

The paperbacks John pulled out were not pornographic. They had sold as paperbacks because they were not the classics. My books, like myself, do not share the age of my husband’s books. A good age difference exists between us, but it has not stopped us from looking at each other’s collections or swapping stories about where we found our favorites.

As for my grandmother, she felt she could not survive without books. I wrote about her relationship with literature in the post, In the Time of Hitler. My great-grandmother owned two “books” Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue and the Bible.

What is one of your favorite stories behind a book?