Telling A Boy’s Story

How quick they grow.

Feet push up. Hands grip the couch. Soon the cliché pitter-patter turns to bam-bam.

You realize how out of shape you are, or even if you’re a marathon parent, you cannot keep up with the little creature. When potty training, he unravels the toilet paper. Around the table, you’re family debates where to send him to preschool. You suck in a deep breath and pray for silent meditation.

My pilot prepares for takeoff.

You will do anything for him. Climb down the steep side of a stream and go over rocks to pick up two baseballs. Make a peach cake for his third birthday.

My 3-year-old and writing projects take center stage before I begin a busy schedule in the fall. In addition to working as a part-time teacher assistant, I have been accepted as a part-time student and will work as a Graduate Assistant at my university.

Charles goes on the blue truck at Myrtle Beach.

We know as writers an important choice must cost our characters something great, or else we do not have a story. Time with writing and Charles will lessen.

That is why I take every moment to throw rocks in the Catawba River with him. It is why I edit like an insane woman when he sleeps to complete Sons of the Edisto and the Elliot McSwean stories.

Time with him is how I have realized how much one boy has influenced me and my writing.

A truck I built in the sand for Charles.

When Charles looks at a group of children at the park, he will run in a game of chase just to run. Then he will walk around the boundaries of the park where the trees are. He inspects what lies behind the bushes. He finds a plant. He will step on it, or bend down to stroke the leaf. In him, I see a lot of Sons of the Edisto‘s primary character, Owen.

At seventeen, Owen fears becoming like his father. He rather explore the woods instead of join friends at the soda parlor in downtown Bamberg.

Then I see JD. Charles is getting better about running into walls or doors, but he inherited my sense of grace. When my father day dreams about him becoming a great baseball player, I shake my head and laugh. Maybe, but he has some of JD’s clumsiness in him.

If you read my blogs, you know most of my stories are about preteen or teenage boys and their relationships. Sons of the Edisto, Adventures of Elliot McSwean and I would not be the same without Charles. While he has influenced characteristics of Owen, JD and Elliot, he also reminds me of why I write about boys.

As a child, I was misunderstood by girls. I did not get them. Until fourteen, I did not wear make-up. What the birth of my son provided was peace combined with the understanding of complex relationships. I paid more attention to stories, MG and YA books, and realized there was not enough written for or about boys. There are many paranormal nineteen twenties YA books coming out now for teenage girls.

Thanks to Charles, I chose to focus on: realism and boyhood. It might begin looking in the stream for baseballs or building a truck in the sand.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson


Pave Your Road Using Less Words

Words have a power all their own
Words have a power all their own (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

I read advice about editing.

The Daily Post on WordPress presented a writing challenge to bloggers: Papa Says Get Economical. Ingredients you need:

  • Paragraph from a previous blog
  • Keyboard
  • Backspace key

Remember cut and let go.

The Daily Post encourages bloggers to edit a post and use less words. No matter how long you’ve been blogging, it is good thinking to get to the meat of your words.

I’ve been blogging for more than a year.  I have written good posts and posts that are not as strong. My goal is to write like yourself with improvements.

I think of my work as a road full of construction workers and vehicles. One week they’re finished, and the next week they need to bring out a cement truck.

Take the Daily Post’s advice to your creative work. What can you cut out? What must you leave in?

Based on authors who inspire me, I write more words sometimes, or leave out more than I should at other times. I am editing a Young Adult book, Sons of the Edisto; putting together a Middle Grades story collection, Adventures of Elliot McSwean; and a poetry collection, Fractured Snowflakes.  I must put words on the chopping block.

How many times do I find adverbs? How many times do I find snobbish words kids don’t know or care for?

A lot and a lot.

No matter what language we write, there are words meant to fit in puzzles we create.

Sometimes words say nothing:

Why does a woman

rip a strong man’s heart?

He gave her every moment,

Every secret that he could.

But she made him cold,

as hazy as the winter.

Now his heart is ice,

and its exterior is wool.

The above verses came from a poem in my collection called Allison’s Shadow. It is cliché. It makes me vomit. What does it mean to rip? What moments did he give her? It does not work. I will break apart my work.

Below are verses from the same poem, all of which I’ve rewritten:

Little rainbows children paint

reflect in little puddles,

but rain boots splash and jump

until there is no more water.

Mother chose another man while they were together.

Father shut the door and cried in my husband’s room.

My husband knew then

what Allison did to him.

Now I’ve rewritten the poem to tell a story.

Using a critical eye is not easy. For a writer, it is essential. You must become your own New York editor.

How do you do it?

Read a lot of books. Read Stephen King. Read blogs like The Daily Post.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

© 2007-2013 by Rebecca T. Dickinson. All rights reserved. No part of this  blog, Allison’s Shadow, manuscripts or related material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of R.T. Dickinson.

Poetry Collection Work Out

Poetry challenges my mind, heart and fingers.

It gives all the writing muscles a work out.

Growing up, I wrote poetry all the time, and I was accepted to the S.C. Governor’s School of the Arts primarily for my poetic writing. At age fifteen I was not able to formulate stories like I do now. My fiction teacher told me I wrote great beginnings and endings. An aunt advised me when I was 19 to live life before I became an author.

In a way, they were both write. I lived a lot, and I wrote about it through a poetry collection. I wrote the earliest poems in Fractured Snowflakes beginning in 2007. The manuscript grew up as a sibling to Sons of the Edisto. I have spent less time on Fractured Life, because the writing is tough and there were not enough poems.

  • Muscles

    I do not like writing about many personal situations I’ve experienced, yet they end up on the page. The words reveal more than I want. The poems work my mind for words and sentence structure.

     I tried to turn off the fiction side of my brain. When I look at poets Carl Sanburg and Josephine Dickinson, they tell stories in their poems. Likewise, Khaled Hosseini transforms fiction with prose poetry.

    “It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make ANYTHING all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.” ― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

    Since beginning Fractured Lives, I realized –without intending to – I wrote prose poetry. My lines were shorter than you think a prose poem would be, but poems like Bad Economics, A Blue Ridge Tale and The Tumor told the story of falling in love while married, pregnancy, a family turning its back and the economic struggle of a family.

     I have edited the manuscript on and off for one year. I’ve put poems in and taken poems out. I eliminated lines I thought were corny or too twenties’ angst. Then I realize my poetic muscles are flexing. They’ve been training, but I did not realize it.

    While I’ve met fiction authors and poets, I believe a poet can write fiction and a fiction author can write poetry. Carl Sandburg did. What makes a successful contemporary poem?

     Read your favorite authors and write even if it’s not what you want.

  • Endurance

     Good poetry requires time. It’s like a good whiskey. To me, you need to let the poems stay in a barrel . Go back with fresh eyes to look at them later. Writing a series of prose poems develops differently than a novel.

  1. Are they a series of slightly connected poems?
  2. Do they tell an ongoing story the way a book does?
  3. What story does it tell?

I could answer none of those questions when I began compiling the poems I thought were my best years ago. I wrote many poems about what I went through, but some were nothing more than bleeding on the page. That is not going to work for a literary press. So, I waited. When my eyes became more mature, I found the poems, which told stories.

Part of endurance is separating yourself from poetry because when it’s written with fresh, raw emotion, you must wait until the anger, sadness or happiness have quelled. Return with editor eyes.

  • The Results

    Do you expect six-pack abs after years of working out? Perhaps, but you know your body is different. Your physical and mental journey reveals your own story. When I work out, it gives me spiritual completion. At one time, I worked out to stay physically in shape and because I enjoyed being outside. Now it offers a spiritual completion.

    A series of poems works the same way. At first, you’re uncertain if you have connected poems within one poem. It grows larger, and you have what is called a chapbook.

    At first, I did not have enough poems to form a chapbook. On average, I write seven poems a year. From those seven, I like three of them. I chose not to stuff my collection with okay poems.

     Last year, it became too large for a chapbook and turned into a poetry collection. A poetry collection is a larger manuscript. It was nonfiction. It was an interpretation of everything that happened. The collection told a story.

     When I wrote the first poem Gray Jacket, it was nothing more than a love poem for my first husband when we dated. We wore gray jackets the day I left England to back pack around Europe. We joked on the phone about the similarities of our jackets, and I wrote the poem.

     You never know what will spark a poem or a collection which tells a larger story.

     Poems previously posted from the collection:

    By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Risk your Life to Write

Courtesy of

Imagine every piece you wrote was interpreted as sinful.

Picture yourself walking down a road to another house or place to make a phone call. In that phone call, you said your poem, story or essay line by line. You say each word in a hushed voice, because you’re always scared someone will catch you.

In the past week, my family sat and listened as I told them about the Afghan Women’s Writing Project and other groups like it. Mom responds with the usual:

“There’s nothing we can do but pray for the women in Afghanistan.”

“I’m not just talking about the suffering of women there,” I said. “I’m talking about people, writers, who are helping Afghan women writers get their voice to the world.”

In a world when sometimes the Muslim way of life is misunderstood or some men in some countries believe women deserve no voice, women writers are dying to be heard. If you read articles on the Afghan Women’s Writer Project, you will discover how much women in Afghanistan value their art. They will give everything for it so their voices are heard.

As an author, I hope to see my book published, but to have your writer’s voice heard takes a new meaning when it comes to Afghanistan women writers. I call them heroes.

For me, much credit goes to an author I cannot get enough of, Khaled Hosseini. Since reading The Kite Runner and now A Thousand Splendid Suns, I see the value of beautiful prose fiction. I have read more online about the treatment of women and children in Afghanistan.

I plan to purchase The Sky is a Nest of Swallows because the writing is done so well. You can read women’s poems on the Afghan Women’s Writer Project and see how these writers remain full of hope and optimism despite the challenges they face. Their writing is their voyage.

There is much I’ve yet to learn, but I plan to follow-up on Afghan Women’s Writer Project and Khaled Hosseini.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson