Pardon the Interruption

I went missing last week.

On my new blog Meals on Three Burners and A Word or More, there were no posts. That happens some Sundays.

Sometimes I do not make the deadline I set for myself. It happens.

The deadline is for stories, a book and poetry collection. Standards are high. I completed several rounds of editing Sons of the Edisto Saturday night. Last week, I completed editing Fractured Snowflakes. Those are deadlines I wanted to complete in early July.

Everything about the magical, diverse world of talented authors differs from what time we write, how we structure our stories, face rejection and who is in our life to make writing more of a challenge or to encourage.

Whether you deal with rejection or face not meeting your daily, weekly or monthly goal, certain reasons in our lives help distract you whether you need it or not.

Phone Call

On Saturday, Mom called me on the way back from my grandmother’s house.

“Are you going to make spaghetti tonight?”

In a guilty voice, I said, “No, I have a deadline I to make tonight.”

That deadline was to complete Sons of the Edisto.

Most nights I am in the kitchen. My son runs around and crashes into walls. He throws a baseball, which I climbed into a stream and got for him, and his aim is too good for a three-year-old. Anyone in the way ducks, and when the coast is clear, we take the baseball away. Later, I forget where I hid it, and the baseball returns to haunt me the next night.

Making meals is not a need, but a part of sharing in family responsibilities within a family of six. It is passionate hobby to distract me from a rejection or the pressure I’ve placed on myself for a deadline.

Mommy, Mommy

A creature from outer space called boy runs around, and we hope we do not have to send him to military school. During the family prayer at a family reunion, he tries to yell out he is hungry. My husband covers his mouth, and my father-in-law gives him a stern look. He points his crooked finger.

Sometimes Charles plays great independently. I will work at my desk in his room while he plays. At other times, he is right under foot. He lines his cars along the stove top. We quickly move them before I turn anything on.

This boy is the center of attention. I surrender the keyboard, turn off the keyboard and spend time with him before too much time passes. God willing, years are ahead of me. I will write and edit, but I have one little son playing in his rain boots now.

Fix the Bookshelf

I received one rejection from an agent and two rejections from literary magazines earlier this week.  Rejections sting like a bee when you’re in the back of your dad’s truck. Not only do you get stung; you trip and fall off the truck bed. 

You find a way to deal with it.

Lucky for me, Charles had put too many heavy books on his Cars bookshelf on Friday when I did not have to work. I spent twenty minutes fixing it and rearranging books. Next I did laundry while he played with his trains. This time away from the computer gave my mind something on which to focus.

Too Much Time on the Road

Last Sunday, my husband, tired from working six days on the roof of a farmer’s market says, “Let’s go see waterfalls.” We left late in the day. Writing was not a possibility, and we ended up with a squealing toddler who wanted to go deeper into the water. We held our heads up over our plates at Denny’s.


Pictures of Water Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway, including Linville Falls







The author without make-up at 7 p.m. in front of the waterfall one day after carting her son across South Carolina. The next day we drive more than 300 miles through North Carolina. Crazy, yes.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

The next Meals on Three Burners will post Monday night!

Pens In, Guns Out

In fifth grade, my teacher selected my short story about a town in the middle of nowhere, Bamberg, South Carolina. I won an award for writing: the Lieutenant Governor’s Writing Award.

I chose the image of Mizpah Church in Bamberg County, and that story inspired my manuscript Sons of the Edisto. Two stories inspired by the book have been published in e-zines.

I am not a best-selling author. My achievements are small victories. But, Out with the Old, The Way Things Are and Sons of the Edisto began in an elementary school.

Every elementary school in S.C. selects one fifth grader for the award. According to EducationBug.org, S.C. has 626 elementary schools. You do the math.

All the students who have won the award received the opportunity to pick up a pencil and write.

Spokeswoman, Malala Yousafzai, gave a speech to the UN wearing former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s white shawl. She spoke for every child’s right to have an education. Photo courtesy of http://cnn.com

I forget how old I was when the shootings occurred at Columbine High School in 1999, but it was not the last of its kind. In Ohio, high school students lost their lives. Then in December 2012, twenty children lost their lives. The Newtown students were denied the right to pick up their pens again.

Growing up, my classmates and I learned of violence overseas where small boys were kidnapped to become soldiers or innocent children were killed in the Middle East.

Let us strip away opposing religious and political beliefs for one minute.

Consider first the joy of a child who smiles at you. He or she has completed a story. It will receive recognition from teachers, classmates, parents or from state or provincial officials.

Where can that happen?

Everywhere.

This time think of a violent person whose intent is to kill. He or she walks into a school. The perpetrator murders children with pens who will never write a story.

Where can this happen?

Anywhere.


Law enforcement guides students away from Newtown Elementary. Courtesy of http://theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com.

Malala Yousafzai was riding a bus to school when a Talib climbed on. He shot her and her friends.

Children rode to school in December 2012 looking forward to their Christmas break. Perhaps they were looking forward to giving their teacher a present. Perhaps they had given their parents a wish-list. Twenty children never came out.

On the same December morning, I played Hannakuh and Christmas music. I substitute taught for an elementary school teacher. First graders and second graders danced, sang and played instruments. When I arrived home, the news told me what happened to another group of elementary students.


Newtown students and staff are remembered. Courtesy of http://abcnews.go.com.

I live in a conservative state. Most of my family members hold conservative beliefs, including strong support for the second amendment. At the same time, three women in my family served the South Carolina school system. One dedicated her life teaching children to read and write.

When I ask myself what is more important: to own a gun or a child’s right to feel protected, the answer is common sense.

When I, as an author, remember where my journey began, I sat at a desk with a pen.

When I, as an educator, think of students: I believe in what Malala said to the UN.

“Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.”


Courtesy of http://freelanceadvisor.co.uk.

When anyone who lives in a Western country thinks school shootings or the murder of children is in place far away, Google your country’s headlines again.

Give a child a pen and paper. Teach him or her to read. You never know what the child will say.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Take on the Worlds: Dreamscape

You never went before.

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Or, maybe you did. Somewhere between the worlds of memories, dreams and what writers understand of reality is your story’s landscapes. You may write Sci-fi, paranormal or realistic fiction, but no tale begins without the sense of place.

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 An important topic in writing is: Do you know the world where your story takes place?

Perhaps you’re in a situation in which you know the world, but your character has no clue where he or she is.

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The old part of a bridge on the Catawba River.

Oblivion

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Tom Cruise stars in Oblivion. After a war with aliens, Earth is believed to be uninhabitable. Photo courtesy of http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/oblivion-2013-movie-review/.

Somewhere between dreams and what Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) suspects is not his true reality, Oblivion takes movie watchers on his journey to discover the truth.

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Courtesy of http://wallpapersfly.com. Jack dreams about a woman he meets on the Empire State building before the War with Aliens.

The movie was great! Unlike many modern movies, everything is not given away immediately. You are told a story, as in old movies. The audience, in an age of instant gratification, watches as Jack remembers a woman at the Empire State Building before Earth was devastated by aliens. The memory is filmed in black and white, and it becomes longer each time. While there is much to take away from Oblivion, one of the most important for writers is land, city and dreamscape.

You see New York City in Jack Harper’s dreams before the war. It is an undisturbed world both comforting and familiar until one day it changes. Sixty years after 2017, a lot of the Empire State building is buried in sand. Is it so far from reality?

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Wooded area once covered this landscape. Trees have been cut down and land cleared for a school. A forest I knew as a child is gone.

As seen in the above photo, the world you know can change any minute. It is an essential part of Sci-Fi. Jack Harper cannot remember everything about the world he knew before, but he knows his apartment in the clouds with a woman named “Vic” is not correct.

When you watch Oblivion, your writer eyes will sparkle because of the cinematography.  Jack rides on his futuristic motorcycle through sand past ships that were once at the bottom of the ocean. In the background giant triangular objects suck the oceans dry.

In another scene, Jack imagines the game played in a destroyed stadium. He is shaped by his surroundings – his passion to be a part of Earth before its destruction. He connects to the place, the audience connects to him and in a future time he yearns to be a part of the past.

Point?

Surroundings in stories tell readers or movie goers much about the character. The place is a character itself.

I recommend you watch Oblivion.

Mapping Your Dreamscape

The movie ends. You’re inspired. You need to draw. You need to write.

What do you do? In the case of Sons of the Edisto, most of my research came from a 1922 Sanborn Fire Insurance map. It shows which buildings were brick, had heating, electricity, plumbing and where gas stations were. I discovered a private African American school funded by Presbyterian U.S.A. While there is almost no mention of it in text today, the map introduced me to this school, which had electricity and heating for its students. I was able to find the number of students in a Presbyterian U.S.A document.

With the assistance of the map, I envisioned the street and building. I saw the students in my head. From there, I wondered what went through teachers and students’ heads. What were the requirements for the students to attend this school?

The Sanborn map, which is six pages long, gave me a solid start to how to build the Sons of the Edisto universe. While some writers must start without maps, none begin without inspiration. A map can only go so far. I had to build the rest of 1924 Bamburg: the swamps, Mizpah Church, an active Main Street, Aurelia Jean’s farm and a separate African American town.

Sci-fi world-building teaches us how and where to go.

Words and most Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson