I met my writing teacher Sharon Harrigan at Cville Coffee last Wednesday morning. The temperature had crept above freezing, but there was still plenty of snow piled up and ice patches. We carried our cups of coffee to a corner table. Then Sharon walked me through her feedback on my manuscript. I had also received feedback from my writing buddy, WriterHouse Program Manager and Instructor Lisa Ellison.
Feedback at this level means craft rather than copy edits. In this draft, I had focused on three elements: restructuring to smooth out the chronology of the narrative braid—two pasts framed by the present day story; establishing a clear narrative arc; and pulling threads through the narrative. As Anton Chekhov wrote, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” I also asked for feedback on pacing: cutting, speeding up or lingering on sensory detail, and adding scenes.
The best way to learn storytelling is by doing, and the second is by example. Last Monday night, the women at church began a new Beth Moore series called Entrusted: A Study of 2 Timothy. Beth Moore is a dynamic storyteller. Sometimes I’d prefer less drama and more substance, but if you can get passed her, “You know what I mean, girlfriend, girlfriend?” and Texas-style hair, makeup, and clothing, the studies are worth the price of admission. “Walking with a whole new level of effectiveness takes faith,” she said last Monday.
Quilting for Lutheran World Relief also began at church this past Saturday—see this previous post. Thursday and Friday’s warmer temperatures had dropped to near freezing again, and there was rain and fog. I joined a quilting team for about two hours of pinning and stitching ties then ran some errands and headed home to write. Stay on God’s Re-Vision path, I said to myself.
Exiting I-64 at mile marker 99, Afton Mountain, I noticed the subtle glimmer of fog ice coating the trees at upper elevations. It was just that moment in time and place, perfect conditions, which hadn’t existed that morning and would not last much longer. A half-mile down route 250 East, the Rockfish Valley scenic pullout, the fog ice was gone.
The temperature this morning was in the mid-30s with light rain and fog. Upstairs in the loft, the coffee maker beeped “ready” five times, not quite like Chekhov’s rifle shots but close enough, and the house smelled like Cville Coffee. I wrote in my journal, reviewed for tonight’s Beth Moore study then placed Sharon and Lisa’s comments side-by-side and tackled my manuscript.