Take Control of Your Life! Write!

kp gresham

 

by K.P. Gresham

 

This pandemic thing is getting really old. (A quote from Captain Obvious, obviously) But we writers have one thing in our arsenal that others don’t. We can create a world where we want to be.

Lori Rader-Day

Lori  Rader-Day, National Sisters in Crime President and award-winning mystery author, spoke to our Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter last Sunday. Besides promoting her new book, The Lucky One (which is an incredible must-read psychological suspense mystery), she also talked about how the pandemic is influencing her writing.

Authors, in our stories we get to create whole worlds that we can completely control. Our characters must acquiesce to our every whim. The settings can be places we want to hang, RESTAURANTS we want to eat at, crowded parks where we can watch fireworks with friends and family, churches where we can go to worship. As Ray Bradbury said, “Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to get up for in the morning.”

This is a time where we can escape into our stories. Want to say something pithy in the real world? Act it out in your characters. Want to kill somebody? Do it on the page. (I can speak to this. It’s very cathartic.) The empowerment that comes by sitting down to the computer and writing just 250 words can produce those happy endorphins that’ll spark you right up. At least William Faulkner thought so. He said, “The right word in the right place at the right time can soothe, calm and heal.”

Full disclosure now. For the first two months of the pandemic I wrote absolutely nothing. Maybe I was too rattled, or just waiting for this pandemonium to pass, or in denial–bottom line I didn’t write one word.  Then I got mad. I wanted to scream at the TV. I wanted to rant on Facebook, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” After a few more weeks, I finally realized that this angst had to be released or I’d go crazy. And then I remembered how I had released that angst at different low points in my past.

Oh, yeah. That’s right. I wrote.

So I offer that you give it a try. Sit down, create the world that you CAN control and say what you have to say. As Walt Disney wrote, “That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”

Take control of your world! Write!

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K.P. Gresham authors the Pastor Matt Hayden mystery series. Her latest is MURDER ON THE THIRD TRY.

 

A Post That Wasn’t Supposed to Be Posted

I was writing a book review when Lark Rise to Candleford, a television series I had runnin in the backround as a helpful distraction, suddenly hijacked my topic and required me to begin again.

I hate it when that happens. I hate it especially now, because when I finish this post, it’s going to sound like a fourth-grade book report.

But, as many of us have learned over the past six months, sometimes we just do what we have to do. So here’s my report.

Lark Rise to Candleford, adapted from a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels by Flora Thompson, is set in the English countryside in the 1800s, and focuses on the lives of residents of the country hamlet of Lark Rise and the nearby town of Candleford. David and I watched it on PBS ten years ago. It’s sweet and sentimental, and we enjoyed it. The critic who called it “ham-fisted” can go jump in the lake.

The episode that caught my attention tonight begins at harvest time, when all the residents of Lark Rise take to the fields to help young farmer Al Arliss bring in the wheat crop. That’s all the residents. Women and children follow the men and gather the “leavings.” What they bring in will determine how much flour they’ll have for the rest of the year. Harvesting usually takes two weeks, but Al is determined to finish in twelve days–perhaps in ten. He pushes the others. By the end of the day, adults are exhausted.

But before it’s time to leave the fields, children are falling ill–with measles.

One Candleford child, postmaster Dorcas’ adopted son, has worked in the fields that day “for fun.” The next morning, when Dorcas realizes he’s sick, she closes the post office and quarantines with him in their house upstairs. She tells her employees to provide as many services as possible from the post office porch.

Teenaged Laura, the eldest of a large Lark Rise family, now a postal clerk in Candleford, assures Dorcas that measles is common in families. Mailman Thomas, who as a teenager lost several siblings to measles and reared the survivors after his parents died, agrees that it’s common but says some families are “very reduced” by it.

A journalist stopping by Lark Rise on his way to Cambridge tells Laura’s father, a stonemason who’s been in the fields with his wife and children, that there are measles in Oxford; he’s been covering the story for his newspaper. It’s newsworthy because for the first time, the city has set up contagion hospitals.

The disease is hitting harder this time, he says, because it’s past due. This isn’t just an outbreak. It’s an epidemic.

By the next day, every child in Lark Rise has measles.

But the wheat must be harvested. Every single person must work in the fields. For the next two weeks.

But children are seriously ill. Mothers can’t leave them.

Children die of measles.

But if the women don’t work in the fields, there will be no flour for the winter.

Children will die of starvation. So will adults.

The men of Lark Rise agree. It’s a problem. But there’s not a thing to do about it.

Except there is.

The journalist tells them, “Measles will not recognize the walls that separate you as neighbors.”

Do what they’ve done in Oxford: bring the children to one place so they can be cared for together. The Turrill home–Queenie Turrill, the community’s wise woman and healer, has been foster mother to children for over fifty years. Mothers of children with lighter cases go to the fields. Others stay as nurses. Thomas, who has spent years trying to forget the deaths of his loved ones, puts that sorrow aside and helps with  nursing–after all, he’s a committed Christian, and his wife has told him it’s the Christian thing to do.

And the shopkeepers of Candleford, many of whom look down on the poor, unsophisticated farmers of Lark Rise, show up en masse to work beside them and harvest the grain.

I watched that show ten years ago, and the only thing that stuck with me then was  the death of the farmer’s teenaged brother. It was sad. As usual, I cried. That was that.

Tonight I saw something entirely different. Every line of dialogue had new meaning.

Contagious disease. Past due. Epidemic. Life-threatening. No treatment. Voluntary isolation. Immediate action. Quarantine hospitals. Collapsing economy. No food for the winter. No money for rent. Essential workers. Essential services.

And people listening to reason, following the lead of the medical community in a major city, caring about one another, taking care of one another. Working together for the good of everyone. Loving their neighbors as they love themselves.

Sweet, sentimental, ham-fisted, I don’t care. It felt good to see a story about people facing terrible odds and doing the best they could. And doing it right.

It also felt bad.

End of book report. End of post.

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Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly. Her latest publication is the novella Stabbed, written with Manning Wolfe.