Writer Unboxed

Studying and Art

A writer’s life is made of millions of minute observations which we then try to successfully capture in words. Writers want (don’t we?) to infuse our sentences and paragraphs with the five senses to convey what’s going on around us. Not all five at the same time on every single page! But woven throughout the story, whether it’s flash fiction or an epic Sci-Fi, we use the senses to envelope the reader within our world.

Paintings and photographs invoke the sense of sight, gardening and cooking the senses of touch and taste and smell, while music and the wind and the wandering rivers or brooks or streams give us sound.

Let Us Feast

photo by Juan Ignacio Tapia from Unsplash

photo by Juan Ignacio Tapia from Unsplash

Writing a novel is a feast because an author wants to lay claim to and use all five physical senses in our story. We want to help readers crawl into our imagination, into a world they maybe have or have not ever dreamed or thought of, to take readers outside of the normal, routine life and live in the skin of another being.

There is of course, more to the world than the concrete, the physical, which we take in through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch.

There are the emotions evoked, the spirituality that gives meaning. These are sometimes hidden deep within the subtext of a story but in other stories may be very visible.

So, in lieu of writing on my story, at least at this moment, I am studying:

All is fodder, as Barbara O’Neal shares in her Writer Seeks Experiences column on Writer Unboxed.

We never know where the mysterious unconscious will lead us as we gather bits and bobs of lived experiences and attentiveness so that we may craft stories that will enthrall ourselves and our audiences.

House Projects

A week of vacation from work and it’s been rather intense on the home front.

I spent time at my sister’s new north Wisconsin lake cabin, a 3-hours drive one-way, to spend time together for two days. One day I picked up a couple of big walnut tree branches (we had a big wind the last week) and black walnuts while Mom finished working her church’s apple pie fundraiser (they made close to 1,000 in 3-days).

walnut branches.jpg

All those little black dots (some are still yellow-green) in the lawn and on the brick patio? Black walnuts. The black skins, which stain, are soft now and will peel off the hard-shelled walnut. One of my uncles, who’s retired, will take the time to remove the skin, crack the shells, and pick out the meat.

Then the past two days, my daughter and I have worked on house projects. Here’s the bathroom.


The first day she filled the wood grain (above), then yesterday we sanded and primed it white. Today we will paint the cabinets gray. I look forward to getting our bathroom and dining room (that’s where all the doors and drawers are) back in order.

bathroom cabinets-primed.jpg

And I pruned these two monster tomato plants. You can, perhaps, see that they have grown not only over my neighbor’s fence (for them to enjoy those sweet fruits!) but the nearest plant has also grown underneath the pink autumn joy sedum and into my lawn. The sedum has also been overtaken by my giant yellow pepper plant which I didn’t think I needed to cage. Good dirt around here!

Yesterday afternoon, we found out that our water system tested positive for e. coli. We bought a couple of gallons of water then will boil water for the next 5-days or until we’re given the all clear to drink water straight from the tap again.

This had happened where my church is a couple of weeks ago, upriver from us. It does make me wonder if there is something going on with the river water that is somehow affecting us. Something to research on when I have the time.

A Gentleman in Moscow

But in the midst of all this, I did have a chance to read A Gentleman in Moscow. Wonderful book. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing (though I occasionally tired of his tendency to write in triplets when describing) even though the story was a slow starter. I picked it up because Writer Unboxed’s facebook group used it as one of their studies of breakout novels.


I couldn’t get into the story before the book was due at the library and I had to put myself back on the waiting list a second time. I was not disappointed. For the ending, Towles ties together various bits of the Count’s life. It is character centered and, as a reviewer on Amazon wrote, I also wondered about the plot until we neared the end.

I’m also intrigued by the sympathetic portrayal of Josef Stalin. Perhaps that’s simply the Counts point of view? After all, he’s been under house arrest during the political purges and the war, so Stalin had no direct effect on the Count’s life.

Well…except for his confinement to the hotel. Count Alexander Rostov is a wonderful character and I fell in love with him. However, I’m also a Georgette Heyer fangirl too.

My Novel

And my own story? I feel very insecure about my plot again. So I’m using Janice Hardy’s points to summarize my protagonists’ goals and make sure there are no plot holes or logic holes or, heaven forbid, if I wasn’t tough enough on either of the women. Poor protagonists. Here we go…


Does the writing life feel like a wrestling match?  Trying and trying to get those words on paper in a way that tells the beautiful/gory/heartbreaking story that lives within your imagination, in the very fiber of your being? 

My title was inspired by last week's column at Writer Unboxed with Porter Anderson.  He wrote about the war for attention. http://writerunboxed.com/2017/05/19/an-arms-race-of-monetized-distraction/

But, whereas, Porter Anderson writes about macro-attention time-stealers, I'm more about micro-timestealers. Getting caught up in facebook. Pfaffing over the worksheets I create for my story. Hopping over to my blog stats too many times. I can just imagine how rodent-wheeling I'll be once I start querying. I'll be hitting the refresh button on my email site every stinking second!  

And it's so easy to not let my focus go astray. Just open the word document to my current spot I'm working on and I fall in love with my story all over again and dig into it. Bringing out its shine the best way I know how at this moment in time. 

But, getting back to the Writer Unboxed column. He quoted one of the presenters there who spoke about the commodification and the commercialization of monetized attention. 

I don't know about you but that phrase is spooky. 

Is that all we're about anymore? Money? And with money as the bottom line (and yes, writers need to earn money too) along comes its brother and sister: commodification and commercialization.  

Those last two words feel so cold because all relationships have been taken out of them. And that's my objection: when money becomes the bottom line for how to conduct ourselves. Especially if we subscribe to the paradigm of scarcity.

If I believe in scarcity, there's only so much to go around and I'm going to hoard what's mine for me and my people.  If there's enough left for you after I get my fill, fine and dandy. If not, well tough cookies. The problem is--if we're not awake to the effect of money and it's power over us, we become slaves of money, greedy, avaricious. An antithesis to human relationships. 

I could go off on so many tangents with this article from Writer Unboxed. I found it thought provoking and I'm caught up in the realities of the war for attention, just to get my story written, let alone hoping it will someday grab readers' attention and hold them, in a nanosecond twitter world.