Writer Needs: An Island, a Tower, and a Cat
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Um, bleed, Mr. Hemingway? Those are not words that inspire the creative spirit. Granted, we all aren’t penning Nobel Prize worthy fiction, but there must be something the aspiring writer or dedicated reader can take away from the life of this literary icon, aside from the need to give up a pint or two of our life’s blood!
When I think of Hemingway, it takes me to a tropical island which is deeply entwined with my own family’s experience. Instead of bleeding onto the page, let’s take a little jaunt over to Cuba, climb up a tower, and hang out with some cats, why don’t we? Here’s an inspiration from Hemingway’s tropical lifestyle for those of us who write…and those who don’t!
Find your island. Lovingly known as ‘Papa’ to the Cuban people, Hemingway moved to the island in 1940 and stayed there for twenty years. My father and mother both shared the same island home. Dad’s father, born in Guantanamo, moved the family from Central Ermita to Matahambre to Santa Lucia as his work shifted from the sugar mills to the copper mine. Like Hemingway, my parents basked in the exceptional warmth of the Cuban people, the beauty of a Caribbean paradise. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect locale for a writer to pen that magnum opus?
But nothing is perfect is it? Suddenly there was Castro and the beautiful things were stripped away until all that was left for my father’s family was the contents of their suitcases as they fled the revolution, my mother’s side having escaped a bit earlier. Hemingway left his island home too, never to return, dying by his own hand in Idaho a year later.
So what if that idyllic writing locale is not to be? What if our lives deviate from that wonderful dream we created for ourselves? Then we must find a more mundane place for our stories, to start on another path that God provides. For my parents, it led them to the golden California sunshine. This noisy suburbia is home for me too, no sand, no surf, just traffic and leaf blowers, but the words get written just the same. No island, no shiny tropical mornings, but I see the same sun and I hear the chorus of the birds though we are hours from the nearest shore.. Life is a series of adjustments, after all.
What adjustments have you made along the way, friends? If you’d like to hear more about me and mine, I’d be happy to have you subscribe to my newsletter at danamentink.com. God bless!
Kathleen J. Robison
Swirling Skirts and Wild Boots
March was Women’s History Month, and I discovered that it was declared such in 1911, and Congress made it official in 1981. When such a month is celebrated, we immediately think of the rich and famous…well, maybe not rich, but definitely the famous. I’m reminded of the women who influenced my life, and none are famous in the world’s eyes. I wasn’t inspired by inventors, explorers, entertainers, or women in politics. Not that anything is wrong in that, but my inspiration came from my mother, family members, and godly friends.
That’s why I love the women in my books! They are inspired by people I know. In Restored Grace, Book Two of the Bay Town Series, Carol Scape becomes an inspiration to Bay Town, but she didn’t start that way. In Book One, Shattered Guilt, I introduce her as a minor character. Although her loud personality is not so minor, my critique group loved her so much that I authored Book Two all about her. She’s a worldly woman, who’s lived a wild life, but now lives for God, by serving others.
When I write my characters, I almost always have someone in mind. A friend, a family member, an acquaintance. I start with that person’s character traits, but eventually, they take on their own unique personality. Carol, for instance, was someone I saw at Los Angeles International Airport while I was saying a teary goodbye to my son and his family as they left for the mission field in Japan.
I couldn’t help but notice an attractive older woman. A hippie type. I loved her long flowing red hair and brightly patterned swirling skirt. But what caught my eye was a colorfully, wild, tooled pair of cowboy boots. They were strapped to her suitcase, but she wore an orthopedic boot on one foot and a Birkenstock sandal on the other. My imagination went wild! And I wasn’t even a writer then. That was ten years ago, and now Carol Scape is born. The heroine of Restored Grace.
Her personality flowed from the woman’s appearance at the airport, but it developed from the women I’d known. Hurting women whose flaws led them to make poor decisions contrasted with the strength of women in similar situations who put their trust in Christ. Carol is both. Broken, transformed, and redeemed through the blood of Christ.
Not all women have such drastic transformations, yet those with a gentle and quiet spirit and faithful lives have profoundly impacted my life. Those who you’ll never read about except if I blog about them in my devotions. In their own quiet, uneventful, lives, I have been inspired and encouraged.
My husband’s ninety-six-year-old aunt was one such woman. She passed just last month and was the last, except for his ninety-six-year-old mother of that generation. Aunt Rose was unique in many ways. She served in the military and was the only female at many of her Veteran Hospital events over the last couple of years! She was also one of the first computer techs in her city back in the sixties. But I came into the family and met her as the quiet, wise mother of my husband’s cousin. And later as the Great Aunt (to our children) who hosted Easter egg hunts, was the president of the garden club, and took me on long walks imparting her wisdom about the wildly cultivated plants on her property.
With Easter consuming my thoughts and heart throughout the spring, I’ve never celebrated Women’s History Month, and yet now I’ll always think of Aunt Rose in the Spring. At Easter as well, primarily because of the fun Easter egg hunts she held. But along with her, I’ll remember my mother, and other deceased family members, and those still living — my sisters and friends. They may not wear swirling skirts or wild boots, and they may not be famous, but God has used them to help shape my life, and I’m the better for it. Whoever those historical women in your life are, celebrate them, and give glory to the Lord for blessing you. And most importantly celebrate Christ, giving thanks for His suffering, death, and resurrection. Happy Easter.