The Gift of Story

Country LaneOnce upon a time, I was given a gift. There was nothing to unwrap, nothing tangible at all, and I probably wasn’t aware that I had received anything at the time. I have no clear recollection of when I recognized its value, except that I was very young.

However, I had just received the gift of story.

Story takes many forms. It may be what we tell ourselves or what we learn about others. Most stories are important because they contain small details about everyday life and thus they permit us to stay connected with others.

Slightly more than two years ago my last relative from the French side of my family died in Paris, on April 15, 2011. He was 91. I was determined to write about him, hoping to keep alive what he had done and said. I couldn’t. I would break into tears and the entire endeavor became a waste of time.

He was a great-uncle by marriage, not part of my direct family line, but he had kept everyones’ stories alive for all of us. Born toward the end of World War I he had listened to stories from his family, about what life was like for them during that time. He survived World War II in France. Within the context of our extended and fragmented family (cousins twice removed, second wives, distant great-nieces and great-nephews, and all that) somehow he had known most of them. When I visited him, I began to pay closer attention. There would come a day when he wouldn’t be there with me to share, what it was like, all those many small personal details of everyday, lived in another time. Some of my distant relatives, even those with whom I shared DNA, I had never met, but he helped bring them back to life.

In an upcoming story, “The Day of the General,” I’ll share bits of a story of nearly four year old Camille Mauriat, daughter of a Protestant minister, the day a German general visited their home and how one small event—not a major or violent event by war story standards—changed one family’s life forever. The nearby city of Lyon had just fallen to Hitler’s Army, that May of 1941. General Kurt-Griebel Heinrich Von Strauchen, who drives down a country lane toward this family’s home, is seeking refreshment on a warm day of late spring. The little girl Camille finds the glittering embroidery and shiny metals of one of Hitler’s elite enchanting. What child  brought up in a stern Calvinist household would not?

There is always “another view” of war. Join me as we follow these stories, with their connections to special people, what makes up more than any family’s direct blood lines.

As humans, we are creatures of story and narrative. Gathered around the first fires that kept wild animals away and fellow humans near, we started recounting our history: “Once upon a time….”

Interspersed with segments about characters from my upcoming book, Another View, The Writers’ Table blog will continue its review of the compelling power of fiction to illustrate any story.

Welcome back!

Michaele, from The Writers’ Table

Managing Manners on the Internet

Did I hear a groan out there, echoing across cyberspace? Another post about cyber-bullying or anonymous negative posts?  I wish it were that simple… but it’s not.

This is a more touchy matter, because it involves professional expectations and the need to change our behavior and that of others.  As an author how do you ask for what you want and need in a professional manner? How do you encourage others to give back in return, earning you respect as an author?

How you implement these suggestions is a personal choice. You’ll fashion requests in your own style, communicating with others in a way that’s comfortable for you—but reaching out and teaching others you must. As we’ve discussed in previous posts at The Writers’ Table, success and recognition does not simply happen, you must be actively involved.

We’re writers. To a certain extent we’re loners, at least while we’re at work. Borrowing from C. Hope Clark, who offers excellent blog posts at http://www.chopeclark.com and is also the author of the highly acclaimed novel, Lowcountry Bribe, recently wrote: “Writing is our voice; the page should be our podium.” What all writers dread is the silence. The silence of no questions or even comments.

If you’re an author who has published just for the heck of it and/or you really don’t care about your friends and colleagues who are fine authors as well, then you won’t need to click on the “More button,” because a short course in Etiquette and Professionalism for authors will follow, touching on elements that stand at the heart of marketing you[Read more...]