Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Old made new again…

Now that autumn is rolling in, all cold and rainy, I’m reminded of school and Betsy Ray. That’s right! Thinking of school always reminds me of Miss Betsy Ray from Deep Valley and how much I need to take a trip to that world.

The Betsy series actually starts up when Betsy’s a little girl and book after book carries us through grade school, high school, a trip to Europe and finally marriage. I have to say that though the books about Betsy’s childhood are sweet, they don’t hold much for me anymore. What I truly still get into are the books about her high school and then adult years. Betsy is a highly autobiographical character and there’s no doubt about it, the author, Maud Hart Lovelace, loved life and people with a happy zest. And it’s such a wonderful view to get into, especially on these dark and coldish days. I also love the time period it’s set in, the early 1900’s and seeing what teenagers did for entertainment in this era. Fudge and singing and dancing! And instead of women being irked how long clothes took to have made, everyone seems to anticipate finally getting a lovely new dress or skirt and waist.  There’s something to be said for anticipation. What I also like is how Betsy’s agenda is always about having a good time and how she struggles to grow further than that and the set backs and victories she has. She’s a social bee, no doubt about it but she’s also a writer and she has to find a way to balance the two. She also has a kick-ass quirky family and I’m glad they exist forever on the page!

And then there are the books themselves…I battled internally over getting old used copies or the new trade paperbacks where two books are packaged in one. I settled for the new because of the new still have the awesome old illustrations (yes! there’s illustrations!), the cheerful happy covers and I want these books to stay in print! so it’s always good to buy books that are really worthwhile.

Comments (1):

  1. Cindi, Mom, Me

    October 8, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Now I want to read them, too.

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How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.