by Sharon Stevens
Recently a student brought textbooks into our bookstore to sell. None of them were being used for the next semester, and a couple were so damaged we were unable to buy them back. Rather than tossing them into the dumpster they decided to leave them with us after we explained that the Mortarboard at WTAMU had a fundraising project to recycle used books.
After the students left I thumbed through some of them. One was “The Western Heritage” and covered not cowboys or cattle drives, but Greeks, Romans, Thucydides, Aristrophanes, and the like, the very basis of our civilization. All Greek to me. Another of the books was “Searching, Researching Internet and the World Wide Web”. More Greek.
By far the most interesting of those left behind was the ones with a language I couldn’t decipher, unable to make heads nor tails of the titles. One of the books even appeared to be an inspirational day book with an inscription or dedication handwritten in Chinese characters. Thats when I discovered they were written in Korean. Or at least this is what the one page printed in English read.
I would have loved to have known the story of who wrote the words. I wonder if it was given to a student by his or her parents as they prepared to leave their ancestral home to cross the world to study at a foreign university? Could it have been inscribed by a beloved teacher or grandparent and given as a gift to give them strength as they ventured out into the world?
Who would ever know the memories treasured within? Surely not me. I can’t read Korean, and I don’t have friends that can translate either.
This reminded me of a letter I found in Loula Grace Erdman’s scrapbooks housed at the Cornette Library on the campus at WTAMU. Erdman’s publisher R.T Bond with Dodd, Mead & Company Inc. sent a note dated November 14, 1960 concerning her book “Years of the Locust”, informing her that this was to be translated into Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Indonesian. The body of the letter explained, This will pay you only about Sixty dollars-but think of the fun you will have in reading your own writing in Urdu!
Barbara Brannon author and marketing manager for Texas Tech University Press received inspiration from Erdman’s book, The Wind Blows Free for her Christmas greeting with music and verse for “Red Hawk in the Sky/Fe’lark in the Grass, Two Plains Fables for the holiday season 2011”. Brannon will be the guest speaker for the January meeting of Panhandle Professional Writers (PPW) and will be speaking on “Circles of Desire: A Workshop for Refining Your Plot and Synopsis (Fiction or Creative Nonfiction).”
And this is what links me to this blog. You never know where you will find that next bit of trivia that will brighten your story, or even lead it in another direction. A word, phrase or quote can change things in an instant, drag you back to reality, or give your character dimensions you never knew they possessed.
Even though you think a book has no connection to the story you are writing you may find the catalyst to spur it forward. Any genre can benefit with a fresh look from another perspective to keep it bright and alive instead of stale and flat. Reading something outside your focus just might be the ticket to help you break free.
Take for example my last blog about buses. Who knew that it would link to so many memories? And one of the responses from “Neeks” spurred me to share with my writing critique group her idea of using three words and making a story out of it.
To get back on track. Beginning with the January meeting of the Panhandle Professional Writers I am going to set up a table of all sorts of discarded books from our bookstore in hopes that someone might find inspiration within the pages. All proceeds will go to benefit the Frontiers in Writing Conference.
There will also be an extra jar for loose change collected for scholarships for Opportunity Plan Inc., This is one of our pet projects at our Buffalo Bookstore.
On display will be all sorts of books. Some of them on public speaking can help spur you on with how to face an audience at a booksigning or as a guest speaker. We ALL need to be prepared. Government books can direct you to write about politics or political history. What a great time to live in a democracy! It doesn’t have to be just about Freedom or Civil Rights to make a good story. Look at “The Help”. What a tale Kathryn Stockett wove around a period in our history.
And how about a book on marketing to expand your horizons on social media or community projects or marketing in general. Retail, salespeople, customer service can open your eyes to the workplace or writing for business, or even a “Chicken Soup For the Soul”.
What about exercise? These books never go out of date and those used in physical education can be useful when you hit a wall in your writing. It only requires a few moments to get out of your chair and stretch that can brighten your focus to face your worst writers block.
Come see what books you can find to inspire you in your writing. Celebrate the journey, not your destination. You never know where you will find something that will help in the translation.
Loula Grace Erdman’s letter from Dodd, Mead tells her, This is a Franklin Publication and is a part of the American effort to bring the best things in America to the Attention of the World Beyond. Now we will both stand up and face the flag while the Star Spangled Banner is played.”
Please make plans to attend the Panhandle Professional Writers bi-monthly meeting on Saturday January 21, 2012. PPW is a wonderful, active, organization that is doing some great things for all levels of the writing community. The Frontiers in Writing Conference at Amarillo College in June will be an exciting time for any writer. Jodi Thomas’ Writing Academy in July rounds out the summer programs.
PPW’s meeting will be held at the East Campus of St. Stephen United Methodist Church, 4600 S. Western, Amarillo. The meeting is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch is $10 and requires an R.S.V.P. Please call or email Janet Taylor, Hospitality Chair, at 282-1227 or “mailto:email@example.com” by Tuesday, January 17. There is a $5 program guest fee, which will be deferred if the guest joins PPW that day. PPW dues are $30 annually and renew each January. (That’s this month, folks!) Students with school ID will be charged a $1 guest fee. Our January program, Circles of Desire: A Workshop for Refining Your Plot and Synopsis (Fiction or Creative Nonfiction), will be presented by writer, photographer, musician, artist, and Marketing Manager at Texas Tech University Press, Barbara Brannon. Janet Cooper Taylor 1918 S. Tyler St. Amarillo, TX 79109 806-282-1227