Fixin’ to Act Ugly – Using Slang and Dialects in Stories


 Fixin’ to Act Ugly

By Natalie Bright

 

Using Slang and Dialects in Stories

A visitor from Florida pointed out that everyone is “fixin’ to” do something or go somewhere. I’d never noticed that the term was used that often in the Texas Panhandle.  However, I am conscious of a Southern habit of using “ugly” as a verb. My mother always said, “We don’t say ugly things.” or “Stop acting ugly.” I cringed the first time I repeated those exact words to my sons.

As writers, the question is how much regional slang is too much in a novel? And if we use such terms, will our stories seem dated or be offensive to future generations? Granted there are many noteworthy books with regional dialects or patterns of speech to aide characterization. When it’s done well, it really enhances the tale. What about your work in progress? Will the words you write today stand the test of time?

The Wonders of Wilbur

In answer to this question, I consider the classics in children’s literature. The ever popular story about a pig named Wilbur in CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White was first published in 1952. In fact, the first paragraph is still used today for character development studies in writing courses.  And now with three films and a video game to it’s credit, the story continues to appeal to new generations of kids. School Library Journal named it as one of the “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time in a 2012 poll. As an adult reader, I’m come to appreciate this book even more.

Consider the Classics

I’m reading my way through the Newberry Winners list and these stories are amazing. I recently finished the 1968 winner, FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER.  The thought of two kids running away from home and hiding in a museum still peaks the imagination, even in today’s world. I find myself going back to these classics to carefully study the dialogue, plot structure and characterization. What makes them so magical?

In mainstream fiction, dialogue referencing “calling a cell” or “tattooed hunk” makes me wonder if that is the best choice of words. And exclamations of “Jesus Christ” or “Oh, God” just makes me cringe.

What I ‘d like to do in this blog post is keep gushing over the amazing award winning books in children’s literature, but I’ll stop here and encourage you to discover the stories from your childhood.  Used book stores are filled to the rafters with such titles, and some of the older classics are FREE as eBooks. Even though kid lit may not be the genre you normally read, take a minute to ponder how a story about a pig and a spider continues to entertain readers after 60 years.

What are some of your favorite characterizations using patterns of speech with slang or specific dialects?

Happy spring and happy writing!

www.nataliebright.com

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MIRACULOUS


MIRACULOUS

By Sharon Stevens

DSC02922

MIRACLE

I had heard on the news about the anniversary of E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web” and read the interview in Vice Magazine centered on Bryan Garner. In the article by Jesse Pearson, Garner mentioned how much he loved this book, but also touched on another book by White which is considered a bible for writers as “Strunk & White’s, Elements of Style.”

I dropped by the Canyon Public Library to pick up a copy of this beloved book, and visited with one of the librarians. She had several copies there of the “web” and asked me to choose which one. I chose the Collector’s Edition in larger print. The illustrations by Garth Williams were vivid and striking. After I got home I opened the book, and touched each of the pages in turn, reading every word and treasuring each picture. I came across the story of when Mrs. Arable went to visit Dr. Dorian on behalf of Fern. She was so worried about her daughter spending all her time in the cellar barn with Wilbur, the pig. The mother asked if the doctor understood how there could be any writing in a spider’s web.

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

Charlotte’s Web” brought up the most wonderful memories for me, and my husband, and our trip to Chicago in 2011 to the Follett Corporation. We needed to update the software for our business, the Buffalo Bookstore. We encountered so many wonderful treasures along our journey there, with each person and the life they shared. Southwest Airlines was our chariot there and back, but, every life held an open book of their family and home and community. To me THIS was truly the MIRACLE!

My blog today takes the words that Charlotte wove into her web to try to save Wilbur’s life, and connect them to everything wondrous we encountered.

HUMBLE

Bill Long, our Follett book salesman, picked us up at the airport and then took us to Maggiano’s for lunch. What a tremendous experience! Our server noticed the logo on Bill’s shirt, and mentioned she had gone to college, and bought the major bulk of her textbooks from a Follett bookstore. I explained that we were from Canyon Texas, and represented the off-campus, small local home-town business for our community, and that of our college, WTAMU.

I asked her what her degree was in and she told me that it was in business marketing, but that she had a family to support with small children, and this job worked better for her. I assured her she was using her degree every moment she served the public, and also for the business she represented. Her kindness and efficient attention to her customer’s needs meant so much to those of us she served, whether refilling our glasses or taking away our empty plates. We were travelers from miles away, petrified visiting the big city, on an adventure that would impact how WE would do future business. It only took a few moments for her to make us feel comfortable, to put us at ease. We found the same community we cherished at home, right then and there in Chicago! What a MIRACLE!

Bill then dropped us at our home for the week, the Hilton Garden Inn at Oakbrook Terrace at Drury Lane, next to the Drury Lane Theatre. Inside our room, I found in the drawer, a copy of the Bible placed there by the Gideon’s, but also of Conrad Hilton’s book, “Be My Guest” of his life building the Hilton hotel empire.

The whole time we were there I found an extension of all that community represented. Everyone worked hard to see our needs were met, but more than that, they greeted us with smiles, and truly cared that we stayed at their hotel and in their city. What a MIRACLE!

SOME PIG

Follett took us on a tour of their facilities and we got a behind-the-scene view of how our books came from the warehouse to our store and the process to make it all possible. We even got to meet the people (so many wonderful people dedicated to their passion and vision) The whole week my husband attended the training along with people from several other small colleges across the country. Carolyn Recker was one of the instructors and to this day will answer questions and help us with any concerns. We even witnessed the way trashed boxes were being recycled with turning them into packing materials to protect our books until we opened our boxes here at home in our store.

On that day while my husband was attending his final course I scouted out “RIF, Reading is Fundamental” which is housed in the same building. My daughters participated in RIF when they were in grade school and we have always cherished READING. What a true MIRACLE!!

I met the most amazing kids involved with this endeavor, as Follett is where it all began. They shared with me where their program reaches, and showed me the posters and thank you board they received from all over the country. RIF goes to ALL the schools, but also impacts the prisons, and juvenile centers. They gave me books printed down through the years that had been compiled by the students themselves filled with poetry and stories from the heart. This reminded me of Mark Williams and his North Heights students right here in Amarillo, and the books they have written and published, and the apps they did for tourism for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce. The student-produced books “Voices of the Heights” and “Paintings on the Wall” are available for download on iBooks, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The photo above is of the two kids who were so kind in sharing their passion and that of the Follett Corporation and Higher Education. I wished I remembered where I put their names. They gave me so much more than books, so much more than from the past of the kids they represented. They centered my heart and reminded me of the MIRACLES that will always be books.

They presented me with a pocket-sized copy of Dr. Suess and I gave them a Buffalo Bookstore bag filled with Amarillo magazines, Canyon News, Jodi Thomas books, and pamphlets from around the panhandle area. But the true treasure I gave to them was a copy of “Every Buffalo Will Shine” written by Dr. Marty Kuhlman representing the 100 year history and heritage of our college, WTAMU.  I could think of no better gift to give them.

TERRIFIC

One of the most terrific experiences I treasured from this trip happened to connect closer to home. When we checked into our room I noticed the big sign advertising the performances for the Drury Theatre next to hotel. “Aida” was in the evenings, and ‘Charlotte’s Web” for the school kids. one morning after my husband left for his daily course I looked over at the theatre across the way. School buses had pulled up to the entrance and the kids were unloading. I knew what this meant! This was just like here at home when the school kids were going on a field trip to a show at the Varsity Theatre down the block, or over at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for a tour, or in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Theatre on campus at WTAMU for a student performance of a children’s play, or at Mary Moody Hall for a musical extravaganza. This was meant for me!

I walked right next door and asked if I could purchase a ticket for the live theatre performance. They looked at me quizzically, but didn’t question. Oh, to be in such a wondrous theatre!! Instantly I was immersed within. I listened to the kids and the parents surrounding me. After being involved in musicals and plays at Canyon schools for so many years and also our area being the home of the musical drama “TEXAS” I knew what it was to bring a performance to life. I witnessed the costumes, the sets, the music, the lights, the seats, the colors…I saw it all. I even heard the outbursts of a group of kids at the back of the theatre that must have been the special kids that had come to see the show. Since our daughter, Andrea Keller, teaches special kids I recognized what a wonderful treat this was. (She had also attended Follett’s Higher Education ISTE this past year. What an experience that was for her!)

I settled into my seat in this wonderful theatre and immersed myself from the first notes of the overture to the last bow of the cast and crew. My tears were near to the surface throughout it all but were spilled when I saw the image of the windmill projected on the backdrop of the farm. Oh, this so reminded me of home.

My blog probably sounds more like a travel log and a review for the hotels, and restaurants etc., but nothing could be any further from the truth. Think of how many books have been placed in our hands as well as our hearts that have come alive within our soul. Our imaginations have become tangible with inspiration and encouragement from books. I have no idea of the future of college textbooks or even books for that matter, but I know I will treasure the written word in any form until they are gone or I am transformed from this earth. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have some sort of library in the Heavens above.

My 1890 Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of a MIRACLE as, “to wonder, to marvel, to hold.” I consider each and every precious word as a true MIRACLE in itself. No one can convince me that it will ever be anything else.

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

THE END

MIRACULOUS


MIRACULOUS

By Sharon Stevens

DSC02922

MIRACLE

I had heard on the news about the anniversary of E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web” and read the interview in Vice Magazine centered on Bryan Garner. In the article by Jesse Pearson, Garner mentioned how much he loved this book, but also touched on another book by White which is considered a bible for writers as “Strunk & White’s, Elements of Style.”

I dropped by the Canyon Public Library to pick up a copy of this beloved book, and visited with one of the librarians. She had several copies there of the “web” and asked me to choose which one. I chose the Collector’s Edition in larger print. The illustrations by Garth Williams were vivid and striking. After I got home I opened the book, and touched each of the pages in turn, reading every word and treasuring each picture. I came across the story of when Mrs. Arable went to visit Dr. Dorian on behalf of Fern. She was so worried about her daughter spending all her time in the cellar barn with Wilbur, the pig. The mother asked if the doctor understood how there could be any writing in a spider’s web.

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

Charlotte’s Web” brought up the most wonderful memories for me, and my husband, and our trip to Chicago in 2011 to the Follett Corporation. We needed to update the software for our business, the Buffalo Bookstore. We encountered so many wonderful treasures along our journey there, with each person and the life they shared. Southwest Airlines was our chariot there and back, but, every life held an open book of their family and home and community. To me THIS was truly the MIRACLE!

My blog today takes the words that Charlotte wove into her web to try to save Wilbur’s life, and connect them to everything wondrous we encountered.

HUMBLE

Bill Long, our Follett book salesman, picked us up at the airport and then took us to Maggiano’s for lunch. What a tremendous experience! Our server noticed the logo on Bill’s shirt, and mentioned she had gone to college, and bought the major bulk of her textbooks from a Follett bookstore. I explained that we were from Canyon Texas, and represented the off-campus, small local home-town business for our community, and that of our college, WTAMU.

I asked her what her degree was in and she told me that it was in business marketing, but that she had a family to support with small children, and this job worked better for her. I assured her she was using her degree every moment she served the public, and also for the business she represented. Her kindness and efficient attention to her customer’s needs meant so much to those of us she served, whether refilling our glasses or taking away our empty plates. We were travelers from miles away, petrified visiting the big city, on an adventure that would impact how WE would do future business. It only took a few moments for her to make us feel comfortable, to put us at ease. We found the same community we cherished at home, right then and there in Chicago! What a MIRACLE!

Bill then dropped us at our home for the week, the Hilton Garden Inn at Oakbrook Terrace at Drury Lane, next to the Drury Lane Theatre. Inside our room, I found in the drawer, a copy of the Bible placed there by the Gideon’s, but also of Conrad Hilton’s book, “Be My Guest” of his life building the Hilton hotel empire.

The whole time we were there I found an extension of all that community represented. Everyone worked hard to see our needs were met, but more than that, they greeted us with smiles, and truly cared that we stayed at their hotel and in their city. What a MIRACLE!

SOME PIG

Follett took us on a tour of their facilities and we got a behind-the-scene view of how our books came from the warehouse to our store and the process to make it all possible. We even got to meet the people (so many wonderful people dedicated to their passion and vision) The whole week my husband attended the training along with people from several other small colleges across the country. Carolyn Recker was one of the instructors and to this day will answer questions and help us with any concerns. We even witnessed the way trashed boxes were being recycled with turning them into packing materials to protect our books until we opened our boxes here at home in our store.

On that day while my husband was attending his final course I scouted out “RIF, Reading is Fundamental” which is housed in the same building. My daughters participated in RIF when they were in grade school and we have always cherished READING. What a true MIRACLE!!

I met the most amazing kids involved with this endeavor, as Follett is where it all began. They shared with me where their program reaches, and showed me the posters and thank you board they received from all over the country. RIF goes to ALL the schools, but also impacts the prisons, and juvenile centers. They gave me books printed down through the years that had been compiled by the students themselves filled with poetry and stories from the heart. This reminded me of Mark Williams and his North Heights students right here in Amarillo, and the books they have written and published, and the apps they did for tourism for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce. The student-produced books “Voices of the Heights” and “Paintings on the Wall” are available for download on iBooks, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The photo above is of the two kids who were so kind in sharing their passion and that of the Follett Corporation and Higher Education. I wished I remembered where I put their names. They gave me so much more than books, so much more than from the past of the kids they represented. They centered my heart and reminded me of the MIRACLES that will always be books.

They presented me with a pocket-sized copy of Dr. Suess and I gave them a Buffalo Bookstore bag filled with Amarillo magazines, Canyon News, Jodi Thomas books, and pamphlets from around the panhandle area. But the true treasure I gave to them was a copy of “Every Buffalo Will Shine” written by Dr. Marty Kuhlman representing the 100 year history and heritage of our college, WTAMU.  I could think of no better gift to give them.

TERRIFIC

One of the most terrific experiences I treasured from this trip happened to connect closer to home. When we checked into our room I noticed the big sign advertising the performances for the Drury Theatre next to hotel. “Aida” was in the evenings, and ‘Charlotte’s Web” for the school kids. one morning after my husband left for his daily course I looked over at the theatre across the way. School buses had pulled up to the entrance and the kids were unloading. I knew what this meant! This was just like here at home when the school kids were going on a field trip to a show at the Varsity Theatre down the block, or over at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for a tour, or in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Theatre on campus at WTAMU for a student performance of a children’s play, or at Mary Moody Hall for a musical extravaganza. This was meant for me!

I walked right next door and asked if I could purchase a ticket for the live theatre performance. They looked at me quizzically, but didn’t question. Oh, to be in such a wondrous theatre!! Instantly I was immersed within. I listened to the kids and the parents surrounding me. After being involved in musicals and plays at Canyon schools for so many years and also our area being the home of the musical drama “TEXAS” I knew what it was to bring a performance to life. I witnessed the costumes, the sets, the music, the lights, the seats, the colors…I saw it all. I even heard the outbursts of a group of kids at the back of the theatre that must have been the special kids that had come to see the show. Since our daughter, Andrea Keller, teaches special kids I recognized what a wonderful treat this was. (She had also attended Follett’s Higher Education ISTE this past year. What an experience that was for her!)

I settled into my seat in this wonderful theatre and immersed myself from the first notes of the overture to the last bow of the cast and crew. My tears were near to the surface throughout it all but were spilled when I saw the image of the windmill projected on the backdrop of the farm. Oh, this so reminded me of home.

My blog probably sounds more like a travel log and a review for the hotels, and restaurants etc., but nothing could be any further from the truth. Think of how many books have been placed in our hands as well as our hearts that have come alive within our soul. Our imaginations have become tangible with inspiration and encouragement from books. I have no idea of the future of college textbooks or even books for that matter, but I know I will treasure the written word in any form until they are gone or I am transformed from this earth. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have some sort of library in the Heavens above.

My 1890 Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of a MIRACLE as, “to wonder, to marvel, to hold.” I consider each and every precious word as a true MIRACLE in itself. No one can convince me that it will ever be anything else.

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

THE END

EEK!


EEK!

by Sharon Stevens

In memory of Ray and Pat Miller

Don’t get me wrong.

I know spiders have their rightful place in the overall balance of the universe. There’s Halloween for example, and the great outdoors, and in stories (think “Charlotte’s Web). And then there’s…well I can’t think of any other place they belong. They are one of God’s creatures, right? How did it come to pass again that they survived the rising waters to make it on board the Ark two by two? Who made that Executive decision? Or was it that they just snuck aboard under the cover of darkness to find a black place hiding in the shadows among the coveted animals.

As I said before, I know spiders have their place. But nowhere in MY book of life does it say they can inhabit my bathroom sink, especially when I have just risen sleepy eyed from a warm bed and peaceful dreams. Turning on the light and seeing thousands of legs and hundreds of pairs of eyes do not start my day off right. Okay, so there was only one, and it sported the requisite number of appendages and whatever else they sport, but in that instant it was hard to tell. I didn’t think this sight was necessarily evil, but in that split second I didn’t think sunflowers and rainbows either.

After the initial eyeball to eyeball, and the flailing that followed to get away from the monster in the bathroom, I returned with the biggest and closest weapon at hand, which happened to be my husband’s boot. But lo and behold when I returned I found she or he had disappeared in some dark recess I didn’t want to know existed. I am sure my shrieks had got their heart to pumping, and they probably ran as fast as their spindly legs could carry them away to what- ever hidey hole they could find.

As I said I know they have their place. Another example-We were spending the weekend out at Camp Kiwanis with the Girl Scout troop. Our daughter, Andrea Keller, was a member. We had the standard hobo supper cooked in the campfire followed by the requisite “S’mores”. Then we visited the latrines, and with the stars lighting our way we made our way back to our cabins. While we were gone a spider had formed an intricate web in the corner of the porch railing, and the light we had left on sparkled through the lines of its creation.

About that time Ray Miller, the camp ranger came by to check on us. Some of the girls were shrieking, and I’m sure he must have heard the commotion clear across the camp. He stood for a moment underneath and looked at our troop leader, Nancy Huntington and asked what he wanted her to do. He said he could either take the spider away to another campsite or leave her be. (How the heck do you know whether its a he or a she anyway?) The decision was up to our troop. By this time, the girls had calmed down somewhat. They knew a brave man was among their midst that would protect them against the marauders. No harm could befall them this night. Our leader said that to keep the peace he probably needed to remove the offending ugly, evil one. As he reached up to capture the arachnid, one of the girls who had screamed the loudest said to wait. The more she looked at the detail in the design of the web she could see how it shimmered in the light. Then she became intrigued, or maybe she just didn’t want to be the one responsible for having one of God’s creatures destroyed. She said that maybe it would be all right for this one spider to stay a little longer or at least until they went to bed, as long as she didn’t leave that corner. To this day I wonder, just how did she think a creature of this sort would observe boundaries?

Nonetheless, Ray went his merry way and the next morning the web was hanging in tatters and the spider was gone.

As writers, we have a true gift. We can weave a tale and follow whatever direction it leads. Halloween can be about evil and witches, or about sweet memories of trick or treating as a child. I am sure there are countless kids that remember my grandmother’s homemade popcorn balls back in the day when she could share these treats with neighborhood families.

Any time of the year, we can take a simple thought and connect it further. We can celebrate and elaborate. There are no boundaries that limit our creation or imagination. This is one of the reasons I love writing. Whatever hits your brain can become a story if you just take the time and make the effort to make it tangible from your thoughts to print or social media.

As I am completing this blog, the wind is howling outside. They predict a hard freeze and maybe even snow. But in remembering spiders my thoughts go back to a moment in summer and a memory of sunflowers.

I was photographing the brightness of these colorful summertime beauties when I witnessed a yellow spider camouflaged among the petals. I zoomed my camera, and it promptly scurried to the other side of the flower. When I moved to the other side to get a better view, it moved back around. We played this game together countless times before I tired and left this spider in peace. But I will never forget the contrast in colors, or how blue the sky, or the scent of the summer earth, or the sweet breeze causing the stalks to gently sway.

At that precise moment this spider was where he belonged and all was write with the world.

But in getting back to my original conclusion…I’m sorry. I draw the line at finding creatures in my bathroom sink. After all, a snake by any other name….

*****************************************************************************

Don’t forget two very wonderful events this coming weekend. The Friends of the Amarillo Public Library are hosting the second annual “Open Book Festival and Breakfast with the Authors” on Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-12:20. The festival is a celebration of books and reading that raises funds for Friends support of Education Services such as Adult Reading Skills tutoring and ESL Classes offered by the Amarillo Public Library. Meet local and regional authors—with more than 30 participating authors along with stories, games and activities for kids!

$15.00 per person-children 10 and under free with paying adult and going to a good cause.

At 11 a.m. New York Times Bestselling Author JODI THOMAS will be speaking-“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Book Signing. Breakfast catered by the Ambassador Inn. Call 378-4245 to reserve tickets.

Also Canyon High School Choir is presenting “Sound of Music” on stage at Canyon High School.

Neither of these events have any connection to spiders unless you count Nazi’s as evil, or to count your “favorite things” that don’t make you feel so bad.