Author: Susan Schmidlin

A long time lover of the natural world including rocks, minerals and fossils along with being a full time farmer and writer, Susan Schmidlin shares stories of life on an Oregon Black Angus farm.

Gaston 3rd Grade

It’s almost winter! It’s already pretty cold here. How cold is it there? Is it snowing? It’s not here.

Do you like hamburgers? If you do have you always liked them? I love hamburgers but I haven’t always like them. I used to hate them but on one Fourth of July I ate one and loved it.

P.S. The thing that made me love it was the cheese.

J.

 

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Writings From The Next Generation

The Writers In The Grove participants were given a chance to connect with kids from Gaston Grade School last year in Gaston, Oregon, a community next door to Forest Grove. A program was initiated by a parent to match up students with local writers for a chance for the next generation to practice writing with pen pals on a weekly basis.

Last year was a success with recognition in the local newspaper and a visit to the school from not only some of the pen pals but other professionals from the writing field. It was a fun and learning experience for the students as well as the adult writers.

This year, the students will have opportunities to see parts of their writing that they send to Writer’s In The Grove pen pals published in this category we call Kids Write.

Hailing from the 2nd Grade of Gaston Grade School, here are some excerpts;

C. writes:

I am 7 years old. I have one dog.

I have one cat. I like Pokemon.

T. writes:

I like playing with my friends and I play in the park. I hope you can tell me more about Samson.

D. writes:

My chores are making my bed and getting the dogs water. I also like to play Pokemon.

And a poem from A.:

Smart

Smart in your heart

Because you are smart

Stay tuned for more great material from our new Kids Write section and efforts.

Our Holiday Disaster

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Debby White. She is an active member of the Vernonia Library group in Vernonia, Oregon.

Gertrude blew a strand of hair from her face as she peeled the small mountain of potatoes destined for mashing. She gave a quick glance to the clock on the oven. Ten a.m. The day’s agenda ran through her mind as the peeler continued to work it’s way through the mound. The turkey will be ready in an hour, kids and grandkids should arrive any minute. Dinner rolls should go in the oven in about forty five minutes. Harry, her husband of 30 years, was watching a loud Thanksgiving day football game in the living room, making an appearance in the kitchen only when he needed a warm up for his coffee.

Outside the wind whipped the rain around frequently throwing it against the windows, tree branches swaying as if throwing a tantrum.

“Quite a storm out there.” Gertrude jumped. Harry chuckled behind her. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you,” he said, reaching for the coffee pot to fill his cup for the fifth or sixth time.

Gertrude sighed, “I hope we don’t lose power. The turkey still needs almost another hour in the oven, then there’s the dinner rolls. Lots of food in the fridge that could go bad if the electricity’s out for a long time.”

“Don’t panic, honey,” Harry patted her shoulder. “Remember that’s why we spent all that money on the generator. Out here in the boondocks we lose power at the drop of a hat. With the generator life goes on as usual.”

They both turned at the sound of voices in the entryway. Seconds later they had little grandchildren arms wrapped around their legs. Sadie, their oldest daughter, planted a kiss first on Gertrude’s cheek then Harry’s. “Jack and Nikki drove up behind us,” Sadie said of her brother and his wife. “Nate is helping them carry stuff in.” Nate being Sadie’s husband.

Minutes later the women and children were gathered in the kitchen and the guys convened in the living room to finish watching the football game. Gertrude finished peeling the potatoes and Sadie and Nikki set the table while dodging little Nate and Jillian. Suddenly, everything went black. From the living room a chorus of “Hey, what happened?” was heard as the TV went blank. Gertrude raced into the living room, with a panicked look on her face. “We’ve lost power!” she exclaimed. (more…)

From the Prompt: Vacations

A Break Away

by Susan Schmidlin

I had a marvelous vacation away from the farm recently (it has been quite a while since I ventured away for more than just day-trips). The vacation was a real chance for me to get away, re-group, and have fun. Most people who hear about my fun tend to roll their eyes and give me strange feedback on what I call enjoyment, but this break was a true treasure.

The distance from the farm was less than 3 hours away, in the wilds of Western Washington. My niece and nephew-in-law had just purchased a house with property and had invited family out to have a retreat/work party to get the house ready for remodel before they actually move in.

It is an absolutely beautiful piece of property with several shops and out-buildings, a small creek that runs through the middle of the place, and a house that will be amazing after the contractor does some magic. The family, in preparation for the contractor, got to tear up flooring, remove moldings, smash and scoop tile and make run after run with wheelbarrows to the large, truck sized refuse bin that was located half a football field away. There was a lot of noise, a lot of dust, and a lot of laughter as we all tackled the projects with wild abandon.

Into the afternoon, the family broke up into 2 groups. By this time the temp had climbed into the upper 90’s and the creek began to call our names during lulls in the frantic pace. The creek gave us the opportunity to break away and cool off with a little splash now and again before returning to work. The fans were set up in the house to keep an airflow going as the power equipment and hammering dusted inside the structure.

The fellas stayed mostly indoors, sledgehammering and scooping up tile, while the ladies started outside to tackle the overgrown vegetation that had, over the years, enveloped most of the yard and the house.  The amount of plants around the house and yard was staggering. I think that the sheer variety and volume of growing species would surpass most garden centers.

It was obvious that the previous owner not only had a green thumb but was a true collector of diverse species. Plants had all but swallowed the house, darkening all light access inside and many were planted so close to the house that the branches were rubbing on the siding and hampering gutter structures. The ladies of this outting attacked the bushes with the same vigor as the boys and their sledge hammers inside the house.

Once we got into a rhythm of hacking our way into a densely packed area, we started trimming up the plants that were just overgrown and totally removing those that were too monstrous to leave so close to the house. There was a steady barrage of questions to my niece and to the group debating if a plant should be trimmed or removed. A chant was started to deal with the questions, “If in doubt, grub it out.” 100’s of the plants still had roots remaining and will continue to grow back, we just slowed them down a bit. It will be much easier to make the final decision after we have this first clean-out complete.

Finding many branches too big for long-handled clippers, I asked about a using a saw. I was expecting to have a bow saw or hand saw available for the task. I was delighted to be told that there was a power saw. Oh my gosh, I thought, that would make the job so much easier. I was absolutely floored when my nephew-in-law pulled out a brand new Stihl chainsaw!

Now I have used a lot of saws, and I have seen new saws at the local hardware store, and I have even used saws that have had new chains on them, but I have never ever had the opportunity to use a brand spanking, not a single ding, first-time fired-up chainsaw. I was giddy with the prospect of tearing into the massive overgrowth of vegetation. I yanked the rope and the saw sprang to life.

I took out rhododendrons that were twice my height, stumps from trees that had been cut off many years ago, laurel bushes that hugged the roof-line of the house, and downed a couple of fir trees that were too close to other trees. I was in heaven. It was so much fun!

The decision about what to do with all the yard debris gave the new owners pause. While they thought about it, all the branches and whole plants were piled along the yard. My brother took one look at the amount of plant material and stated that it looked like a bomb went off in the front yard.

The decision was made to get the mess of debris off the yard and a large pile was made on the other side of the driveway. By the time we were done with the pile it was nearing the size of a semi-truck. Did I mention that the property was overgrown?

It was a totally exhausting time.

This was just the best vacation I have ever had!

The Writing Exercise Instructor

So what do you do when the prompt of the day to write a 100 word sentence gives you lemons? What I do is not make lemonade, but rather to pick on the teacher. This is my complex sentence:

At the beginning of the class, she said to simply write a single sentence of 100 words, she then paused after her bold statement, with a wry smile and her signature dancing eyes behind those modern style corrective lenses, highlighted the teacher, the do-er, the know-er requesting a task from the writing group staggered around the make-shift tables, her contained zest for the mere notion of the writing prompt danced about visibly thus belying the fact her ideas could not stay internal as she said to the group to go start writing before she bowed her head to her computer terminal and began her own exploration of just what the writing prompt meant to her.

118 Words

Prompt: 100 Word Sentence

The prompt: A sentence with 100 words. Begin with a simple sentence, then add details, descriptions and modifiers to create a complex, detailed sentence.

The purpose of the prompt was an exercise in exploring sentence patterns and sentence lengths, based upon a presentation at Be Writing Conference in Eugene, Oregon, recently.

We often write consistent patterns. All short sentences. All long sentences. All noun, verb, object, noun, verb, object. Break the pattern by learning to write different types of sentences and sentence structures.

Exploring the Cumulative Sentence

A cumulative sentence begins with a base clause, a subject and verb and an object or just a subject and verb.

The woman sat down to write.
The woman fainted.
The man drove his car.
The child ran down the street.
The bird flew into the window.
She played the piano.
Uncle Edward leaned back in his recliner.
Her grandchild slipped on the ice.

A cumulative sentence adds the description of the action.

Here is an example by Muriel Spark in Memento Mori.

He went to speak to Mrs. Bean, tiny among the pillows, her small toothless mouth ppen like an “O,” her skin stretched thin and white over her bones, her huge eye-sockets and eyes in a fixed infant-like stare, and her sparse white hair short and straggling over her brow.

Add description of things that modify the subject. They clarify the character and move us into an emotional situation. We need the modifiers to describe the person, and their relationship. How does the character see the other person, the scene, the situation. What they see tells us more about the character as they interpret the scene.

Here is another example from William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning”

His father struck him with the flat of his hand on the side of the head, hard but without heat, exactly as he had struck the two mules at the store, exactly as he would strike either of them with any stick in order to kill a horse fly, his voice still without heat or anger.

We see the action of the hand striking the head, and we could assume many different emotions, justifications, and reactions, but the modification of the action implies the emotionless nature of the action, and reveals much about the character of the father, that he treats his animals and children equally.

In the following example in Dan Delillo’s “The Names” (Russian to English translation), he describes the wind as a character itself, and how essential the wind is to the story, mood of the story, and the life of the people in the story.

Some nights the wind never stops, beginning in a clean shrill pitch that broadens and deepens to a careless and suspenseful force, rattling shutters, knocking things off the balconies, creating a pause in one’s mind, a waiting-for-the-full-force-to-hit. Inside the apartment, closet doors swing open, creak shut.

Consider how the sentence travels? Does it incorporate backstory, create emotion, rhythm, pace. Sometimes the force of a sentence’s pattern and rhythm takes you to an intense place or state of emotion. This is very useful to moving the story forward and pulling the reader along, consuming each word, eager for the next, feeling what the character is feeling.

Use a cumulative sentence pattern as you wish, or not, in your writing, but learn how to recognize them and work with them. They can break up your short sentence pattern, add more to the story, and describe a moment to bring the reader there with you and the character.

This prompt is meant to explore the boundaries of how we normally write.

The Prompt

The prompt assignment:

Write a modifying cumulative sentence. Start with a noun, verb, and object, then modify it to a minimum 75 to 100 words [pick one].

An alternative for those handwriting and not willing to count, write at least 10 lines handwritten on typical school notebook paper.

This typically takes about 10-15 minutes – most of us write 400 to 600 words in our prompts, some more.

Celebrating National Poetry Month

The Vernonia Library has announced that Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita Paulann Petersen will have a reading at the Library on Sunday April 10, 6-7:30 pm.

This unusual opportunity has prompted the library to open on Sunday to accommodate this special reading event. The reading with the celebrated poet and teacher is open to the public.

Contact the library (503) 429-1818 or library@vernonia-or.gov with questions.

 

Prompt: I Was Told To Write a Book

 

It has been a question posed to many of us. Someone hears that you are attending a creative writing class and the conversation naturally swings.  Queries about being published and what kind of book you are writing can catch a person off guard if classes are a new direction.

Not all who attend are published. Everyone doesn’t feel the need to write a book. Some classes are designed simply to work out those mental cobwebs, to strengthen the creative drive, or to enjoy the company of other writers while trying group activities.

The Vernonia Library Writers Group met on 2/18 with the prompt; I was told to write a book…

For those who have no intention of publication, this was a stretch of the imagination, yet the 20 minute silent writing that followed created some interesting thoughts on the possibilities. The prompt also led to discussion regarding the practice of putting your writing out on a limb. Try a prompt that is not your style, something you are not comfortable with, dive in to an outlandish thought. Give those brain cells a good workout and see where it leads you!

The town of Vernonia has several activities planned for St. Patrick’s Day which would be the normal date that the Writer Group would meet, so we are going to be taking the month off to enjoy the festivities with the next class scheduled for April 21 at 6 pm.

In the meantime, attendees are working on a writing prompt: Logical Reasoning. We discussed stories that followed a logical path and those thoughts that do not follow linear reasoning. During the next class on April 21, the group will be dissecting and outlining paragraphs to trace the rational thoughts of a story. Hope to see you there.