Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Weekend in Morris, MN

All the changes I’ve been making to Buttons and Bones at last had me confused about what was and what was not still in the book. So I finally had to stop writing forward and go back to do a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. These synopses are aggravating because they take up quite a bit of writing time, but in this case it was absolutely necessary. Already I can see my way forward much more clearly. I guess that’s a helpful hint for when you’re trying to write a novel and get stuck. Go back and do a chapter-by-chapter, just a few sentences on each chapter. It just may clear your vision amazingly and prepare you to go forward.

We had a great time in Morris, MN, last weekend. They were holding their 25th annual Prairie Pioneer Days and had pulled out all the country town stops: parade, talent competition, arts and crafts fair, kiddie inflatable fun, art show, fireworks, BBQ dinner – and me. The least understandable part of that was me, as the only connection I have with Morris is that my husband graduated from high school there. I came as Monica Ferris, needlework mystery author, not Mrs. Kuhfeld. On the other hand, I had a great time. Everyone was kind and friendly, I did two appearances, one at the little gem of a museum made out of the old Carnegie Library, the other at the new library. I brought books to sell and sold a lot of them, and read from the Prologue to Blackwork, the book coming out this fall. At the new library the audience and I had a great conversation done in Q&A. They asked good, solid questions.

In honor of Pioneer Prairie Days, the museum had mounted an exhibit of artifacts dating to those good old days, including the wreck of a covered wagon, photographs of local one-room schoolhouses, Indian beadwork, and an actual buffalo hide coat that covered its wearer from neck to ankle. The fur itself was so coarse and itchy that around the neck and wrists another, softer fur was substituted – a little detail that, for someone writing about that time, could make the story sing with authenticity. You’re welcome.

I was surprised at the variety and quality of the amateur talent show, from a young man who played something very esoteric and difficult on a bass guitar to a Native American pipe player to a set of belly dancers. A young man performed "Folsom Prison Blues," and as as he did a train came through town blowing its lonesome whistle as if specially ordered for the occasion.

An old high school chum of my husband’s was charming and funny. Brent told great stories. One of them went something like this. He and his grandsons were traveling out west and saw a Hells Angels biker pushing his Harley Davidson motorcycle into a service station. Down the street was a group of Hells Angels at another service station. Brent pulled into the second station to get gas. The attendent came out to ask, "Is th-th-th-there anything I-I can d-d-d-do for you?" Brent said no, thanks and started a casual conversation with the bikers. He was surprised to learn how civil and ordinary they seemed to be. About then the lone biker rode his now-repaired (or gassed) bike in to join his companions. "What the hey?" asked Brent. "How come you left to go on your own to that other station?" The biker replied, "I d-d-didn’t want him to th-th-think I was mo-mocking him." You find nice people in the most surprising places!


Camille Minichino said...

Oh, my sympathies on that synopsis task. It always feels like wasted writing time, but is so necessary at times. Good luck!

Betty Hechtman said...

One of the things I find hard hard about doing revisions is when you change one thing, you have to make sure to change everything else it effects.

The idea of the chapter by chapter synopsis is a good idea to see how the story is progressing.