What Do You See—Something Commonplace or Something Totally Different?

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Two authors standing side by side. One might see only what is commonplace while the other sees a great deal more.

This is how the author, Hamlin Garland, saw Greenfield, Indiana in the late 1800s:

“To my eyes it was the most unpromising field for art, especially for the art of verse. The landscape had no hills, no lakes, no streams of any movement or beauty. Ragged fence-rows, flat and dusty roads, fields of wheat alternating with clumps of trees – these were the features of a country which to me was utterly commonplace . . .”

9fdc510a419c2e6d9c83270d7655bbabBut the poet, James Whitcomb Riley, saw his birthplace, Greenfield, differently. The dusty wooden plank road stretching through Greenfield, the vast, flat farmland with its rickety fences, the scent of buckwheat and basswood . . . . these inspired him to write in the voice of a farmer using a Hoosier dialect sprinkled with 19th century, Middle-Western colloquialisms.

Different things inspire our words. Two writers can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

As October slips away, take a walk with Riley and see Greenfield through his eyes:

0f9aba2cb515d23f6e7b02a7029d9290WHEN THE FROST IS ON THE PUNKIN

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

 

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

 

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

 

SC309608Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me—
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Look around.
Take a break from raking leaves
(or whatever else you’re doing).
What do you see—something commonplace
or something totally different?

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and inspiration for writers.

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Trick-or-Treat, Author Style–Favorite Foods of Famous Authors

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When I was a kid, Halloween meant trick-or-treating for UNICEF (The “United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund”). My church friends and I went door to door with our little orange boxes and collected donations to help needy children around the world. Generous neighbors dropped coins into our boxes and—bonus gave us treats. Afterwards, we went to our church, counted our donations and enjoyed a sugar-filled party. My favorite treat was anything chocolate.

What do you like to eat? Is there something you love munching on while you write?

According to Bon Appétit Magazine, Agatha Christie’s favorite food was cream, Devonshire clotted cream, a thick, butter-like whipped cream she ate with a spoon. When writing, she sipped cream—not half and half, mind you—from a huge mug with the words DON’T BE GREEDY written on its side. Her second favorite food? Apples. She ate them while taking baths.

Cooking_implements_2012_Morgan_photo_smallEmily Dickinson enjoyed baking. She made breads and cakes and, in 1856, she even entered her Indian and Rye bread at the Amherst Cattle Show bake-off taking second place. At home, she liked lowering from her window a basket filled with little cakes to  neighborhood children waiting in the streets below. She often scribbled poetry on the backs of recipes and food wrappers.

hemingway-headerErnest Hemingway was an avid fisherman. In his essay “Camping Out” he wrote “A pan of fried trout can’t be bettered”. He added his recipe: “Place the trout in the pan (this may require two batches, depending on your luck on the river). After 5 minutes, turn the trout and place 2 strips of bacon over each fish. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.” He was definitely a foodie, and some of his recipes live on in The Hemingway Cookbook by Craig Boreth.

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Norman Mailer had an obsession with oysters, eating them and using the shells to draw on. Another favorite, Häagen Dazs Raspberry Sorbet, he even tried as a salad dressing saying that he preferred its taste to the raspberry flavor from a plastic bottle.

Are you a writer who loves coffee? I am. You’ll rarely find me writing without some sort of flavored latte on my desk. Coffee is an author addiction dating even to the time of Honore de Balzac (1799–1850). Not only did Balzac drink, on average, 50 cups of coffee a day, but he also snacked on whole coffee beans. All that coffee gave him stomach pains. He treated them by going on milk-only diets, but always he came back to his beloved coffee.

Victor Hugo, another coffee fanatic, wasn’t a fan of adding cream or sugar to his coffee Instead, he dropped two raw eggs into the steaming brew and chugged it down!
If that sounds good to you, give it a try:

Bon Appétit.
Trick?
Or Treat?

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and inspiration for writers.

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