Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I ran across this wonderful piece the other day. I emailed the owner of the site where I found it to get permission to repeat it here. She told me the only stipulation was to include the byline, which I gladly offer below:

We are the chosen. My feelings are, in each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know, and approve. To me, doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but instead breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the storytellers of the tribe.

All tribes have one. We have been called, as it were, by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do. In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors you have a wonderful family, you would be proud of us? How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say.

It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do? It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can't let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation.

It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us. That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are them and they are us. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers. That, is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones.

Author: Della M. Cummings Wright and re-written by her granddaughter, Della JoAnn McGinnis Johnson

These words speak to me on so many levels. As the chosen scribe for this generation in my family, it validates my need to know. To search and surf and dig for answers. It explains why I’m so enamored by the past. I recently traced my ancestors back to the early 1600’s. When I read the names of those who had gone before, I felt connected to the planet in a way I’d never experienced before. It really did “put flesh on their bones and make them live again.”

But the place where this piece really touched me runs deeper still. Christians are members of a tribe that has nothing to do with flesh and bone. The Tree of Life is our family tree where our spiritual ancestors cling. We owe a debt to all the children of God who walked the planet before us and blazed a trail. Our task is to pass the torch to the next generation.

For me, it explains why God calls writers into His service. “We are the storytellers of the tribe.” Today, a Christian writer’s job is to tell the old, old story and keep it fresh, to weave ancient truth into the modern landscape, to lay a path of Bread-of-Life crumbs for the next wave.

“So as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family.” My eternal family.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tools and Shtuff

Plotline. Backstory. Character description.
Opening hook. Conflict. Ticking clock.

Whether you draft an outline, write a chapter synopsis, swear by the Snowflake, or fly by the seat of your pants, overseeing the first gasping breaths of a newborn novel can be a daunting task. But you have to go there before you can get to the good parts: quirky characterization, story weaving, and brilliant, soul stirring dialogue.

If you’ve never heard of the Snowflake Method mentioned above, I highly recommend you use the provided link (waving to Randy I.) and enlighten yourself. I’ve yet to follow the method through to completion, but used the first steps very successfully to plot two books. Never quite managed to list my scenes via spreadsheet.

Randy Ingermanson is a pioneer in novel construction, and I offer him props. But today I discovered a new toy. Write-brain.com has created powerful software for creative writers. In particular a program called Power Writer, a functional word processor with fully integrated outlining and story development tools. I downloaded the demo version and have to say I was impressed enough to place the order. Power Writer has a big brother called Power Structure, an amazing program that lives up to its name. I know because I got that demo, too. Of the two, Power Writer seems to meet my present needs, but if I outgrow it, I’ll know where to turn.

Have I shoveled the Snowflake from my writing paths? Not on your life. With all Power Writer’s bells and whistles, there’s nary a mention of snowflake fractals, spreadsheet lists, or Legal Shtuff. Some things can’t be replaced.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Blog For Sale. Cheap.

Okay, I thought it would be easy. I found this little niche and fell in love. My old place—the website—was nice enough, but a bit too big and hard to maintain. This little corner of the Web seemed just about right, so I took the plunge. VeriSigned my name on the cyber line and procured myself a piece of blogger real estate.

Home sweet home, right? Think again.

Oh, the neighborhood’s friendly enough (waving to Crit3 girls). And decorating was fun. I enjoyed dabbing on a little paint, adding a few knickknacks. But when the time came to move in, that’s when the problems began.

You see, I have scores of devotionals, personal experience stories, novel ideas, and creative writing tips packed away in my writer’s storehouse, but no matter which box I unpacked, which arrangement I tried, nothing seemed to fit these new digs. I had visions of turning this drab, empty space into a warm, inviting nook, a place of refreshing, a haven of rest. So far it’s been little more than redundant redux.

So is my site really for sale?

I guess not. I’m actually committed to it—for now. Just suffering a touch of blogger’s remorse. But I reserve the right to put it back on the market at a future time. Unless Ty Pennington comes up with a version of Extreme Makeover: Blogger Edition.

How about it, Ty?

My Bookshelf

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