Organic Doesn’t Have To Mean Manure
Let what happens in your story emerge organically from the characters or the story itself. I’ve read that in books on writing and I’ve heard it in writing classes. Like Aphrodite rising from the sea, hands over strategic body parts, coasting to the shore on a half shell, that’s what the advice brings to my mind. As a nurse, I’ve learned much about organs, what’s organic and what’s chemical. None of that knowledge correlates with story parts. I can see a relationship between what’s humanly organic and organic food or gardening.
After my husband died, I moved into a condominium because I didn’t want the hassle of dealing with a house and garden as well as two teenagers and a job as a nurse manager on a neuroscience unit. I didn’t realize how much I missed a garden until my guests had to move aside houseplants so they could see each other or sit down.
Once my kids were independent, I moved into a new house with a naked garden. I had all the furniture I needed plus town water and sewage so I concentrated on the yard. I traveled from garden center to garden center checking out shrubs and trees. Once I had the bones of the garden in place, though still small, I focused on beauty, on filling space to please the eye and nose.
Everything tempted me. Forget a design in blue and white, or red and green, or even matching size and texture. I dug, planted, watered, and fertilized ending up with a mixture of New England wild flowers and an English cottage garden. This year, I’m branching out into fruit trees, brambles, and vegetables.
Until now, all the spade work, weeding, and maintenance were done by me. I know what the soil looks like two feet down, and where the sand and stone layers start. I can tell which plants will emerge from dormancy first, too fast often and be bitten by late frosts. I’ve seen where the sun shines ten hours a day during the summer. It took me six years of a hands-on approach to learn the nature of my yard. I’m sure I’ll still be surprised if I follow through and transplant evergreen shrubs planted in too stiff a row during my first autumn here.
I don’t use Scotts 4 step approach. My goal is not a weed free lawn. I like buttercups and clover. Grass is the mat that sets off the rest of my plants. I favor compost that comes from the Maine coast and a mulch of salt marsh hay smelling of the sea. Wind gusts felled local trees but the salt marsh hay remained in place over the strawberries and raspberries.
Could this learning that comes through the hands, from the senses, and from the touch of wind and sun on the skin be like the understanding I need to make plot points rise organically from within my story? It took me a long time to know how to work with the soil and climate I have. I think I’d be very lucky for everything in my story to work organically in the first draft. Incidentally, most nurses will say, there comes a time in their careers when they no longer need to rely on what they learned in school. Without having to think about it, they draw on years of experience to understand what a patient is trying to tell them. More experienced writers and editors know what I had to chew over and digest to grasp.
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Sasscer Hill on 5/18 and Carolyn Mulford on 5/25. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.