Monthly Archives: January 2016

What an Epic Storm Means to a Writer

I hope everyone has recovered from the blizzard that covered half of the country last weekend.

When nature wreaks havoc, we adults tend to focus on the stress and inconvenience, while children see an opportunity for a break from school and a chance to frolic in the snow.

From an author’s point of view, an epic storm (unless you are caught out in it) can create a delightful bubble of quiet, reflective time that is perfect for deep reading and writing. Even more than that, we story-tellers know that a big, gorgeous, messy storm can spark our creativity. In fiction writing as in real life, epic storms divert people from their normal routine. People go missing – or pretend to. Strangers meet. Conversations happen that wouldn’t, otherwise. A big storm creates lovely chaos. It is real life on steroids.

In the nonfiction realm, epic storms are an oral historian’s dream. That’s because they often yield great family stories. Both of my parents recall the Great North American Blizzard of 1947, and every time there is a new blizzard, they talk about it again.

Dad had the misfortune of being on a road trip, trying to get home from college for Christmas, when the storm hit. His is a wild tale of a bunch of college boys pushing a beat-up, second-hand Model-T through one snow drift after another for more than two hundred miles. None of their parents knew where they were; even the telegram wires were down. It’s a story of the foolishness, determination, and resilience of youth.

Mom, on the other hand, remembers it as the storm that led to her decision to buy snow skis and take lessons, which doesn’t sound hugely life-changing until you realize that if she hadn’t, she and my Dad might never have married. By the time they met, Mom was a proficient skier. When she and Dad met at a young adult fellowship meeting at church, she offered to teach him how to ski. He made a good impression during those lessons. She says he was a good sport who didn’t mind looking foolish (falling a lot) in front of her.

And so one thing leads to another. A new plotline. A new direction. Character development. All because of a storm.

This is not to make light of the serious, sometimes awful events that occur during storms. It’s simply to point out that a big storm, to a writer or anyone with a large imagination, is like a small rock skipped across a pond, with ripples sent in a thousand, sometimes-unseen directions.

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Filed under family life, Remembrances, The Writing Life

A Family Story of Hope and Perseverance

I have a story about my grandma (my dad’s mother) that I would like to share with you. It is a story of hope, perseverance, and love. Grandma told me this story one day over breakfast thirty years ago. I knew that she had been a miracle baby – she weighed less than 3 pounds when she was born in 1896 – but she had never provided any details. Over toast and jam, she told me the rest of the story: Her mother fell down the cellar stairs on Christmas morning and went into labor prematurely. The baby (Grandma) wasn’t due until March or April but she was born January 7. There had been a terrible snowstorm (this was in Wisconsin) and the doctor was unable to come for days. When he arrived, he told my great-grandma that she “shouldn’t get attached to the baby.” He said Grandma was the smallest baby he’d ever seen and “too small to live.” Well, he was wrong. Grandma not only survived but she lived a long and happy life. When she told me this story she was already close to 90. She passed away in 1997 at age 101.

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Filed under family life, People, Remembrances