Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Audience of One

I do wish artists would sign their work legibly so proper credit could be given. If you know who painted this lovely, please let me know.
 
 

My first storytelling audience had only one member. Mama. Her vision weakened through the years, beginning when I was in elementary school. Cataracts dimmed her sight so that she couldn't read even with her tortoise-shell reading glasses.
 
(Though I certainly didn't want her to lose her vision, I didn't like the glasses. She looked so stern with them, especially if they slipped down her nose a bit. I made sure I behaved very well when she wore them. In truth, she probably was squinting to see even with them on.)
 
Once I learned to read--and that's another story for another day--I read voraciously, devouring books like Cookie Monster gobbles cookies, except that I let no morsels fall to the floor. "When you come to a street corner," Mama said almost daily, "stop, look, and listen before you cross." I usually remembered her warning, but as soon as I deemed it safe to cross, my nose would go back into the book I was reading.
 
Of course, I always signed up for the Bookworm Club at the local public library, smiling smugly when I noticed the "worm" had only 25 segments to it's body. Long before summer was over, I'd have 25 segment stickers carefully applied to the sheet that said Sharon Kay Kirk at the top. "May I fill two?" The librarian would give me her longsuffering look over her glasses and tell me she expected no less.
 
I read. Mama couldn't. I knew she missed reading, since she used to do it a lot. So I became a storyteller, reading a portion of the book, then telling it to her. I certainly didn't want her to get bored, so, like Jo in Little Women, I did the voices. At points of great excitement, I acted out the action. Mama was not an emotional woman. If the story was funny, she'd laugh. Perhaps at a poignant scene, she'd smile and nod. I don't recall that she ever shed a tear for a story. That was fine. I wept enough for both of us.
 
Getting through Black Beauty was a challenge, once I reached the scenes of his brutal mistreatment. I couldn't tell it without tears coursing down my cheeks.
 
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, Sharon," Mama said. "It's just a story."
 
I was never quite sure that was true. If a story was really good, if it stirred the reader at some deep level, didn't there, wouldn't there have to be, elements of truth? Wouldn't Anna Sewell have had to know of such cruelty--perhaps not to a horse named Black Beauty, but to another? It seemed to me that where there was no truth, there was no story.
 
Mama went with me through my various phases of reading. She heard the stories of every horse novel in the children's department of the library, every Bobbs-Merrill biography, every Bobbsey Twins adventure, and nearly every story in Andrew Lang's colored fairy books. Together we journeyed through childhood classics, including all of Louisa May Alcott's books, Heidi, Robin Hood, and favorite Bible stories. My storytelling was our main entertainments.
 
Gentle reader, you may ask, "Why didn't you just read the books to her. Why tell them?" The answer is simple. I had already read the books or book scenes. I didn't want to read them over. Storytelling was a more concise way to get through the books. And it was fun! Don't misunderstand. I love oral reading! My one daughter and her family are missionaries on the other side of the planet. When Skype is working well enough to allow it, I read to my grandtreasures for an hour or so. At such times, I have to call a stop when my voice begins to tire. We are a read-aloud family, even when it's long-distance. But it is great fun to hear a story well-told, also.
 
Thus, I am a writer and raconteur (storyteller).
 
Write on and read on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon
 

Your turn: (Please leave a comment.) How important was reading in your home growing up? Did you ever including storytelling? Feel free to comment on any other aspect of this post.

Thank you for stopping by my blog.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Just Released!

Be among the first to read and review The Second Cellar!

How could Leah’s dad dump his only daughter with an aunt she doesn’t even know—who lives in rural Indiana, of all places? Ugh! Aunt Becky has spent her life running all over Africa and Asia on some kind of a secretive mission. But what?
Things look up when Leah discovers a hidden ladder leading from a window seat in auntie’s old house to a second cellar. At the bottom it’s 1860. The people living in the house, the Newcombs, operate a station on the Underground Railroad. AWESOME! She thinks.
Leah finds a friend in Johannah Newcomb, but then stumbles on a story that will shatter Johannah’s world. Should Leah tell her friend and perhaps save the girl’s father from being killed by a gang of slave hunters? Would that alter history? Could history be altered? Should it be?
And what about God? Can He help? He sure didn’t do anything to save Leah’s mom when a drunken teenage driver killed her in a car crash.
After a neighbor boy, Trevor, reveals that he knows about the ladder and the Newcombs, he and Leah make a pact of secrecy and join in the risky business of helping runaway slaves.
Speaking of secrets, what is Aunt Becky hiding that could change Leah’s life forever? How does auntie’s mission connect with the Newcombs’ good work a century and a half ago?
 
* * *
 
The idea for The Second Cellar sprang from one of my historical first-person interpretive storytelling program, Abigail Gray: Living Under the Drinking Gourd, in which I tell the true accounts of the Underground Railroad in the Hoosier state and beyondThe stories of the freedom seekers and those who assisted them fascinate me. Both the program and the book are set in southeastern Indiana, specifically the Jefferson County area. The book is a tween (8-13 years of age) historical fantasy involving time travel.
 
* * *
 
Like many authors, I use Pinterest to collect images related to my works in progress (WIPs). Naturally, I have a board dedicated to The Second Cellar. When I began thinking about a cover for the book, I initially planned to use the house that is the model for Aunt Becky's home, a c. 1840s Federal-style brick house where some friends live. But as I perused TSC's Pinterest board, I came across this wonderful photo of the primitive ladder. Perfect! Problem: I had no idea as to the source of the shot. The picture wasn't connected to a link. I couldn't use it with the photographer's permission, so I went searching. For days I combed through photo sites in a fruitless quest. It began to look like I wouldn't be able to use the picture that so captured my image of the ladder in the book. Then I thought to do what I should have done three days before: I prayed. Within three minutes, the Lord answered that plea! When I saw it among so many others, I stared at it for a moment to take it in. And it was connected to a link to the photographer's site--where he had a contact email posted! I wrote asking permission to use the image. Two days later, he responded favorably. Greg Nyquist, thank you so much for your gracious permission. Gaze in amazement at more of his work HERE.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What's a "Book Peek Tweet"?

A Book Peek Tweet is a Twitter tweet of a snippet from a book. An author or reviewer might post a Peek Tweet to give readers a provocative glimpse between the book's covers to entice the reader to investigate further. It usually includes a link to the excerpted book.

Friday, May 16, 2014

#1 Writing Tip from the Storyteller

Dialogue: Getting It Right

Shift from the role of writer to that of actor. Become your character. Say out loud what that character would say as s/he would say it. It might help to use a DVR and record your role-playing. Now, play back. Listen to you taking on the characters and saying the lines. Do they sound right? Natural? Are they appropriate to the character and the scene? Is the emotion right?

As we've gotten away from so many he-said-she-said tags, action beats are almost a part of the dialogue. To get them right, you might have to get up and act out the scene. Be aware of your facial expressions, your body language, your body positioning, how your character moves through the scene and relates to the other characters. Capture that on the page, leaving out the unimportant details your reader can intuit.
 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Telling at Wings Over Muscatatuck

Photo by Russell Hansen (1921-2002)
To learn more about Mr. Hansen work as a bird photographer, visit http://www.birdsinflight.net/in_memoriam.htm.

Saturday, May 10, I'll present "Tales That Take Wing: Flights of Fancy storytelling program at 11:15 a.m. as part of the annual event at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, located two miles east of Seymour, Indiana, on U.S. 50. Other special events will take place on the grounds around the Visitors' Center throughout the day. Gather your fledglings, leave your nest, and fly on over!

The Refuge is beautiful year round, but it's especially lovely at the equinoxal seasons, so be sure to bring your cameras. You can enjoy the lakes, marshes, and numerous trails to accommodate even physically challenged guests. The bookstore/gift shop is one of the best I've seen at any nature preserve. MNWR is one of the few sites in the world that is home to the shy Copperbellied Watersnake. It's also the release site for many native river otters. Migratory birds, including Sandhill Cranes, make this a regular stopover. American bald eagles, as well as many other raptors are seen commonly throughout the Refuge.

I love MNWR. It's one of my favorite hangouts. Hope you come by and get acquainted this weekend. If you do, be sure to be there with your wings on by 11:15 and look me up. I'll likely be in or around the Visitors' Center.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Inaugural

Cumberland Falls Storytelling Festival

April 11--13, 2014

at

Cumberland Falls State Park, Corbin, Kentucky

Celebrating Southern Appalachian Oral Tradition and Culture

Make plans now to attend Cumberland Falls Storytelling Festival in conjunction with Cumberland Falls State Park's world-famous Moonbow! Featuring Stephen Hollen, Pam Holcomb, Buck P. Creacy, and Jack's Mama (Sharon Kirk Clifton)! Stay up to date by clicking "Like" on the Facebook page.

Are you skilled at a traditional Appalachian craft? Would you like to sell your authentic, hand-crafted products at Cumberland Falls Storytelling Festival? Find out how on Facebook

Plan to stop by the Swapping Ground and take a turn at telling a family-friendly tale yourself.

Don't be late! Don't hesitate! Make reservations now at Cumberland Falls' Dupont Lodge and be close to all the events for the weekend of storytelling, hiking, scenic mountains dressed in their spring finery, and, in the evening, the world-famous Moonbow!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Reclaiming Hallowe'en

Gentle readers, I highly recommend Dr. Albert Mohler's blog article on this subject, also.


[Note: Whenever I refer to the Church, I mean the regenerated followers of Jesus Christ, not some brick-and-mortar structure.]

The Church has allowed Satan, the ancient enemy of Creator God, to steal, or at least taint, many of our celebrations. The man Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, who gave his all to follow the Savior, has morphed into a jolly, rotund, caricature we call Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny continues to try to usurp the position of the resurrected Savior. Children are taught erroneously that Thanksgiving was a time when the Pilgrims thanked the Indians for helping them to survive in the wilderness.

All Hallows' Eve also has suffered at the hands of the enemy, though not as much as the afore-mentioned, since it was never purely Christian and has clearly pagan origins. Most agrarian cultures celebrate significant events in the seasonal growing cycle: harvest time, solstices and equinoxes, and planting time, for example.

The origins of All Hallows' Eve--Hallowe'en (don't forget the apostrophe)--go back 2,000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The word means "end of summer." Pumpkins, apples, and various gourds were a significant part of that event. The Celtic new year began on November 1. Make no mistake. Samhain was not an innocent harvest celebration. Blood sacrifices--both animal and human--were offered to Druid gods.

By 43 A.D., the Romans had conquered the Celts, and within the following 400 years, had integrated their own pagan festivals into Samhain, including Feralia, occurring in late October. Feralia was a day to commemorate the dead.

"Christianity" spread through the Celtic lands by the 800s. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III established that November 1 would be All Hallows' Day. According to Roman Catholic belief, All Hallows' Day was when souls were released from Purgatory and allowed to wander the Earth for 48 hours. Apparently, Pope Gregory was attempting to supplant Samhain with a Christianized version. That was Pope Gregory's M.O. He often claimed pagan celebrations and buildings and imposed a "Christian" significance on them. For example, he claimed the Pantheon (which was dedicated by the Romans to "all gods") for a Christian purpose. His All Saints' Eve was celebrated much as Samhain had been, with bonfires, parades, and people wearing costumes of saints, angels, and devils.

______________________________________________________________________

Why would any Christ-follower want to celebrate a day that represents everything for which Jesus Christ gave His life to destroy?  

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Today, many people claim that Hallowe'en is an innocent harvest festival, but a quick trot through the costume section of the local Wal-Mart tells a different story. With a glance backward to Samhain, Feralia, and, yes, All Hallows' Eve, one can see that the culture of death lives and thrives in today's celebration. The holiday is no holy day!

It amazes me that many Christian parents continue to celebrate this time of ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and witches, labeling it "innocent fun." What is innocent about rubber masks that portray people who have been maimed, disfigured, frightened out of their minds, or murdered? Parents who encourage such "innocent fun" are opening the creaking door on the occult and nudging their wee ones over the threshold. Hallowe'en always has flirted with the macabre.

Why would any Christ-follower want to celebrate a day that represents everything for which Jesus Christ gave His life to destroy? Hallowe'en's origins are completely occultic. But children follow the leadership of their parents. May our all-wise LORD grant to those children the wisdom that their parents and grandparents lack. (Consider Deuteronomy 18:14 and Galatians 5:19-21).

Some parents think to avoid the dark side of Hallowe'en by dressing their children as Disney character, vegetables, or historical figures. After all, children love to role-play and dress up. (So do many of us who are adults, in fact.) If it's done at Hallowe'en, it's in celebration of Hallowe'en, even if Snow White doesn't have blood dripping from enlarged eyeteeth. Kids can play dress-up throughout the year. No one day of the year has a corner on that.

Jesus says that He Is the Light of the World (John 8:12). As His followers, we are commissioned to reflect that light in today's dark world (Matthew 5:14), to be imitators of our Lord (Ephesians 5:1).

As for Hallowe'en, we need not reclaim it; we never owned it. Nor should we want to.

Because of Christ,
Sharon

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Something New for Me


As autumn dons her golden garb and temperatures begin their decline toward winter, I'm transitioning, also. 
       After publishing my first middle-grade novel, Up a Rutted Road, as an e-book, I spent the summer revising my second novel, The Second Cellar, an MG historical fantasy. Now, even as I seek a home for Cellar, I'm embarking on two new projects at once. One is another MG novel entitled The Daddy Letters, and the other is an historical romance, The Sun Catcher.
       Never before have I tried working on two manuscripts at the same time, but I couldn't decide which one to write first, since both are plotted. Other writers have multiple projects going at once, so I decided to give it a try. If one begins to take over the spotlight, then so be it. In God's timing, they'll both be completed. 
       What beckons me today? Yesterday, I got a strong start on Daddy, but on this first day of October 2013, I'm drawn to The Sun Catcher. The main character in that story, Irene Delacroix, keeps tapping me on the shoulder.

Your turn! If you're a writer, please share your experience with tackling multiple book-length WIPs (works in progress) at once. How do you juggle them? Is it something you commonly do? I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Coming in April 2014! Stories by the Falls!

Inaugural

Cumberland Falls Storytelling Festival

April 11--13, 2014

at

Cumberland Falls State Park, Corbin, Kentucky

Celebrating Southern Appalachian Oral Tradition and Culture

Introducing the Cumberland Falls Storytelling Festival in conjunction with Cumberland Falls State Park's world-famous Moonbow! Featuring Stephen Hollen, Pam Holcomb, Buck P. Creacy, and Jack's Mama (Sharon Kirk Clifton)! Mark your calendars now to attend this inaugural event.

More information to come!