Sunday, June 19, 2011

By the Light of the Moon

 By Augusta Scattergood

Last week when the full moon lit up my patio, the ancient moon goddess Luna came to mind. This morning I’m pondering whether or not I fall into the category of lunatic writer. 

I think not. 

But each of us has a bit of madness swirling through our writing habits. There’s no escaping it.

Before I became a writer, I was a reader. My tastes ranged from mysteries to histories, from picture books to coffee table art books. But did ever I stop to think how those books came to be created? And if I did, did I think—that writer is engaged in extreme foolishness.

That changed a while ago, when I fell in love with the books of a Baltimore writer
She rarely spoke about her process publicly, but she lived right up the street. We shared a mailman. His name was Ollie.  We occasionally shared a bench in the Quaker Meeting we both attended. She didn’t know me, and I didn’t dare speak to her.

I read everything she wrote yet never questioned how she created those amazing novels depicting my Baltimore neighborhood so precisely.  Then Ollie our mailman appeared in her new novel, and I began to think about how fiction springs from reality. She described Ollie exactly as I saw him each day walking the two blocks from her house to mine. He had suffered a death in his family and was sadder and sadder each time I greeted him at my front door.

 In another novel, she described a member of our Meeting who could no longer speak but scribbled notes and handed them to the person next to him to read. I knew that person! There he was, along with Ollie the mailman, in her books.

And it hit me. That’s what writers do. They remember mailmen. They know the cashier at Walmart and imagine how spent her morning before reporting to work. Writers scribble notes. They see real people and create backstories. With a little--or a lot of-- tinkering, they turn real people into book characters.

And that's what I wanted to do. Remember funny things and turn them into stories. 
Maybe that makes writers crazy people, lunatics, even without a full moon.

Yes, I love the Notes feature on my phone and I have a ton of notebooks small enough to fit into a pocket, but the number of character sketches I write on boarding passes and sales receipts and napkins is sheer madness.

Just a quick look through my file folder of scribbles found these from long ago, or maybe from yesterday. No clue what most of them mean, but if a non-writer found them, lunacy might be deduced.

She got a Pink Princess telephone. Birthday gift.

Old man at South of the Border: "That dog's got some age on him." (About my sweet old lab Barley. I've already used this one.)

I got ahold of some bad ice. (Guy stretched out on a couch.)

Daddy took a candelabra to the Outback Steakhouse.

One of my favorite back-of-a-boarding-pass descriptions is of a young woman in the Atlanta airport. She was (I’m convinced) meeting her boyfriend after a long flight. She had time to spare. She had dipped her head under the ladies' room sink’s water and was now sitting on the floor drying her hair under the hot air of the hand dryer. Soon she began to cry. Tears of happiness or misery?

Now you know you want to hear the rest of her story, don’t you?

So the full moon was up there again last week, and I wondered about madness and folly. I wondered how many moms in labor were lined up outside the delivery room. I wondered how many crazies were out there howling. And how many writers were awake scribbling notes, inventing characters, and just plain making up crazy stuff by the light of a big bright moon smiling on the night.

Augusta Scattergood mostly writes during daylight hours, on a computer. But her files are full of old grocery lists, receipts, bookmarks, tiny notebooks. Her weirdest notes usually, eventually, make complete sense to her. Click on over to her own blog sometime:

Just curious now- Anybody out there taking notes on something other than your iPhones these days? Writing something that makes sense to you and you alone?


Carol Baldwin said...

What a fun post, Augusta. No, you're not crazy. You just realize that fodder for stories is all around of you. I haven't saved all of my little notes like you have--that would drive me nuts. But a friend convinced me to start a daybook to try and stash them all in there. WHich works, if I remember to take it with me wherever I go...Daybooks are pretty cool. if you want more info about them, you can search my blog; I wrote a post about a year ago.

Augusta Scattergood said...

Neat! I'm going there right now. Thx, Carol.

Susan Cushman said...

Such a good reminder, Augusta. I think I NOTICE people quite a bit, but I don't always take the time to jot down details and dialogue, which I should do. I do carry a small Whitelines ( notebook in my purse. Love these little notebooks. I'm going to start jotting again, thanks to you! said...

It won't succeed as a matter of fact, that's what I believe.

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