Writing Again with Pleasure

DSC04152

Cross Creek

Patience. Faith. And a little bit of nature.

A few weeks ago, I admitted I hadn’t been writing. It must have done the trick because soon after I sat myself down in the chair, bed, couch, recliner–wherever it felt right–and picked back up with Love on Track.

Some bits of inspiration have come from enjoying the beauty of a winter in Florida by kayaking and hiking. For me, connecting with nature restores me and gives me hope. The best of all the paddles occurred when I went to Cross Creek and toured Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home where she wrote The Yearling, South Moon Under, and Cross Creek to mention just a few of her many books. I’ve visited the place, now a Florida State Park, previously, but this time I ventured out onto the actual Creek in my kayak.

Mostly my husband and I paddled in silence in awe of the drooping live oaks with branches free from leaves but not the Spanish moss which gives rural north Florida its special charm even in the dead of winter. But still flowers bloomed on the banks, birds flew and fed nearby, and fishermen in simple boats lazily floated on the crossroad between two large lakes, Lochloosa and Orange.

DSC04167

J.T. Glisson in The Creek says the name “Cross Creek” may be because its the path joining the two lakes. But then again, he speculates it could come from the attitude of its residents. We didn’t find that to be true.

Click here to download two of my essays about Rawlings and her inspiration for my writing life. And happy Valentine’s Day and happy reading and writing.

 

 

Less is More – The Writing Oxymoron

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
—Stephen King, November 1973

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

A successfully published author once told me if I loved a passage, if I was married to that passage, it probably meant it needed to be cut. Beginning writers – and some not-so-beginning writers – believe what they put on the page is sacred, and everything they know about a subject must be relayed to the reader.

Not so. The editing and revising of any piece of writing is where true art emerges and language takes on its own powerful life. Brevity keeps the reader’s attention, and it does not insult the reader by spoon-feeding them inconsequential words or words so obvious as to malign the reader’s intelligence.

At the start of my writing career, I entered a contest offered by the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society. Participants were to submit a 500-word essay on how the writings of Ms. Rawlings influenced their writing. I was a fan of the author who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling. Her book Cross Creek welcomed me to my new home in Florida more than 30 years ago. I eagerly began writing. And when I finished, the piece was 1,500 words. I needed to cut 2/3 of it.

I couldn’t imagine how I could express my appreciation and gratitude without every one of those 1,500 gold nuggets I’d splashed on the page. But I began the surgery: 1,200, 1,000. I still needed to cut the essay in half. That’s when the real work began. Every single word received my scrutiny. Finally, I hit 499 words. I reread it and guess what? The essay was much clearer and more concise. The judges agreed. I won First Place in July 2001. [Read the essay and see what you think.]

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings did indeed impact my life as a writer more than I could imagine at the time, and for that I am forever indebted.

What has been your experience with editing your work? Is it painful for you?

Cross Creek Sojourn

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

Cross Creek was immortalized in the movie of the same name  in 1983. The small village exists on the banks of Orange Lake in North Florida amid the hanging Spanish moss and spirits of those who once called the Creek their home.

Two women whose photographs grace a hallway in the capitol building in Tallahassee in the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame  for their innovative achievements in Florida’s history, both lived there in the 1930s and ’40s.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings  and Dessie Smith Prescott, despite differences in background and personality, became friends. Rawlings immortalized that friendship in her book Cross Creek in the essay, “Hyacinth Drift.”

While Rawlings died before I was born, I had the privilege of interviewing Prescott several months before her death in 2002. The occasion was her 95th birthday, and I was on assignment for a magazine. I arrived at her home on the Withlacoochee River near Crystal River just before the big birthday bash to chat with Prescott, who was the first female licensed wilderness guide and first licensed female pilot in Florida.

One of her friends, Hutch Hutchinson, said at the party, “Even if Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings hadn’t been born, Dessie would be famous in her own right.”

Prescott married six times, with the sixth marriage lasting 26 years and the only marriage to make her a widow.

“If the person didn’t fit in with my life,” she told me, “I decided the best thing to do was to give them their freedom. I paid for all my divorces.

“I enjoyed them all [husbands] for a time,” she said.

Prescott met Rawlings after a neighbor came to the rugged outdoorswoman and asked her to visit a new couple who had recently moved onto an orange grove near Cross Creek. Prescott’s friend predicted that without help the Rawlings might starve to death.

“The grove had been neglected for years,” Prescott said. “Groves take about twice as long to bring back as you’ve neglected them, and they hadn’t got a chicken or pig or anything on the whole place.”

So Prescott visited the house in Cross Creek where Rawlings wrote her Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Yearling  and took Marjorie under her wing. Despite being ten years younger than Rawlings, Prescott took to calling her “young un” because “she didn’t know anything about anything that I did.”

When Rawlings’ marriage began falling apart, Prescott suggested the two take a trip on the St. Johns River from its beginnings in Volusia County up to the Ocklawaha.

“Hyacinth Drift” begins with “Once I lost touch with the Creek …I talked morosely with my friend Dessie. I do not think she understood my torment, for she is simple and direct and completely adjusted to all living. She knew only that a friend was in trouble.”

Prescott summed up the differences between the two women in an interview with Florida Magazine in 1995. “I always said Marge could describe a magnolia and I could smell it. She was that good.”

During the trip, Prescott and Rawlings encountered men who were amazed at the audacity of two women traveling the river without accompaniment, but they paid little attention. They came upon Sanford on a Sunday morning, and Prescott prepared for the place where large-vessel traffic on the St. Johns stopped.

Rawlings writes, “Dess strapped around her waist the leather belt that held her Bowie knife at one hip and her revolver at the other, and felt better prepared for Sanford than if we had been clean.”

The trip helped Rawlings settle her mind, and she returned to Cross Creek ready to end her marriage knowing the Creek had come to own her.

I myself returned to Rawlings’ home in Cross Creek  on a February morning several years ago. The birds sang from atop the orange trees laden with ripe fruit. The frosts of February had not damaged the crop of the  few trees still growing in the yard.

I walked to the front porch and sat on the steps because the house was not open to visitors on this sunny morning. I sat within feet of the typewriter that still rests on the round oak table on the porch. It’s easy to imagine how Rawlings wrote magic in this setting that is still relatively untouched by the conveyances of modern life more than sixty years after she typed Cross Creek, The Yearling and South Moon Under.

No wonder those pieces read like a song with the birds providing a musical score on which her lyrics perch.

My image of myself as a writer rests between the reality and the porch where I sat. The winter sun bore down on me within feet of her place of creation, and I found myself alive with the possibility that I too can create poetry from place.

While both have passed from this lifetime, their words and actions live on in me and others who look to their examples to give us courage and hope and appreciation for the beauty which surrounds us.

“But what of the land? It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed but not bought. It may be used, but not owned …We are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters. Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time.”

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Cross Creek, 1942