The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Some Soup for You!

       Yes, don't be alarmed by the exclamation mark in the title. It's so rarely used by me (I must leave ample room for ellipsis) and so over-used by some. (I try to convince my 3rd graders that unless an ambulance is about to run down their brother or sister, or unless they won the lottery, stick with a period or a question mark.)

      However, this soup is worthy of an exclamation mark. (And it will appease the Seinfeld fans, although my friend does not pattern herself after the Soup Nazi. She does not keep her recipes hidden in a wardrobe--she willingly shares her culinary secrets.)

      My friend the "chef" calls this delectable dietary bombshell "Orange-Scented Carrot Vichyssoise" but I call it simply "Better Than --- Soup." (It's not better than great --- but is way better than mediocre ---.) She made it for one of our WWWP dinners, and we each left that evening with scratches and gouge-marks on our arms, as we tried to fight each other over the last spoonful several pounds heavier.

      I refuse to name her. That would be unfair, because if I did, she would be flooded with requests for the recipe. You will just have to troll the internet in search of the recipe...

       The title of this post was going to be "Tumeric, Anyone?" because as I was making it, I was thinking if I could leave out some of the ingredients or substitute some. Leeks? Couldn't I use onions instead? Tumeric? I don't have any and I've never even used that spice...couldn't I leave it out? How about using milk instead of heavy cream?  (Okay, I admit it. I was all about the cream, and didn't even entertain the notion of substituting milk for it.)

        But when I tasted the one bowl I allowed myself (I poured the rest into a container for my daughter, to avoid the temptation), I swooned over the layers of flavors. The leeks, the carrots, the chicken stock...the tumeric...the orange zest...the honey, the nutmeg...And I realized that without just one of those ingredients, it would have fallen flat.

        Can we leave out the passion we have for our art--whether it is painting or photography or writing--if we're having a lackluster session? Can we leave out some of the complexity of our characters when we're writing fiction? Can we omit some of the emotional layers in order to shortcut to the end if we're crafting nonfiction? 

        Of course not.

       And now, I'm off to lick my bowl clean...


Monday, October 21, 2013

Why I Write Creative Nonfiction

       Last Friday I was off. Off on a mission. Off my normal schedule. Off work. (And no, I wasn't playing hooky so I could drive to our state's capitol and deface the Rush Limbaugh bust. My whole school district was off.)

      I took advantage of the fancy-free day to deliver a copy of the newest Chicken Soup book that has a story of mine. And I was delivering it to a very special young man.

       Last year I had an exceptional 3rd grader in my class. He did something quite thoughtful, and after interviewing him, his mother, writing a rough draft, getting it critiqued by the wonderful WWWPs, I submitted it to Chicken Soup. It made it over the numerous hurdles and--yahoo!--it was chosen as one of the 101 stories.

      This young man transferred to a neighboring school district this year, and so I decided to drop off a copy of the book on my day off. The most I hoped for: to have them call him down to the office so I could hand him the book. But what I got was so much more...

      The secretary called the principal into the office, the principal took me up to Timothy's classroom and after speaking to the teacher, the students stopped what they were doing to listen to my spiel. Tim is a humble kid, so when I said, "Timothy, do you want to tell them your story, do you want me to tell your story or do you want me to just shut up?" he said I could tell his story.

      Along with putting in a plug for the revision process and the importance of sharing their work with other writers, I told the class they had a famous kid in their class...that people all over the world would be reading about him. Their jaws dropped open, they clapped for Timothy...and the principal and the teacher both wiped tears from their eyes. (I later told my husband I made a principal and a teacher cry. He asked, "Did you want them to cry?" not knowing what had happened. He knows that sometimes I get spitting mad and sometimes I cry over my work. But this time, I was thrilled with the tears for a different reason. A writer is validated if tears are shed over sad or uproariously funny pieces.)  I also told the class that it was important--to me--to tell Tim's story because lots of people say kids today think only of themselves and don't do charitable things. Timothy grinned, accepted the anthology, I gave him a hug and breezed out.

       That is why I write creative nonfiction...