Ah ha! I just got it…”spinning yarns” has a double meaning: a literal definition in which a spinner spins yarns, on a spinning wheel, creating something substantial from something entirely different: producing a strong workable thread of wool or acrylic fibres. Actually something of a misnomer, as what the spinner actually spins are fibres, to produce yarn with which to make sweaters or blankets, etc.
“Spinning yarns” in the context of literary writing, means a writer takes a thought or idea, and turns it into a more or less complicated work of telling a story (or yarn.) To compare or contrast the two definitions are similar in that someone creates something useful and interesting of something that is nothing like the original. A dab of sheep’s wool, dirty and tangled, is spun into a fibre–and a writer’s insight becomes a story that comes of an idea. It can be said that something is made out of nothing: a fibre becomes a hank of yarn, which becomes a sweater; an idea becomes a series of thoughts, which becomes a coherent story.
Spinning a yarn is a metaphor for creating a story.
My current favorite author is Philippa Gregory. The single most important feature of her writing is that it is so well-written, and her prose so riveting, that it keeps me reading into the night and it is difficult for me to put the book down. As a Historian myself, I enjoy the combination of well-researched details of life in medieval times, and the convincing background information and believable characters, both fictional and biographical. Even when the plot twists are predictable, or factual history in nature, Gregory’s writing always rings true and fascinating.
The larger-than-life character of King Henry VIII, and his life and times (and wives and significant others) is always captivating. This is historical fiction at its best, and while dialogue and details of activities are not always necessarily verifiable in fact, there is enough biographical and historical information to be convincing.
Two other authors that I can always count on to satisfy the thirst for fiction are John Grisham and Lisa Scottoline. Both write what I call “lawyer fiction” and involve realistic incidents and convincing dialogue. The courtroom scenes are exciting, and the characters are always entertaining and believable. These writers are indeed “yarn spinners,” spinning/creating tales/yarns that always hold my attention, and are always my first choice of fiction to read at airport or doctors’ office waiting rooms. They never disappoint in holding interest, and guarantee moving plots that skip along without bogging down.
There is nothing like really “getting into” an excellent work of fiction, and experiencing a jolt of realization of return to consciousness in the reality in which the reader is sitting…outside of the book. This is the kind of writing that I love–yarns spun out of the ability to weave a spell.
November 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm
Eccentric people are my favorite kind. What is the opposite of eccentric?
Plain, Conforming, Ordinary?
I wonder who set up the rule book for behavior? Who decided how we all should act, and set the standards for our respective cultures? Picture a committee of faceless, uninteresting, boring people sitting around making up rules…all the same…not a healthy eccentric among them.
Who were these people? I’ll bet they were drab as mud. They would not have liked me much.
Non-eccentrics brings to mind a bunch of neatly and conservatively dressed people sitting around a dinner table eating nicely, napkin in use, proper placement of utensils. They all have nicely groomed hair, in a proper do. They sit up straight and don’t kick their chairs, don’t drop morsels of terrible food in their laps and onto the floor under the table. If they dislike a dish they eat it anyway without comment. They use good proper English or German, Farsi, Portuguese, Mandarin, whatever the appropriate language happens to be. No slang.
What this family needs is an eccentric, character, individual thinker, outrageous cut-up….well, whatever he or she is called. Let’s call her Auntie Buzz (her real name is Hermione, but she likes to go by “Buzz.”
Auntie Buzz wears huge tie-shoes with reinforced toes. If it is winter she wears shorts…she may sport her winter parka in July. She buys her clothing at the discount bin at the thrift store. Sometimes she wears make-up and tries to look like Cleopatra. She speaks fourteen languages…if she wants to…otherwise she just asks for things with a single word or calls an item by the wrong name. She talks to animals, and believes in ghosts.
The children love Auntie Buzz, and want to be like her when they grow up. The plain…boring…proper relatives disdain her eccentricities — they wanted to be just like her when THEY were growing up, but conformed to the “norm” instead.
Watching the tv news can make one sick. Literally. Look how they did such a great job of creating an Ebola panic.
Not that Ebola is not something to be afraid of, but CNN in particular made it sound like the disease was going to kill us all–and soon.
One after another CNN trotted out the experts, who were immediately upon stating their educated opinion (or guess) contradicted by the news anchor. When the health expert stated at great length that Ebola is not spread through the air…there was speculation about airborne infection.
The underlying emphasis in the Ebola scare seemed to be placing blame. The hospital in Dallas came under immediate fire from CNN and others frantic or eager to place the blame–on the hospital in Dallas, or on the nurses. As it turned out there WAS a working protocol, and while the staff was not trained specifically in caring for Ebola cases, they were knowledgeable about infectious diseases.
The talking heads contributed opinions, suggestions, and conjecture about who to blame and what everyone did wrong. Fortunately the Ebola Crisis came right at Election Time. Perfect! It provided a made-to-order campaign issue: blame somebody, and who better than the White House?
Another advantage–an American favorite–SUE somebody. Anybody. The first report I remember mentioned the city suing the patient, which became moot when the man died.
I do understand the reasons for worst-case-scenario coverage. I do…it is the nature of those who cover these events to feel excitement (even exhilaration) when covering the newest crisis. Drama and flash-bang situations are a lot sexier than soothing medical comfort calm-talkers.
Interview notes on the way back to the newsroom from an assignment often found their first light of day in the little notebook. Driving and writing at the same time is a skill.
We wrote on newsprint those days, long sheets the size of legal pads, whitish and cheap but useful. There were no computers in most news rooms in those days, and when working on deadline editors would literally yank finished “takes” out of the typewriter. A “take” was the double spaced type on the newsprint page. The pages were then glued together in a long strip with rubber cement, corrected or improved or spiced-up by the editor and then passed on to the copy desk to be further enhanced.
All these memories poured forth from the dim recesses of my packed brain, from a category called Reporter. I was reading a novel in which the main character was a reporter who had joined the staff at a larger newspaper, and as luck would have it (in novels) a choice story fell into this man’s lap. The novel is good, I enjoyed it very much, it is well plotted and the characters are believable and well rounded. But what I liked most about this novel is that it is set in an old fashioned newsroom very similar to the one in which I worked thirty years ago, and brought back a flood of mostly happy memories. The plot is so realistic it could almost be a documentary film.
When I got the job I was not a reporter. I had no training, no background, no experience. I had been working as General Manager of a small weekly paper, more of a glorified clerk than anything else. Then the paper was bought out by a new owner, and the new hot shots filling the editor and manager jobs were hired because they had years of experience and … well, I didn’t. I had written a couple of things. A column called Girl Scouting chronicled the weekly meetings with action-packed accounts of…well, the Girl Scouts. Then one day I came upon a garbage truck on fire…that was a real scoop!
So I went to the daily-and-Sunday paper that covered half of the county. In short, I all but begged the editor to give me a chance at being a correspondent covering my home town, and as it would turn out most of the township and council meetings and school board meetings in the county, with exception of the two major cities. Well, the editor hired me because he had no one else to put on the beat. It was a one-shot, coverage of a major school levy committe meeting. It was a very big deal, as small town meetings go. The reporting I did on that meeting was apparently sufficient, because I was assigned to write feature stories on two assignments…a Jaycees chapter being formed at the state prison farm. Big time. It was Christmas, and there was a brightly trimmed and lighted tree in the room where the meeting was held. I did the interview, chatted with a few prisoners who were going to be members of the group. My unintentionally hilarious lead paragraph was something like: “Crime prevention is of major importance to inmates of the prison farm.” My next big story was a feature on two elderly brothers who operated a landscape tree farm. The big story there was that one of the brothers had quit smoking, and his brother was growing tobacco on the property. Potential for a Pulitzer there.
I don’t recall the progression of my career as a correspondent. About two years later, working part-time, the paper created a full-time position working in my home town, police and fire calls, school board meetings and school feature stories.
Those were the days!
At the age of fifty, I declared that since half my life was over…the other half (arbitrarily estimated at fifty more years) would be…mine. Really it was more of a threat than a promise, but when complaining that everyone but me had been allowed to pursue a college education, and by implication, a career. “Everyone” being my children, and “pursue” meaning opportunity. Their response: “go for it, Mom. Do it…” Right. Me and a bunch of eighteen-year-old kids.
So I drove off to the Community College, grabbed a course bulletin, and sat down in the cafeteria. So far so good. Hmmm…what to study. Since I had no idea at this point if I would just take a couple of courses, or what. First things first…. courses that would be interesting, add to my store of knowledge, and something that I could do without making a fool of myself.
Since I was already a newspaper writer, English seemed like a logical course of study. Psychology was a no-brainer, pardon the pun. I wanted courses that I would enjoy, learn from, and be able to use in some capacity later on.
Well, I took to school like a duck in water. After the initial “oh no, not another senior student come to make my life miserable,” the professors put up with me and in fact treated me exactly as any other students. Although a lot of them were eighteen, many were much older, and they all treated me [almost] as a peer. I refrained from trying to hang out with them. I didn’t tell the English profs that I had been a working writer, mainly because one of the reasons I wanted to take the course was to test my writing skills. Psychology was just darn interesting.
By the end of the first school quarter I was hooked. I loved school, much more than I had in high school…yes, MUCH more! I signed up for English and Psychology courses the Winter quarter, and the Spring Quarter. Summer session was tempting, and I got into position to attend classes as a full-time student the following September.
By this time it had occurred to me that I really wanted to pursue an Associates Degree in General Studies, which I completed in May of 1988. I had taken great pains to make sure than my course work was on track in case I wanted to transfer credits, which I did…93 credits transferred to Cleveland State for September semester of 1988.
[…to be continued]
About a dozen years ago I decided to build a new house in the middle of a cabbage field. A bit radical, but having been recently widowed and really not inclined toward farming, mowing and maintaining eight and a half acres was a daunting, if not near-impossible task. It didn’t take long to contract with a modular home company and design a house that was really bigger than we needed.
But what an adventure! Once the field was prepared, a massive hole–a basement actually–was dug, creating a giant mountain of sandy soil which was at one time the base of an ancient lake. The ridge on which we live is an old lake shore, which millions of years later became the road on which our home is located. The digging went well, and although the workers held their breath waiting for ground water to come seeping or pouring out of the ground, the to-be basement stayed dry.
We were deemed fortunate, as a newly under construction house a mile or so down the road required seven sump pumps to clear the basin so that the cement floor could be poured. Anyway, the mountain in what is now our back yard grew taller, as the hole grew deeper. I loved it….being a lover of anything resembling a stone, rock, boulder, I was much enthusiastic at the thought that these particular stones coming to the surface had never been seen by humans. At least not in the imaginable duration.
We were hoping for BIG stones, boulders such as many new homes feature proudly in their front yards, but the largest stone we found was no bigger than my fist. I believe much of it, maybe most, is Berea Sandstone,, and chert, and all sorts of rock that had either always been there or arrived with a glacier back in the ice age.
The title of this blog is: SOMETIMES. It is my current choice of what to call the blog…but also leads to all sorts of great topics to follow and to write about. Searching for other blogs, written by other people that is, opens an entire new field of topics dealing with the universe and the backyard.
To begin with, I have already lived a long time. Not as long as some of my relatives…or ANY of my late husband’s female relatives…but still a long time. In fact planning for the future is one of my favorite hobbies, although I have already come to the realization that age really does limit activity.
Oh not these people who are “old” even when they are kids. Yep–we all know them. Or those who just can’t wait to retire so they can watch all the TV they want (geez…endless football!) and not have to DO anything.
Three things I always wanted to do: be an airplane pilot, climb mountains, and sail endlessly on a boat. All of the above have draw-backs, of course, starting with my fear of heights and fear of water. On second thought, those are good reasons for not fulfilling those particular dreams.
As a kid my goals were to become a Police Officer, a Lawyer, and a Psychiatrist. Those were all possible–but I didn’t realize it at the time since I never dreamed of going to college. Another aspiration was to become a Dancer. But sigh, that was out because I have two left feet as they say, and drove my dance instructor to drink when I took dancing lessons.
Having a vivid imagination all of my life has contributed wonderful dreams and ideas about all sorts of things. One thing I have always been is a Writer. That actually came to pass as a newspaper reporter and writer. When turning 50 I decided to go to college. At last.
So all of the above is brain-storming for my blogging101 assignment today. The goal was three topics… I jotted down 13 off the top of my head. So I’ll research the blogs to find kindred souls and topics of interest. That narrows down to more than I can count.
Writing is its own reward, of course, and I can certainly marvel at my own deathless prose and clever turns of expression…but writing for a field of potential bloggers who might be interested in what I have to say is priceless.
Ah, the age-old question. Easy answers, but maybe complicated.
I am here because I have endless blog ideas in my head, begging to be published. More to the point is that I need a shove to get this stuff out where others can read it–if they are interested.
Metaphorically my brain is less like an orderly file cabinet, and more like a series of cardboard boxes filled willy-nilly with stories and ideas, rough drafts, deathless prose just waiting to be uncovered. This material might never see the light of day without a shove in the right direction.
Here’s a few topics I want to include in my blog: CATS. Writing. Back In the Day…, Books. Collecting stuff. History. Opinionated Rants and Pious Preaching. Outrageous Historical Misinformation.
Actually I already have an introduction to my blog, SOMETIMES, which has been languishing in my blog draft file. In fact…there are a couple of such intro pieces, now that I think about it.
…glad to be aboard!
Yep, it’s the first of November. It’s raining, soaking the maple leaves coating everything. My van is sitting out in the drive, waiting to get into the garage, which only involves moving a half dozen boxes of stuff from the garage so there is room for the car. Sigh. It can’t be that easy of course.
I like rain…always have. Especially loud clapping thunder, and pouring rain coming straight down. Lightning not so much but when that is part of the sky show lightning has its own charm, albeit danger.