Eleanor Sullo

Eleanor Sullo
So it's 104 in the shade and you want me to smile?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Writer with shovel, fork and wooden spoon

Early on in my own writing days I tended to stay in my main characters’ heads for paragraph after paragraph. That was mainly because I had no idea how to put these men and women into realistic but catchy conversations with other characters, and I was just enthralled with getting to know what made them tick:
 “She wondered what Billy thought about…blah, blah, blah.”
“He watched her move across the floor, thinking…blah, blah, blah.”
“I can’t do that, she thought. I’m not that kind of girl. I was brought up to be…blah, blah, blah.”
Though I fall into the headscape monologue still, mostly these charming interludes have been slashed from my work, and hopefully will never return, unless I develop the writing skill of a Dostoyevsky or a Jane Austen.
In truth, the ideas that become fruitful in my chapters come from those aspects of my everyday life that excite me, that get my heart racing. Because when they arise out of a real passion, they often ring true, and get expressed in decent fiction narrative. Take the garden—please take it, as the weeds are flagrant everywhere. No, don’t, because in truth I love working in the garden. Each tiny bean plant poking up with such courage after weeks of rain, each little green lettuce head curling in upon itself as it strives to grow up, the scent of freshly tilled earth—and yes, that farm-smell, too—all make me realize that in the garden we’re about creating. Co-creating, if you will. And I’m so happy to be here.
Wasn’t it George Bernard Shaw who wrote that the best place to find God is in the garden: “You can dig for him there.” Which is why I need a shovel: I for one don’t mind the digging, and I don’t mind George’s sarcasm. Not one bit. I care about the soil and the weeds and the scarlet globes practically falling off the branches. So these things find their way into my stories, and I hope, add some vitality to them as well.
In my first mystery, Menopause Murders: Hostage, the dastardly crime occurs beneath the blooming rhododendrons. And the immediate effort of the lady of the house, rich and slightly spoiled Ada, are to replant areas of her garden, make it burst with color and shape and beauty that comforts. And she enlists lots of people to help. A communal gardening effort!

I liked her for that—she brought life to a sad moment, and it felt real to me, because I cared so much how those new shrubs and flowers would look. And how the other characters might feel to see them.

A little mad on my part, maybe, but tell me if it doesn’t work for you, if you write, or if you read. Someone wise once said, “Write what you really care about; care about how you live your life.” Okay, so the “wise someone” is me—but have pity on me because I’ve been planting tomatoes all weekend and I need a break.
Now I’ll rest on my shovel until Friday, when I touch down in my kitchen and in my 747 for more on how I write.
Eleanor Sullo

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