Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Putting Myself in the "Naughty Chair" (Read on...It Will Make Sense!)

For years I've been an ardent fan of the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. These are wonderful stories, ten in all, about a girl named Betsy Ray. Betsy grew up around the turn of the 20th century in the small town of Deep Valley, MN and was based on Maud Hart Lovelace herself as a girl growing up in Mankato.

Some day I will do more writing about these wonderful books and why I love them, but for now, let me just reference one of my favorite parts of the tenth and final book, Betsy's Wedding. In this book, Betsy Ray marries her high school sweetheart, that dashing newspaperman Joe Willard. Joe was based on Maud's husband Delos Lovelace, and both Maud and Delos (and by extension their fictional counterparts Betsy and Joe) were writers.

In Betsy's Wedding, set around the time of WWI, the two of them are regular attenders of a wacky and loveable group of writers. The group dubbed itself "The Violent Study Club" and besides reading to each other from books they loved, they would read snippets of writing they were working on and ask for encouragement and criticism. I've always wished, quite wistfully, that I could find a group of writers as vital and fun as the Violent Study Club.

One of their most loveable quirks was putting a member of the group in a special seat called the "naughty chair" whenever one of them got published. This always made me laugh. Since they were all struggling writers, it was their way of saying "well done!" and providing recognition, and of laughingly chiding the published writer for showing the rest of them up by actually daring to go out and get something published.

With life being what it is these days, crammed full to bursting with so much to do (and so many things I wish I could do more wholly and fully) I'm not getting much of a chance to send work out. So when I do, and when I get a positive response... and an actual by-line...it feels worth celebrating.

I don't have a "Violent Study Club" (more's the pity) but every once in a while, when I get something published, I'm going to put myself in a figurative (virtual?!) naughty chair, because even small writing accomplishments are worth celebrating.

My essay "All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter" came out this past week in the "Literary Heroes" issue of Inkblots, a lovely, small and independent literary magazine edited by Melinda Lavorante. You can go here to see the publications's website and a copy of the cover of the issue: www.erality.com/inkblots/page.php?summer06

Melinda is an excellent and encouraging editor and I appreciate the way she mentors younger writers...and doesn't mind accepting submissions from more seasoned (read: middle-aged) folks like me as well. I've already recommended her lovely publication to a talented young writer I know who is still in high school, and I'll continue to pass the word along to other writers as well as interested readers. If you love good books, especially literary classics, this magazine is an enjoyable read!


Erin said...

Congratulations! Now as soon as I can figure out how to do it, I'm going to buy a copy of that issue.

Incidentally, I'm in the middle of reviewing the second Betsy-Tacy book and will read your review as soon as I finish it.

Writing clubs are indeed cool. Tolkien and Lewis certainly benefitted! I formed one once with a couple friends of mine. We met every week, and it was a lot of fun, though I don't suppose we really accomplished very much...

Beth said...

I've never really been in a good writer's group. I've tried to get a couple of them started online in recent years, but they always fizzle. Too much distance, I think!

If you go the Inkblots webpage, I think there's information for ordering single issues. It's a nicely done journal, "homemade" yet quite professional. I really enjoyed reading other articles in it and appreciate how she highlights the work of younger artists.

Sometimes I get kind of discouraged that I'm not farther along with the craft of writing, even after all these years... but all I can do is keep writing.

Happy to hear you're working on another B-T review! I'm hoping to step up the pace because I love the later books in the series so much and realized the other day that some of them have no reviews yet. But I'd like to review them in order...and even though I know them all almost "by heart" I still find myself wanting to re-read them as I get ready to review them! :-)