1/13/2012: The moon is waning and I have been away from my story, my Irish story for several days. In the meantime, the story has gelled more. As an editor and writer, I receive a lot of how-to information for writers. My favorite advice is the simplest, simply write. Write your way to the story and through the story, and listen to the story as you write it. If it gels– prepare to have the gel make shapes you might not have imagined.
My Irish story is doing just that. In the Cloughmills story, I have a painting that I put on a wall in a cottage in Armagh, Ireland. I thought I was fleshing out a scene and giving more information about two of the characters. This morning, in the middle of fixing breakfast, it occurred to me that this painting was central to the entire story. Earlier on I drafted more notebook story, which gave me greater insight into the characters and I believe this is what inspired the insight. Until things gel another way, I am moving in this direction.
I call these insights, writing-surprises. Writing-surprises are markers that tell you, as a writer, that you are paying attention. As you listen to the writing, what you write and the characters you develop become whole and vocal and tell you more about the story and its direction.
1/7/2012 Cloughmills: I reread my pages and pages of story as delivered in my notebook, and I have decided that that a 1:10 ratio is about right. These wonderful 3 in the morning free-writes give me great insights into the characters. What I have to do as the architect of the story is provide a structure for all its many rooms. I started that last night. There is a natural love story in the mix, and since the story takes place in Ireland in the spring of the main characters later lives, this will be fun to follow. Because it is Ireland, there will be some legends to play with too. I think I will call the story. The Linen Maker’s Daughter.
1/6/2012 Cloughmills is on my mind as I write tonight. I have a notebook in which I write scenes and I have filled over a 100 pages. It is a chef’s kitchen of ideas — five gardens in one breath of imaginings. For every five pages of notebook, I get one page of rewrites. I am not used to writing in this manner, and I do not know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I do not know if I am leaving too much detail out or putting the right detail in. I do love my characters, and I do not want to disappoint them. So tonight my homework is to read the notebook, and embrace it.
1/4/2012 Cloughmills is a tiny village in County Antrim and 62 kilometers from Armagh the setting for my story. In Northern Ireland, UK, Clough, Cloughmills, and Clogh all exist. Across the Irish Sea from County Armagh the little town of Slough may be found. Part of my interest in cemetery research in this area comes from family documents indicating that part of my family came from one of these places; I do know they received permission to leave Ireland through Newcastle. I am glad I am writing a novel — and my passion is in the story and not the dead-on accuracy of just where when and whom traveled this way or that. For the sake of my sanity or until my facts are corrected next, my characters are situated in Armagh and travel to Cloughmills and Newcastle. I am choosing Cloughmills because I like the Harry Hume oral history so much. And now, on this truly blustery Bellingham afternoon, I am returning to my story.
1/3/2012: Micah & Emmy have had a fine morning in Armagh. I left them after a picnic on the way to Ballyweanie cemetery in Cloch. They were on a stone bridge. Emmy pitched pennies into the greenest valley she remembered ever seeing; the brownies Micah packed in the lunch had their own special punch. ‘There’s your rainbow,’ Micah said.
‘Oh look at it — just look at it.’ She stared into the sky until she began to giggle. ‘We’re so old,’ she said. ‘Isn’t it great?’
January is a great month for writing and this story wants to write itself. I am definitely along for the ride.
So many changes: 12/3/11… I read a wonderful interview with Harry Hume, a Clogh local. And it is ‘Clogh’ not ‘Clough’ according to Harry. The full interview can be found at http://www.antrimhistory.net/content.php?cid=74 Harry took me on a walking tour of the very place my characters are in. I found this photo of Slemish Mountain on the Antrim Plateau; a view from Ballyweanie Graveyard.
- Slemish Mountain on the Antrim Plateau may be viewed from the Ballyweanie church yard.
Clough Update: 12-2-11: I am at work on the Irish story, and I really don’t know where this one goes. I write at night before I sleep sometimes, and sometimes I wake up and write. In the morning I am somewhat surprised at the result.
“Clough” means “stone” in Gaelic. Wikipedia sorted this one out for me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clogh,_County_Antrim
On a message board about 11 years ago, I found a woman holding papers from my family. Among them was a passport for William and Anna Stewart and children. The interesting part of this was the date: 1762. The family planned to emigrate to Pennsylvania from County Antrim, Ireland. Mr. Stewart was a lace-maker. In County Antrim, it appears they lived in Clogh.
About a year or so after I received these papers,the Bellingham Herald had a story about a family named Stewart. It was the same Stewart family. The son of William and Anna had taken his ministry to California Creek here in Whatcom County, Washington. The land was adjacent to that of a dear friend of my ex-husband.
Today I have tried to put some of these pieces together. I looked at the passport and the names, none were familiar. In my mind I had changed Clogh to Armagh (so certain I was I contacted an old friend who recently moved to Armagh for local information.) It felt as though I had created this out of whole cloth, to beg a phrase.
Today I took a look at the other papers and noted the woman who transcribed the Irish passport was named Jones. Her great grand father was William Stewart from Antrim. In the papers I pulled from the file I found my grandmother’s name: Edith Leone Jones Gillilan. Her grandfather or great grandfather was the same William Stewart.
I thought my friend’s move to Armagh was serendipitous; but really the Whatcom County connection is mysteriously serendipitous.
Is my family trying to find me? Is there a story here? I’m thinking, yes.
- The Stewart Family at California Creek, Whatcom County Washington.
- The passport was transcribed by Martha A. Jones Stewart related to my grandmother, Edith Leone Jones Gillilan.