Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

School is Right Around the Corner, Plus Flashback Tips!

Residency is only a few days away and I'm getting anxious to get out there and finish this part of the program. A lot of the people I started out with are taking another semester to finish their projects so they won't be at this residency. Several more are stopping at this point to get on with the lives they've put on hold for the last year-and-a-half. I've decided to move on to the completion of the MFA or Master's of Fine Arts. It is the terminal degree, in other words, for this subject, it's as far as one can go. It will take oe more year, but as fast as this past year has gone, I believe it's worth it. Michael and my family have been great encouragers and God's grace in my life has been something I can hardly understand.

So tonight, I'm sitting here goig over everything I need to take with me to make sure I'm ready. I can confess I'm a little bit scared, but then again that only drives me to my knees. I'm a whole lot grateful to know that for some unknown reason, I can do this! I'm a writer!

Now for work. Flashbacks are a tool writers use to show the reader a part of the past while telling a story in the present. You give the reader a sense that they are going back by using transistions, or signals, that they are where you, the writer, meant them to be. If they find the transistion jerky, it may stop the reader from continuing. I should know as I've made this mistake:) Learning to make smoothe transistions can propel the reader back to a time where the memory of the character is clear.

For instance, here's an excerpt from my book Tobique. Emily is the main character. John is her grandfather. I've italisized the flashback for effect.

The Tobique, too, appeared changed, its waters emptied of the shaven logs that once bumped, lurched and latched into diving pools for the adventurous children of Plaster Rock. Its flow shifted easily, as though unfettered and unhurried by the long gone, surging timber.

Groups of dandelion puffs floated above the water, bobbing across the water like parachutes, touching, rising, then sinking into the face of the slow-moving current. The gliding seeds united with various drifting debris in shallow pools along the shoreline. Standing above the red banks of the river, the tiny clouds of white reminded Emily of Reverend Pike’s mushroom clusters of saved souls.

She cocked her head to remember the strains and steady beat of clapping hands of those who stood on the river banks to sing hymns of praise as sinners were washed clean in the river.

A fish jumped, then splashed a sphere of reentrance, the movement sending a circle of water rippling toward shore. Emily imagined tiny fish along the river’s murky edge. She closed her eyes and felt the many summers of joy spent wading there while polliwogs flitted between her toes. Though the wind was gentle in its blowing, she huddled her arms close to her body and allowed a warm memory to cover her.

In late spring he always took her fishing. Trout. Downriver, she and her grandfather donned tall green rubber boots and waded into a shallow cutting of the river. The morning was crisp, the water cool through the rubber, chilling her feet like the water bottle her grandmother used to bring down a fever.

They’d stop to pull fiddleheads from the green clumps lazing along the banks of the Tobique, the scroll-like ferns punching from the soil. Emily filled her tiny bucket with the treat that went so well with fresh fish, then followed her grandfather to the edge of the river.

John tugged the handmade canoe to a felled log, securing it in the shade for seven-year-old Emily to play in while he fished. He rubbed his callous hand across the top of her head, shaking it back and forth as he cautioned her about respecting the Tobique. He shared stories of the near-misses of his own mistakes on the river, and of his baptism beneath the watery skin. He settled her in the boat and prepared his lure before pushing into the quick moving current.


  1. I love your prose. It soars!

  2. Tobique was the first Marcinkowski work I ever read. Brought back memories.

    I took your advice and entered a short, creative non-fiction to storysouth.com. There will be more.
    Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


  3. Boy, am I one lucky person! Gray your comments arealways so encouraging! And Sue, I'm am thrilled that you took a step and entered this. It is right up your alley! You go girl!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts!