What seems like a long time ago, but is really only about six years, I was part of a writing group that met every Wednesday at the local library. I lived in a semi-rural area, kind of like I do now, and the library was a great gathering place. It had been built in an old grocery store that backed up to thick woods, and sat in a plaza with a very authentic Mexican food restaurant, and a Shell gas station. That’s how it is in rural areas – things are tucked in the strangest places.
Our group was small – a couple in their 40’s who drove from the city out to our meetings, a 30-something woman who had just been published by The Wild Rose Press (my publisher, who I was contracted with in 2014), myself, and Loretta.
Loretta was by far the most interesting person in our group. She was 84 years old and “finally living her dream of writing.” She had wanted to be a writer all her life. She was full of stories. She was working on a “true” story that involved people at the local VFW hall bar, aliens, mad cows, swamp gas, and murder. She would read excerpts to us at our meetings, and it didn’t take long for me to look forward anxiously to the next chapter of her story. It was fantastical stuff, written in awful format, but the story was enough to keep you interested. She even wrote a “short” story for our non-juried anthology, in which we published stories from our group and from another writing group in the area. A Tongue in Cheek History of Jefferson County was published the summer before I moved from Missouri to Colorado.
One of the things we did as a writing group was to give ourselves challenges. I wasn’t fully invested in my novel-writing at that point, but the writing challenges gave me some inspiration to work with. Sometimes, I provided a prompt from my Write-Brain book, which had a lot of prompts to work with. We wrote to “the first thing I noticed was the splotch of catsup on his white shirt,” and “Down in the swamp,…” But Loretta’s favorite writing challenge was the six-word challenge. All of us would provide six words that needed to be used in a story, giving us 30 words to work with.
Loretta’s favorite “word” was “cobalt blue.” Yes, that’s two words, but we’re talking about Loretta, and no one ever had the heart to call her on “cobalt blue.” Any time we did this challenge, that would be her first contribution. She loved that phrase. And to be honest, it made is be really creative about our stories.
I was able to use cobalt blue, along with all the other words, in a story I wrote that deserves to be a whole novel. I love that story, and the main character, Bernice. If it weren’t for Loretta, I wouldn’t have that story.
I am pretty sure Loretta is no longer on this earth. I have no way of checking, as I’ve lost contact with the people in that writing group. But I will never forget Loretta. Every evening when the sun goes down, and the sky turns that deep, colorful blue you get at twilight, I think of Loretta. Any time I see a blue dish, or a young lady with blue hair, I think of Loretta. When I think of writing fantastical stories with aliens, or I pass a VFW hall, I think of Loretta.
And when I read my short story, called “Bernice,” I think of Loretta. The story is published online, and maybe you’ll take a click over and read it.
As always, I’d love to have your comments. And is there someone in your past that you will never forget, where certain sights or smells or sounds will bring that person back to life in your mind, even though they are long gone?
Fairest of the Faire
Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.
Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.
When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.
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