Hijacked into Contemporary Romance

Guest Blogger — Karyn Witmer/Elizabeth Grayson

Lots of romance writers change what they write over the course of their career.  For some that change is a growth process.  Mary Jo moved seamlessly from writing wonderful Regencies to writing wonderful historical romances.  She tested the waters in contemporary romance and eventually added fantasy to her amazing repertoire.

Sometimes authors change the kind of stories they tell because reader tastes change or  markets dry up.   

I myself was hijacked.

After writing ten historical romances as Elizabeth Grayson and Elizabeth Kary, Bantam made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  They presented me with a contract for MOON IN THE WATER, a historical I had thoroughly researched and really wanted to write, on the  provision that the second book in the agreement would be a contemporary story.

To say the least, I was flabbergasted.   How could I write a contemporary novel when for the last ten years I’d spent most of my waking hours nosing around in the nineteenth century?  But a writer has to eat, so I agreed to the contract and thought I’d figure out the contemporary story when the time came.   

As it turned out, I pretty much worried about what I was going to do the whole time I was writing MOON IN THE WATER.  Where was I going to come up with a contemporary idea?  I wondered.  I can barely use my cell phone and just didn’t think in “contemporary .” 

I was eating breakfast one morning about this time of year and admiring my huge  Christmas cactus abloom in all it’s brilliant fuchsia glory at the far end of the table.  The plant means a lot to me.  When I was little, my great-grandmother had a cactus even larger than mine growing at the end of her sun parlor. As a child of six or seven, I thought it was positively magical that it bloomed only at Christmas.

My grandmother had a cactus, too, growing in her dining room.   My mom had hers in the window of the sewing room in the house where I grew up.  Grandma and Mom’s plants had grown from cuttings taken from Nana’s Christmas cactus.  When I moved into my first apartment, my mom brought me a cutting, too.

It’s that single scrawny cutting that grew into the great, spreading plant with its gnarled branches and canopy of paddle-shaped leaves that is flowering like crazy downstairs in my family room right this minute.   

“There’s a story in that cactus,” I thought. 

And at first it seemed that any story I would write about a Christmas cactus would have to be historical.  Or maybe it would be the saga of all four women’s lives. 

That’s when I did a little hijacking of my own, because when I received that slip of a Christmas cactus from my mom, I remembered that it felt kind of like a rite of passage.  What I it said to me  in a way that my mom could never have put into words was, “You’re on your own now, and I’m so proud of the way you’ve grown up.”

So what if a fictional mother presented her daughter with a cutting from the family Christmas cactus with that same message?  What if the reason she was doing it was to reestablish a relationship with her rebellious daughter?  What if that simple gift came with an acknowledgment that her child had become a woman in her own right, with the assurance that she accepts the choices the younger woman has made?  What if it represented a mother’s enduring love? 

From the time I signed the contract for the book that became A SIMPLE GIFT,  I knew I wanted to write about a family in crisis.  This story line would give me the chance to do that.    

That’s when I met Avery, a woman who put her husband and daughter ahead of everything else and nearly lost herself when her family imploded.  It introduced me to Mike, who came from a deeply dysfunctional family and was determined that to make up for that he was going to see that his own little family was perfect.  It brought brilliant, headstrong Fiona to life as a daughter determined to live on her own and make her own mistakes.

As a writer of historical romance, sweeping events have almost always set my stories in motion. I’ve used an Indian attacks, a bank robberies, and Civil War battles to add action and drama.  I’ve relied heavily on the conflicts in history provided me to keep my hero and heroine apart.

So when it came to writing a contemporary story, how was I going to wring those strong emotions from situations we all do every day?  Things like going grocery shopping, sharing a pizza with a friend, or discussing finances?   And because those events seemed so small by comparison, I had days when writing A SIMPLE GIFT felt like scrubbing Walmart’s parking lot with a tooth brush.

Then I started having days when the characters helped me out.  New characters show up unannounced.  Existing characters revealed their fears and foibles and insights I didn’t know they had.  Sometimes they told me things I wish they’d been a little more up-front about:  Like the way Mike and Avery waited until three days before my deadline to reveal that – Oh, by the way, they’d had another child after Fiona.

Writing the historical vignettes I used in the story to show how each of the women in the family got her Christmas cactus were the best part of writing the book.  It was challenging, too, because each  of those women was determined to tell her own story in her own way.  Great-grandma Letty, whose young, dashing husband gave her the first cactus, left her diary.  Grandma Ada reminisced about receiving her cactus and permission to marry her true love on the very same Christmas Eve.  Miriam, Avery’s mother, reminisced in her journal about  how the hardships of the depression brought her not just her Christmas cactus, but the man she loved.

Even though I did kind of get hijacked into writing a contemporary novel, I’m not sorry it happened.  I really enjoyed working on A SIMPLE GIFT.  Because I wasn’t entirely sure what my publisher and editor expected, I explored, tried new things, played with what were for me new kinds of storytelling.

Anything that gives a writer’s creativity a quick, sharp prod in the ribs the way A SIMPLE GIFT did for me is a very good thing.  It’s good for the writer herself and an even better thing for the readers who like her stories.

48 thoughts on “Hijacked into Contemporary Romance”

  1. From Sherrie:
    Karyn, I loved the idea of cuttings from a Christmas cactus passing down through generations of a family. This struck a nostalgic chord for me. Over 30 years ago I rescued a sickly-looking spider plant from my mom’s garbage can. It was a frigid November and the tips of the plant’s leaves were frozen, but I took it home and nursed it back to health.
    Soon I was cutting off “babies” from the plant and using them to start new plants. I gave them to friends and took one to work, where it grew to 4′ x 3.5′. One of my co-workers coveted the plant, and when she retired, I gave it to her as a gift.
    Many of my friends have the great, great, great x-infinity grandchildren of my original spider plant. Several years ago a severe snowstorm caused a power outage that lasted two weeks, and during that time all the plants in my house froze beyond recovery. I was heartsick, because most of my plants–including a huge Christmas cactus, were rescues that I had nursed back to health after friends gave up on them. The biggest emotional loss was the spider plant.
    And then I remembered that I had a small cutting from that spider plant at the office! Oh, joy! I nurtured that office plant, and now I have three of its offspring. Two of them are gigantic. (Did I mention I have a green thumb?) One sits on the dining room table and covers the *entire* surface. The other hangs from the ceiling in the living room, and I had to buy an extra sturdy hanger because it is so big. The third plant is just a baby and is only a couple feet wide. *g*
    Thank you so much for your lovely story, Karyn. It brought back fond memories of my own plant history.

    Reply
  2. From Sherrie:
    Karyn, I loved the idea of cuttings from a Christmas cactus passing down through generations of a family. This struck a nostalgic chord for me. Over 30 years ago I rescued a sickly-looking spider plant from my mom’s garbage can. It was a frigid November and the tips of the plant’s leaves were frozen, but I took it home and nursed it back to health.
    Soon I was cutting off “babies” from the plant and using them to start new plants. I gave them to friends and took one to work, where it grew to 4′ x 3.5′. One of my co-workers coveted the plant, and when she retired, I gave it to her as a gift.
    Many of my friends have the great, great, great x-infinity grandchildren of my original spider plant. Several years ago a severe snowstorm caused a power outage that lasted two weeks, and during that time all the plants in my house froze beyond recovery. I was heartsick, because most of my plants–including a huge Christmas cactus, were rescues that I had nursed back to health after friends gave up on them. The biggest emotional loss was the spider plant.
    And then I remembered that I had a small cutting from that spider plant at the office! Oh, joy! I nurtured that office plant, and now I have three of its offspring. Two of them are gigantic. (Did I mention I have a green thumb?) One sits on the dining room table and covers the *entire* surface. The other hangs from the ceiling in the living room, and I had to buy an extra sturdy hanger because it is so big. The third plant is just a baby and is only a couple feet wide. *g*
    Thank you so much for your lovely story, Karyn. It brought back fond memories of my own plant history.

    Reply
  3. From Sherrie:
    Karyn, I loved the idea of cuttings from a Christmas cactus passing down through generations of a family. This struck a nostalgic chord for me. Over 30 years ago I rescued a sickly-looking spider plant from my mom’s garbage can. It was a frigid November and the tips of the plant’s leaves were frozen, but I took it home and nursed it back to health.
    Soon I was cutting off “babies” from the plant and using them to start new plants. I gave them to friends and took one to work, where it grew to 4′ x 3.5′. One of my co-workers coveted the plant, and when she retired, I gave it to her as a gift.
    Many of my friends have the great, great, great x-infinity grandchildren of my original spider plant. Several years ago a severe snowstorm caused a power outage that lasted two weeks, and during that time all the plants in my house froze beyond recovery. I was heartsick, because most of my plants–including a huge Christmas cactus, were rescues that I had nursed back to health after friends gave up on them. The biggest emotional loss was the spider plant.
    And then I remembered that I had a small cutting from that spider plant at the office! Oh, joy! I nurtured that office plant, and now I have three of its offspring. Two of them are gigantic. (Did I mention I have a green thumb?) One sits on the dining room table and covers the *entire* surface. The other hangs from the ceiling in the living room, and I had to buy an extra sturdy hanger because it is so big. The third plant is just a baby and is only a couple feet wide. *g*
    Thank you so much for your lovely story, Karyn. It brought back fond memories of my own plant history.

    Reply
  4. From Sherrie:
    Karyn, I loved the idea of cuttings from a Christmas cactus passing down through generations of a family. This struck a nostalgic chord for me. Over 30 years ago I rescued a sickly-looking spider plant from my mom’s garbage can. It was a frigid November and the tips of the plant’s leaves were frozen, but I took it home and nursed it back to health.
    Soon I was cutting off “babies” from the plant and using them to start new plants. I gave them to friends and took one to work, where it grew to 4′ x 3.5′. One of my co-workers coveted the plant, and when she retired, I gave it to her as a gift.
    Many of my friends have the great, great, great x-infinity grandchildren of my original spider plant. Several years ago a severe snowstorm caused a power outage that lasted two weeks, and during that time all the plants in my house froze beyond recovery. I was heartsick, because most of my plants–including a huge Christmas cactus, were rescues that I had nursed back to health after friends gave up on them. The biggest emotional loss was the spider plant.
    And then I remembered that I had a small cutting from that spider plant at the office! Oh, joy! I nurtured that office plant, and now I have three of its offspring. Two of them are gigantic. (Did I mention I have a green thumb?) One sits on the dining room table and covers the *entire* surface. The other hangs from the ceiling in the living room, and I had to buy an extra sturdy hanger because it is so big. The third plant is just a baby and is only a couple feet wide. *g*
    Thank you so much for your lovely story, Karyn. It brought back fond memories of my own plant history.

    Reply
  5. Ha, I knew you could blog with the best of them! I love the cactus story. I, too, have a beloved plant that came from my mother’s house. It’s suffered lots of trials and tribulations over the year. Once, my mother broke the pot and it split in half and she was heartbroken until I explained to her how she could make two pots out of it. So my brother and I have inherited a part of our past.
    A SIMPLE GIFT was a wonderful, heartwarming story, perfect Christmas reading!

    Reply
  6. Ha, I knew you could blog with the best of them! I love the cactus story. I, too, have a beloved plant that came from my mother’s house. It’s suffered lots of trials and tribulations over the year. Once, my mother broke the pot and it split in half and she was heartbroken until I explained to her how she could make two pots out of it. So my brother and I have inherited a part of our past.
    A SIMPLE GIFT was a wonderful, heartwarming story, perfect Christmas reading!

    Reply
  7. Ha, I knew you could blog with the best of them! I love the cactus story. I, too, have a beloved plant that came from my mother’s house. It’s suffered lots of trials and tribulations over the year. Once, my mother broke the pot and it split in half and she was heartbroken until I explained to her how she could make two pots out of it. So my brother and I have inherited a part of our past.
    A SIMPLE GIFT was a wonderful, heartwarming story, perfect Christmas reading!

    Reply
  8. Ha, I knew you could blog with the best of them! I love the cactus story. I, too, have a beloved plant that came from my mother’s house. It’s suffered lots of trials and tribulations over the year. Once, my mother broke the pot and it split in half and she was heartbroken until I explained to her how she could make two pots out of it. So my brother and I have inherited a part of our past.
    A SIMPLE GIFT was a wonderful, heartwarming story, perfect Christmas reading!

    Reply
  9. I think your flexibility proves your writing power! I admire writers who can branch out. It’s scary and fun at the same time to test yourself. Although I prefer historicals, I will read anything (my kids say even cereal boxes).

    Reply
  10. I think your flexibility proves your writing power! I admire writers who can branch out. It’s scary and fun at the same time to test yourself. Although I prefer historicals, I will read anything (my kids say even cereal boxes).

    Reply
  11. I think your flexibility proves your writing power! I admire writers who can branch out. It’s scary and fun at the same time to test yourself. Although I prefer historicals, I will read anything (my kids say even cereal boxes).

    Reply
  12. I think your flexibility proves your writing power! I admire writers who can branch out. It’s scary and fun at the same time to test yourself. Although I prefer historicals, I will read anything (my kids say even cereal boxes).

    Reply
  13. I myself just last month received my start from my mother’s Christmas Cactus. She received hers from my great grandmother, Essie Kate. I was touched that someone else had experienced the same wonderful gift as myself.
    Thanks for the wonderful post. It brought to mind long forgotten memories of that beautiful cactus blooming at Christmas.
    Best wishes and Happy Holidays.

    Reply
  14. I myself just last month received my start from my mother’s Christmas Cactus. She received hers from my great grandmother, Essie Kate. I was touched that someone else had experienced the same wonderful gift as myself.
    Thanks for the wonderful post. It brought to mind long forgotten memories of that beautiful cactus blooming at Christmas.
    Best wishes and Happy Holidays.

    Reply
  15. I myself just last month received my start from my mother’s Christmas Cactus. She received hers from my great grandmother, Essie Kate. I was touched that someone else had experienced the same wonderful gift as myself.
    Thanks for the wonderful post. It brought to mind long forgotten memories of that beautiful cactus blooming at Christmas.
    Best wishes and Happy Holidays.

    Reply
  16. I myself just last month received my start from my mother’s Christmas Cactus. She received hers from my great grandmother, Essie Kate. I was touched that someone else had experienced the same wonderful gift as myself.
    Thanks for the wonderful post. It brought to mind long forgotten memories of that beautiful cactus blooming at Christmas.
    Best wishes and Happy Holidays.

    Reply
  17. Karyn–
    I’m glad you think I made the transition between genres seamlessly! There was actually a lot of kicking and screaming behind the scenes, as you also experienced, but at least the seams didn’t show.
    What a wonderful premise for a story! I’ve got to move A Simple Gift to the top of the TBR mountain. I never really thought about the heritage of passing plant cuttings (my mother didn’t do plants), but it’s a lovely, quiet form of female heritage. I can see from the comments here that your family isn’t the only one to have generations of plants.
    My sister has a Christmas cactus, though actually it has turned out to be a Thanksgiving cactus. 🙂 Maybe I should ask for a cutting.
    Giving each other new life is kind of a female thing, isn’t it? Not exclusively, but predominantly. Last week a cover comp from my publisher was delivered by a nice young UPS lady, and she was admiring a healthy ground cover that lashes its way beneath my front door sill.
    I couldn’t tell her what the ground cover was, but I was happy to provide scissors, a wet paper towel, and a plastic bag when she asked for a cutting. I wonder how far that cutting will travel?
    Thanks for coming by, Karyn!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  18. Karyn–
    I’m glad you think I made the transition between genres seamlessly! There was actually a lot of kicking and screaming behind the scenes, as you also experienced, but at least the seams didn’t show.
    What a wonderful premise for a story! I’ve got to move A Simple Gift to the top of the TBR mountain. I never really thought about the heritage of passing plant cuttings (my mother didn’t do plants), but it’s a lovely, quiet form of female heritage. I can see from the comments here that your family isn’t the only one to have generations of plants.
    My sister has a Christmas cactus, though actually it has turned out to be a Thanksgiving cactus. 🙂 Maybe I should ask for a cutting.
    Giving each other new life is kind of a female thing, isn’t it? Not exclusively, but predominantly. Last week a cover comp from my publisher was delivered by a nice young UPS lady, and she was admiring a healthy ground cover that lashes its way beneath my front door sill.
    I couldn’t tell her what the ground cover was, but I was happy to provide scissors, a wet paper towel, and a plastic bag when she asked for a cutting. I wonder how far that cutting will travel?
    Thanks for coming by, Karyn!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  19. Karyn–
    I’m glad you think I made the transition between genres seamlessly! There was actually a lot of kicking and screaming behind the scenes, as you also experienced, but at least the seams didn’t show.
    What a wonderful premise for a story! I’ve got to move A Simple Gift to the top of the TBR mountain. I never really thought about the heritage of passing plant cuttings (my mother didn’t do plants), but it’s a lovely, quiet form of female heritage. I can see from the comments here that your family isn’t the only one to have generations of plants.
    My sister has a Christmas cactus, though actually it has turned out to be a Thanksgiving cactus. 🙂 Maybe I should ask for a cutting.
    Giving each other new life is kind of a female thing, isn’t it? Not exclusively, but predominantly. Last week a cover comp from my publisher was delivered by a nice young UPS lady, and she was admiring a healthy ground cover that lashes its way beneath my front door sill.
    I couldn’t tell her what the ground cover was, but I was happy to provide scissors, a wet paper towel, and a plastic bag when she asked for a cutting. I wonder how far that cutting will travel?
    Thanks for coming by, Karyn!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  20. Karyn–
    I’m glad you think I made the transition between genres seamlessly! There was actually a lot of kicking and screaming behind the scenes, as you also experienced, but at least the seams didn’t show.
    What a wonderful premise for a story! I’ve got to move A Simple Gift to the top of the TBR mountain. I never really thought about the heritage of passing plant cuttings (my mother didn’t do plants), but it’s a lovely, quiet form of female heritage. I can see from the comments here that your family isn’t the only one to have generations of plants.
    My sister has a Christmas cactus, though actually it has turned out to be a Thanksgiving cactus. 🙂 Maybe I should ask for a cutting.
    Giving each other new life is kind of a female thing, isn’t it? Not exclusively, but predominantly. Last week a cover comp from my publisher was delivered by a nice young UPS lady, and she was admiring a healthy ground cover that lashes its way beneath my front door sill.
    I couldn’t tell her what the ground cover was, but I was happy to provide scissors, a wet paper towel, and a plastic bag when she asked for a cutting. I wonder how far that cutting will travel?
    Thanks for coming by, Karyn!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  21. Welcome to Word Wenches, Karyn!
    Thanks for an excellent and thought-provoking post. I’ve loved your Elizabeth Grayson historicals (and your writer workshops as well!)and I’ll definitely look for A SIMPLE GIFT. And a Christmas cactus. 🙂
    I also sometimes feel like I’ve been scrubbing the WalMart parking lot with a toothbrush — what a great way to put it. *g* A modern Herculean effort. And yet somehow we always get the thing cleaned up and finished, though it seems like a miracle every time….
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  22. Welcome to Word Wenches, Karyn!
    Thanks for an excellent and thought-provoking post. I’ve loved your Elizabeth Grayson historicals (and your writer workshops as well!)and I’ll definitely look for A SIMPLE GIFT. And a Christmas cactus. 🙂
    I also sometimes feel like I’ve been scrubbing the WalMart parking lot with a toothbrush — what a great way to put it. *g* A modern Herculean effort. And yet somehow we always get the thing cleaned up and finished, though it seems like a miracle every time….
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  23. Welcome to Word Wenches, Karyn!
    Thanks for an excellent and thought-provoking post. I’ve loved your Elizabeth Grayson historicals (and your writer workshops as well!)and I’ll definitely look for A SIMPLE GIFT. And a Christmas cactus. 🙂
    I also sometimes feel like I’ve been scrubbing the WalMart parking lot with a toothbrush — what a great way to put it. *g* A modern Herculean effort. And yet somehow we always get the thing cleaned up and finished, though it seems like a miracle every time….
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  24. Welcome to Word Wenches, Karyn!
    Thanks for an excellent and thought-provoking post. I’ve loved your Elizabeth Grayson historicals (and your writer workshops as well!)and I’ll definitely look for A SIMPLE GIFT. And a Christmas cactus. 🙂
    I also sometimes feel like I’ve been scrubbing the WalMart parking lot with a toothbrush — what a great way to put it. *g* A modern Herculean effort. And yet somehow we always get the thing cleaned up and finished, though it seems like a miracle every time….
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  25. I knew there had to be other women out there who had had this same kind of experience of passing plants down through the family. I think Mary Jo makes a really good point about the urge to nurture things being something women do. It’s probably genetic. We do it with our kids, our friends, our assorted pets — and with our plants.
    I have in my strange collection of plants that have been through four or five moves with me. The biggest is a ficus that has grown into a tree. (Now decorated with Xmas lights.) The oldest — besides my Christmas cactus — is the six foot tall palm tree my dh Tom bought me at a Florida airport when we were courting. It is one of those that comes in a box. That has been with us more than thirty years. The oddest is an innocuous-looking plant we adopted when one of Tom’s old bosses was moving. It grew into the nastiest, prickliest lemon tree you ever saw. It has outlived it’s original owner and is now referred to around our house as the Bob XYZ Memorial Tree. It’s a real pain to prune and water, but I think we’re stuck with keeping it.
    Unfortunately I am not nearly so lucky at keeping things out in the yard alive.
    Karyn

    Reply
  26. I knew there had to be other women out there who had had this same kind of experience of passing plants down through the family. I think Mary Jo makes a really good point about the urge to nurture things being something women do. It’s probably genetic. We do it with our kids, our friends, our assorted pets — and with our plants.
    I have in my strange collection of plants that have been through four or five moves with me. The biggest is a ficus that has grown into a tree. (Now decorated with Xmas lights.) The oldest — besides my Christmas cactus — is the six foot tall palm tree my dh Tom bought me at a Florida airport when we were courting. It is one of those that comes in a box. That has been with us more than thirty years. The oddest is an innocuous-looking plant we adopted when one of Tom’s old bosses was moving. It grew into the nastiest, prickliest lemon tree you ever saw. It has outlived it’s original owner and is now referred to around our house as the Bob XYZ Memorial Tree. It’s a real pain to prune and water, but I think we’re stuck with keeping it.
    Unfortunately I am not nearly so lucky at keeping things out in the yard alive.
    Karyn

    Reply
  27. I knew there had to be other women out there who had had this same kind of experience of passing plants down through the family. I think Mary Jo makes a really good point about the urge to nurture things being something women do. It’s probably genetic. We do it with our kids, our friends, our assorted pets — and with our plants.
    I have in my strange collection of plants that have been through four or five moves with me. The biggest is a ficus that has grown into a tree. (Now decorated with Xmas lights.) The oldest — besides my Christmas cactus — is the six foot tall palm tree my dh Tom bought me at a Florida airport when we were courting. It is one of those that comes in a box. That has been with us more than thirty years. The oddest is an innocuous-looking plant we adopted when one of Tom’s old bosses was moving. It grew into the nastiest, prickliest lemon tree you ever saw. It has outlived it’s original owner and is now referred to around our house as the Bob XYZ Memorial Tree. It’s a real pain to prune and water, but I think we’re stuck with keeping it.
    Unfortunately I am not nearly so lucky at keeping things out in the yard alive.
    Karyn

    Reply
  28. I knew there had to be other women out there who had had this same kind of experience of passing plants down through the family. I think Mary Jo makes a really good point about the urge to nurture things being something women do. It’s probably genetic. We do it with our kids, our friends, our assorted pets — and with our plants.
    I have in my strange collection of plants that have been through four or five moves with me. The biggest is a ficus that has grown into a tree. (Now decorated with Xmas lights.) The oldest — besides my Christmas cactus — is the six foot tall palm tree my dh Tom bought me at a Florida airport when we were courting. It is one of those that comes in a box. That has been with us more than thirty years. The oddest is an innocuous-looking plant we adopted when one of Tom’s old bosses was moving. It grew into the nastiest, prickliest lemon tree you ever saw. It has outlived it’s original owner and is now referred to around our house as the Bob XYZ Memorial Tree. It’s a real pain to prune and water, but I think we’re stuck with keeping it.
    Unfortunately I am not nearly so lucky at keeping things out in the yard alive.
    Karyn

    Reply
  29. Thank you Karyn for sharing some of your process for “A Simple Gift.” Isn’t it fascinating what makes the writing process “catch fire”–how sometimes a simple object becomes a metaphor that illuminates the whole project.
    I recently gave a “charge” at a fellow pastor’s installation service–basically a short “welcome and good luck” address–and a couple of hours before the service I was still looking at the computer cluelessly, no ideas at all.
    Then kind of out of the blue came the words “Ocean in view–O the Joy!” which are on some of the Lewis and Clark commemorative nickels. That was it–a Lewis and Clark theme (“it took longer for us to search for a new pastor than it took Lewis and Clark to reach the Pacific”, etc), the unfinished journey as metaphor–and the nickel itself that I could present to the new pastor as a commemorative souvenir.
    I’m reading Mary Jo’s “Shattered Rainbows” now, wherein she uses a kaleidoscope as both an object in the story and as a metaphor/ symbol. Karyn and those of you who are writers, is this kind of thing a frequent process or technique for you?

    Reply
  30. Thank you Karyn for sharing some of your process for “A Simple Gift.” Isn’t it fascinating what makes the writing process “catch fire”–how sometimes a simple object becomes a metaphor that illuminates the whole project.
    I recently gave a “charge” at a fellow pastor’s installation service–basically a short “welcome and good luck” address–and a couple of hours before the service I was still looking at the computer cluelessly, no ideas at all.
    Then kind of out of the blue came the words “Ocean in view–O the Joy!” which are on some of the Lewis and Clark commemorative nickels. That was it–a Lewis and Clark theme (“it took longer for us to search for a new pastor than it took Lewis and Clark to reach the Pacific”, etc), the unfinished journey as metaphor–and the nickel itself that I could present to the new pastor as a commemorative souvenir.
    I’m reading Mary Jo’s “Shattered Rainbows” now, wherein she uses a kaleidoscope as both an object in the story and as a metaphor/ symbol. Karyn and those of you who are writers, is this kind of thing a frequent process or technique for you?

    Reply
  31. Thank you Karyn for sharing some of your process for “A Simple Gift.” Isn’t it fascinating what makes the writing process “catch fire”–how sometimes a simple object becomes a metaphor that illuminates the whole project.
    I recently gave a “charge” at a fellow pastor’s installation service–basically a short “welcome and good luck” address–and a couple of hours before the service I was still looking at the computer cluelessly, no ideas at all.
    Then kind of out of the blue came the words “Ocean in view–O the Joy!” which are on some of the Lewis and Clark commemorative nickels. That was it–a Lewis and Clark theme (“it took longer for us to search for a new pastor than it took Lewis and Clark to reach the Pacific”, etc), the unfinished journey as metaphor–and the nickel itself that I could present to the new pastor as a commemorative souvenir.
    I’m reading Mary Jo’s “Shattered Rainbows” now, wherein she uses a kaleidoscope as both an object in the story and as a metaphor/ symbol. Karyn and those of you who are writers, is this kind of thing a frequent process or technique for you?

    Reply
  32. Thank you Karyn for sharing some of your process for “A Simple Gift.” Isn’t it fascinating what makes the writing process “catch fire”–how sometimes a simple object becomes a metaphor that illuminates the whole project.
    I recently gave a “charge” at a fellow pastor’s installation service–basically a short “welcome and good luck” address–and a couple of hours before the service I was still looking at the computer cluelessly, no ideas at all.
    Then kind of out of the blue came the words “Ocean in view–O the Joy!” which are on some of the Lewis and Clark commemorative nickels. That was it–a Lewis and Clark theme (“it took longer for us to search for a new pastor than it took Lewis and Clark to reach the Pacific”, etc), the unfinished journey as metaphor–and the nickel itself that I could present to the new pastor as a commemorative souvenir.
    I’m reading Mary Jo’s “Shattered Rainbows” now, wherein she uses a kaleidoscope as both an object in the story and as a metaphor/ symbol. Karyn and those of you who are writers, is this kind of thing a frequent process or technique for you?

    Reply
  33. Hi Karyn,
    welcome to Wenchland. 🙂
    I hope you’re going to be able to squeeze some historicals in with your contemporaries.
    What a wonderful origin for a story. I love plants and sharing plants. The Christmas cacti we have are all in my husband’s charge, which means they do better than the non-cacti and succulent house plants that are in mine.
    Motifs as keys to stories are interesting, but I’m not sure I’ve ever started with one.
    Jo

    Reply
  34. Hi Karyn,
    welcome to Wenchland. 🙂
    I hope you’re going to be able to squeeze some historicals in with your contemporaries.
    What a wonderful origin for a story. I love plants and sharing plants. The Christmas cacti we have are all in my husband’s charge, which means they do better than the non-cacti and succulent house plants that are in mine.
    Motifs as keys to stories are interesting, but I’m not sure I’ve ever started with one.
    Jo

    Reply
  35. Hi Karyn,
    welcome to Wenchland. 🙂
    I hope you’re going to be able to squeeze some historicals in with your contemporaries.
    What a wonderful origin for a story. I love plants and sharing plants. The Christmas cacti we have are all in my husband’s charge, which means they do better than the non-cacti and succulent house plants that are in mine.
    Motifs as keys to stories are interesting, but I’m not sure I’ve ever started with one.
    Jo

    Reply
  36. Hi Karyn,
    welcome to Wenchland. 🙂
    I hope you’re going to be able to squeeze some historicals in with your contemporaries.
    What a wonderful origin for a story. I love plants and sharing plants. The Christmas cacti we have are all in my husband’s charge, which means they do better than the non-cacti and succulent house plants that are in mine.
    Motifs as keys to stories are interesting, but I’m not sure I’ve ever started with one.
    Jo

    Reply
  37. Since I last last dropped by to comment, I’ve planted a number of my Christmas cactus sprouts to give to friends over the Holiday Season. Most will go with an autographed copy of the A Simple Gift. Some will be presented with a booklet of instructions for care and feeding that Tom pulled together for me.
    As to Jo’s comments…I don’t know as if I really start writing with a motif in mind, either. Gift might have been an exception. Mostly a theme for a book and any motifs that run through the story creep up on me while I am writing. I think coming up with a motif is a process of discovery, or the result of a series of things that you see or think about as you tell the story that suddenly take on a new meaning.
    There’s a lovely moment in the recent movie, STRANGER THAN FICTION, where a blocked writer sees an apple roll down the street, something that would be meaningless to anyone else. But for her it resolves in an instant, the creative problem she’s been struggling with for months. I couldn’t help thinking as I watched it that they got that moment of recognition exactly right.
    Like RevMelinda finding that Lewis and Clark nickle when she needed it.

    Reply
  38. Since I last last dropped by to comment, I’ve planted a number of my Christmas cactus sprouts to give to friends over the Holiday Season. Most will go with an autographed copy of the A Simple Gift. Some will be presented with a booklet of instructions for care and feeding that Tom pulled together for me.
    As to Jo’s comments…I don’t know as if I really start writing with a motif in mind, either. Gift might have been an exception. Mostly a theme for a book and any motifs that run through the story creep up on me while I am writing. I think coming up with a motif is a process of discovery, or the result of a series of things that you see or think about as you tell the story that suddenly take on a new meaning.
    There’s a lovely moment in the recent movie, STRANGER THAN FICTION, where a blocked writer sees an apple roll down the street, something that would be meaningless to anyone else. But for her it resolves in an instant, the creative problem she’s been struggling with for months. I couldn’t help thinking as I watched it that they got that moment of recognition exactly right.
    Like RevMelinda finding that Lewis and Clark nickle when she needed it.

    Reply
  39. Since I last last dropped by to comment, I’ve planted a number of my Christmas cactus sprouts to give to friends over the Holiday Season. Most will go with an autographed copy of the A Simple Gift. Some will be presented with a booklet of instructions for care and feeding that Tom pulled together for me.
    As to Jo’s comments…I don’t know as if I really start writing with a motif in mind, either. Gift might have been an exception. Mostly a theme for a book and any motifs that run through the story creep up on me while I am writing. I think coming up with a motif is a process of discovery, or the result of a series of things that you see or think about as you tell the story that suddenly take on a new meaning.
    There’s a lovely moment in the recent movie, STRANGER THAN FICTION, where a blocked writer sees an apple roll down the street, something that would be meaningless to anyone else. But for her it resolves in an instant, the creative problem she’s been struggling with for months. I couldn’t help thinking as I watched it that they got that moment of recognition exactly right.
    Like RevMelinda finding that Lewis and Clark nickle when she needed it.

    Reply
  40. Since I last last dropped by to comment, I’ve planted a number of my Christmas cactus sprouts to give to friends over the Holiday Season. Most will go with an autographed copy of the A Simple Gift. Some will be presented with a booklet of instructions for care and feeding that Tom pulled together for me.
    As to Jo’s comments…I don’t know as if I really start writing with a motif in mind, either. Gift might have been an exception. Mostly a theme for a book and any motifs that run through the story creep up on me while I am writing. I think coming up with a motif is a process of discovery, or the result of a series of things that you see or think about as you tell the story that suddenly take on a new meaning.
    There’s a lovely moment in the recent movie, STRANGER THAN FICTION, where a blocked writer sees an apple roll down the street, something that would be meaningless to anyone else. But for her it resolves in an instant, the creative problem she’s been struggling with for months. I couldn’t help thinking as I watched it that they got that moment of recognition exactly right.
    Like RevMelinda finding that Lewis and Clark nickle when she needed it.

    Reply
  41. Hello Karyn! Welcome to our Wench and wenchling community. We are so glad you stopped by.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us how A SIMPLE GIFT came to life. What a wonderful story.
    And thank you to everyone else for sharing your plant stories. I very much enjoyed reading them. (Sherrie: I’m so glad you got your spider plant back.)
    I too have a plant, although my story is a bit different. I received my plant from my father. The day he left for parts unknown some 17 years ago, he gave it to me, it’s long vines looped back onto itself forming a ball much like a Gordian knot. And that’s how I felt, too… my emotions tied in an equally unknottable knot.
    Those of you here who know me know, I was not blessed with a green thumb. Even silk plants have been known to die under my care. But I hung the vine in my sun room at the base of the vaulted ceiling, uncoiled what I could of its long knotted tendrils and snipped the rest. The years passed, and as it stretched and grew I tied the long vines about the ceiling. After a while the place began to look like an Italian grotto – a magnificent leafy green.
    Then, the vines began to die, one by one. I fertilized. Watered. Yet nothing helped. Then I got the call. My dad had cancer. Three months to live. I almost didn’t go out to see him. But at the last minute I bought a ticket to Phoenix, Arizona and hopped a plane. We spent several days together. My other eight siblings, equally estranged from him, joined us one by one. He passed and we all went home.
    Now the plant grows again, it’s vines beginning to touch the floor. Soon, I will be tying them up again, suspending the healthy vines from the brass hooks that supported their predecessors.
    I would like to think the vine is a living testimony to my father’s new found health in a better place. Or, maybe it’s just a testimony to a family that has found much needed healing in forgiveness. Or maybe, it’s both.

    Reply
  42. Hello Karyn! Welcome to our Wench and wenchling community. We are so glad you stopped by.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us how A SIMPLE GIFT came to life. What a wonderful story.
    And thank you to everyone else for sharing your plant stories. I very much enjoyed reading them. (Sherrie: I’m so glad you got your spider plant back.)
    I too have a plant, although my story is a bit different. I received my plant from my father. The day he left for parts unknown some 17 years ago, he gave it to me, it’s long vines looped back onto itself forming a ball much like a Gordian knot. And that’s how I felt, too… my emotions tied in an equally unknottable knot.
    Those of you here who know me know, I was not blessed with a green thumb. Even silk plants have been known to die under my care. But I hung the vine in my sun room at the base of the vaulted ceiling, uncoiled what I could of its long knotted tendrils and snipped the rest. The years passed, and as it stretched and grew I tied the long vines about the ceiling. After a while the place began to look like an Italian grotto – a magnificent leafy green.
    Then, the vines began to die, one by one. I fertilized. Watered. Yet nothing helped. Then I got the call. My dad had cancer. Three months to live. I almost didn’t go out to see him. But at the last minute I bought a ticket to Phoenix, Arizona and hopped a plane. We spent several days together. My other eight siblings, equally estranged from him, joined us one by one. He passed and we all went home.
    Now the plant grows again, it’s vines beginning to touch the floor. Soon, I will be tying them up again, suspending the healthy vines from the brass hooks that supported their predecessors.
    I would like to think the vine is a living testimony to my father’s new found health in a better place. Or, maybe it’s just a testimony to a family that has found much needed healing in forgiveness. Or maybe, it’s both.

    Reply
  43. Hello Karyn! Welcome to our Wench and wenchling community. We are so glad you stopped by.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us how A SIMPLE GIFT came to life. What a wonderful story.
    And thank you to everyone else for sharing your plant stories. I very much enjoyed reading them. (Sherrie: I’m so glad you got your spider plant back.)
    I too have a plant, although my story is a bit different. I received my plant from my father. The day he left for parts unknown some 17 years ago, he gave it to me, it’s long vines looped back onto itself forming a ball much like a Gordian knot. And that’s how I felt, too… my emotions tied in an equally unknottable knot.
    Those of you here who know me know, I was not blessed with a green thumb. Even silk plants have been known to die under my care. But I hung the vine in my sun room at the base of the vaulted ceiling, uncoiled what I could of its long knotted tendrils and snipped the rest. The years passed, and as it stretched and grew I tied the long vines about the ceiling. After a while the place began to look like an Italian grotto – a magnificent leafy green.
    Then, the vines began to die, one by one. I fertilized. Watered. Yet nothing helped. Then I got the call. My dad had cancer. Three months to live. I almost didn’t go out to see him. But at the last minute I bought a ticket to Phoenix, Arizona and hopped a plane. We spent several days together. My other eight siblings, equally estranged from him, joined us one by one. He passed and we all went home.
    Now the plant grows again, it’s vines beginning to touch the floor. Soon, I will be tying them up again, suspending the healthy vines from the brass hooks that supported their predecessors.
    I would like to think the vine is a living testimony to my father’s new found health in a better place. Or, maybe it’s just a testimony to a family that has found much needed healing in forgiveness. Or maybe, it’s both.

    Reply
  44. Hello Karyn! Welcome to our Wench and wenchling community. We are so glad you stopped by.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us how A SIMPLE GIFT came to life. What a wonderful story.
    And thank you to everyone else for sharing your plant stories. I very much enjoyed reading them. (Sherrie: I’m so glad you got your spider plant back.)
    I too have a plant, although my story is a bit different. I received my plant from my father. The day he left for parts unknown some 17 years ago, he gave it to me, it’s long vines looped back onto itself forming a ball much like a Gordian knot. And that’s how I felt, too… my emotions tied in an equally unknottable knot.
    Those of you here who know me know, I was not blessed with a green thumb. Even silk plants have been known to die under my care. But I hung the vine in my sun room at the base of the vaulted ceiling, uncoiled what I could of its long knotted tendrils and snipped the rest. The years passed, and as it stretched and grew I tied the long vines about the ceiling. After a while the place began to look like an Italian grotto – a magnificent leafy green.
    Then, the vines began to die, one by one. I fertilized. Watered. Yet nothing helped. Then I got the call. My dad had cancer. Three months to live. I almost didn’t go out to see him. But at the last minute I bought a ticket to Phoenix, Arizona and hopped a plane. We spent several days together. My other eight siblings, equally estranged from him, joined us one by one. He passed and we all went home.
    Now the plant grows again, it’s vines beginning to touch the floor. Soon, I will be tying them up again, suspending the healthy vines from the brass hooks that supported their predecessors.
    I would like to think the vine is a living testimony to my father’s new found health in a better place. Or, maybe it’s just a testimony to a family that has found much needed healing in forgiveness. Or maybe, it’s both.

    Reply
  45. This is a truly astonishing story of life and connections that are beyond our ken. Thank you for sharing it with us. I hope that in being able to say good-bye to your father enabled you and your siblings to put the past behind you and move ahead with your lives.

    Reply
  46. This is a truly astonishing story of life and connections that are beyond our ken. Thank you for sharing it with us. I hope that in being able to say good-bye to your father enabled you and your siblings to put the past behind you and move ahead with your lives.

    Reply
  47. This is a truly astonishing story of life and connections that are beyond our ken. Thank you for sharing it with us. I hope that in being able to say good-bye to your father enabled you and your siblings to put the past behind you and move ahead with your lives.

    Reply
  48. This is a truly astonishing story of life and connections that are beyond our ken. Thank you for sharing it with us. I hope that in being able to say good-bye to your father enabled you and your siblings to put the past behind you and move ahead with your lives.

    Reply

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