Book report: My trip abroad educational, enlightening
Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012 8:01 pm
By: By Glenda Caudle
This is what I learned during the past two months of living, learning and writing in London and Edinburgh:
• There is a big difference in writing a newspaper story and writing a book — and it’s not all about size.
• Just because it is hot and dry in northwest Tennessee, does not mean it is hot and dry in the British Isles — where it was rainy and cold for all of June and July except three days.
• Just because we all speak English does not mean we all sound the same enunciating it or mean the same expressing it — we definitely don’t.
• London is a huge place full of people from all over the world – and they are all trying to get on the same tube (subway).
• Edinburgh (pronounce it Ed-in-burr-uh) is not nearly so big as London, but it is also full of people from all over the world — and they are all trying to walk on the same narrow sidewalks that go straight uphill. You don’t have to worry about walking downhill; you just roll.
• If you smile and talk “Southern,” you can move mountains in the British Isles — and you’ll love the way they smile and talk “funny” back to you.
• It is possible to go without television, radio, DVDs and (forgive me, Mr. Critchlow) newspapers for several weeks — so long as you have books and real, live people to entertain, inform and distract you.
• British food looks the same as ours on a plate (mostly) — but it tastes different on the tongue and, quite honestly, we win and they lose on most menu items.
• However, Scottish porridge (oatmeal) with brown sugar and butter is one of the best comfort foods in the universe — next to chocolate.
• Daylight lasts a very long time in the British Isles — from around 4:30 a.m. to about 10 p.m. in the middle of summer. But don’t visit in winter unless you are a creature of the evening.
• If you really, really need ice, take some with you — the British have a limited supply, apparently.
I learned some other stuff, too, but these are the highlights in real world living. Then there’s what I learned in the classroom of the Scottish university where I was enrolled for a course in fiction writing — the class that called for submitting samples of my work that were then read and reviewed by the professor and the other students in the class.
• You can easily tell the age of a writer by simply reading the words that person has written. An astounding number of youthful writers are not aware it is possible to complete a page of prose or poetry without sprinkling around at least half a dozen four letter words – and they prefer the one that begins with “F.” It’s like sharing space with a toddler who just learned the power of saying “No!” and is intent on experiencing the thrill repeatedly. There was a time when words of some length and complexity marked the user as a person of intelligence and education. Young writers seem to think stringing several four letter words together will have the same effect — or will at least pack a wallop of shock value. That is not to say many of these young adults are not lovely people once you actually have a conversation with them.
• Getting the story down on paper is just the first step in publishing a book. Next come rewrites, more rewrites, the search for an agent, the search for a market and the hope for a sale. And then more rewrites.
• No one in a graduate-level writing seminar will begin their critique of your work by telling you that your writing is juvenile, your plot is non-existent, your dialogue is strained and your conclusion is senseless — things they will get around to saying eventually. They will tell you, instead, that they love your heroine. I don’t know why. I suspect it is to help you preserve your last shred of dignity and prevent you from turning to alcohol once they have to deliver their real opinion.
• Every one thinks they have it within them to be a poet. That includes me. So I wrote this little piece, focusing on my emotions about the British Isles, and shyly handed it to the program’s poetry workshop teacher.
London is my eternal adventure. My pulse-pounding, in-your-face, dramatic moment.
London is my head’s knowledge and my heart’s recognition, driving the blood through my body in dizzying rhythms, and leaving me breathless with excitement.
It is Bob Seger growling, with the London Philharmonic soaring behind him, and the overflow crowd writhing in the intoxication of the moment.
But Scotland. Oh, dear God, Scotland is my eternal restorative. My sweet satisfaction, my cleaving rock, my home-again dramatic lifetime.
Scotland is my spirit’s divination and my heart’s recognition, beckoning the blood’s return to its source in a timeless rolling back of the waves, and leaving me in perfect peace.
Scotland is the call of the piper, lonely and wild, and the moan of a solitary soul drowning in the mystery of the universe.
I need the one; I crave the other. But I cannot govern the hold they have. I cannot even tell you which is which.
This, then, is the place – the mystery place — the simple knowing of each brings me to.
The professor returned it to me with a sweet smile. And she said, “I love your heroine.”
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted by email at glenda firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 8.3.12