The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, September 08, 2008

Progress of a story: Hunting and Gathering

By Tamara Lee

“Oh, no. It’s not a story about horses, is it? It’s not one of those?” My friend C revisited her memories of earnest horse-loving elementary schoolgirls with whinnying voices and My Little Pony pigtails.

I was most definitively not one of those girls. When I was sent to horse camp for my 10th birthday, it was admittedly an elementary experience: from my first experience away from home to taking my first drag off a cigarette. The experience coincided with the beginning of a troubled adolescence.

“No, no. It’s some kind of motif-y thing. I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it.”

I should never have said anything; something I learned long ago was not to share too soon. But I was nosing around, trying to figure out where the roots of the story are, and in the process mentioned the story in passing. Sometimes, writing a story feels like learning to talk all over again. Or learning to shut up, again.

My initial research took me to some interesting discoveries about North American horse culture, little of it likely to make its way into the story, I’m sure. But that’s not why we research: we’re looking for the thing that’s not connected, the thing that’s not obvious. The bland little rock that reminds us of the rocks we used to skim at the lake, or the rock we threw at Ria-ria-diarrhea because everyone else was doing it and we didn’t want to be the next one ostracized.

I found a rock in amongst all fascinating stories about the Nez Perce nation, their horse culture, their battles. From this came some notes and recollections about a time when I was very young; little tidbits I’d nearly forgotten. None of this, though, will I describe. See, I'm learning.

So I collected those bit and went in search of more rocks.

This story, should it ever come to something, looks like it will be one those: the kind of story that takes its stubborn time to grow up. A real problem child.

(Image: Nez Perce Warriors)


Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

"learning to shut up, again."

That's some great insight there. Great post, Tamara.

Mon Sep 08, 05:10:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Very interesting, Tamara. Lots to think about.

Mon Sep 08, 10:33:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

The Nez Perce developed the Appaloosa breed.

I have a seed of a Dick Francis-like story in my brain involving polo ponies.

Tue Sep 09, 07:13:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Hey, y'all, thanks for stopping by.

Chumplet, yes, the Nez Perce's Appaloosas are lovely.

Wed Sep 10, 01:28:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

So many gems in this post, Tamara -- "the thing that's not connected, the thing that's not obvious." That's exactly what I look for when I'm researching but I didn't know it until just now when you put it into words.


Thu Sep 11, 12:30:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Thanks, Tricia.

Fri Sep 12, 01:44:00 pm GMT-4  

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