Monday, May 27, 2013


I visited my Papaw Taylor yesterday in a small cemetery in a tiny town called Goddard. Actually, I think the church and cemetery are all that’s left of Goddard. It’s a beautiful property and a bit famous for the Goddard Covered Bridge that stands directly in front of the church. The old wooden bridge spans Sand Lick Creek just off Kentucky 32, and as you enter the structure, it perfectly frames the steepled white church and graveyard. The Pea Ridge Mountains rise in the background. In the fall, the colors are gorgeous.

Papaw has been gone for many years, but I still think of him often. He was a farmer. He raised a few dairy cattle and grew corn and tobacco. He always had a few pigs and chickens. He was wiry and strong and called me “Little Girl.” I used to think it was because he had so many grand children he couldn’t remember my name. When I came to visit, he would take me in his old truck up the long gravel drive to the General Store that was just down the street. He would buy me Hostess Ding Dongs and a Strawberry Crush, and I would sit in the corner on a wooden rocker with a woven seat and feast. I loved to listen to Papaw talk to the other farmers who came to the store. They stood on the creaky plank floor in their denim coveralls and cotton work shirts and talked about their crops, families, local news, and church. I listened, and marveled at the fact that I was allowed to eat my treat in the store before we paid.

It’s usually a smell that kicks up memories of Papaw. The sweet scent of pipe tobacco puts me right back in his barn where the harvested tobacco hung from the rafters, drying before it went to market. The smell of the dairy case at Ameristop and Kroger remind me of the milk house and the times he would let me try to milk the cows. I never liked getting swatted by a cow’s tail, and they were pretty stinky beasts. I did like spending time with Papaw, and he let me follow him when I wanted.  

There are other family members there in the graveyard. My Mamaw is buried next to Papaw. I never knew her. She died when my mother was eleven. Mom says that Mamaw was part Cherokee, but no one would ever talk to her about it. In the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s, south of the Mason Dixon Line, it apparently wasn’t approved conversation. But Mom did say that Mamaw was very knowledgeable about medicinal herbs, and people would come to the farm to buy her herbs and remedies. She churned butter and raised chickens, and she sold the butter and eggs in Flemingsburg on the weekends to buy fabric. She loved flowers, and behind the farmhouse she grew flowers, herbs and vegetables.  Every spring there were lots of white peonies in the yard.

Peonies also remind me of my Aunt Billie, Aunt Mildred to the rest of my cousins. I never knew why we called her Billie and everyone else called her Mildred. Aunt Billie was the ultimate flower gardener. Her entire yard was flowers. She had the greenest thumb of anyone I ever knew. Two of my favorite things she grew were Morning Glories and Moon Flowers. She had a trellis that went up the sides and over the door of the front side of the garage. It was covered with purple Morning Glory blooms until around noon, then as the sun began to set, big, white Moon Flowers would bloom. So pretty…

Yesterday’s visit ended with a trip to what used to be Papaw’s property. The structures are all gone, and the once beautifully kept up farmland is overgrown. The property behind the creek and up into the hills has been divided and sold. Houses pop up through the trees. I hardly recognized the land. If the Goddard Bridge and Church were gone, I don’t think I could find the property again. I’ll never go back to the farm. It’s changed so much, and I want to remember it like it was. But I will continue to visit the cemetery and pay my respects to those I have loved.

I miss those folks. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Advice From a Mentor...

Whenever the school year begins, my writing has to be put aside - at least for awhile. I don't know why, but when January rolls around I seem to be able to squeeze in regular writing time again. Today I dusted off one of my manuscripts - the one this close (holds up finger and thumb to show an inch) to being ready for submission. After so long a time it's hard to wrap my mind around the process again, but it's also nice to have some distance from the writing. I regain a sense of perspective about the work, and it's easier to make cuts, see plot holes, or appreciate that you've done something well. I really like that last one.

I've been fortunate on several occasions to spend significant one-on-one time with a wonderful lady named Patti Gauch. She is not one to hem or haw about what needs to be said. She will often preface a manuscript session with, "Our time is precious, so let's get right to it." And she does. Thorough is her middle name. Her advice is rich and dense with pointed observations and suggestions. It sometimes takes days to mentally sort through and process what she has said. She can be tough, but I feel like I'm a stronger writer because of her.  

Each time I have a significant hiatus from writing, I pull out a list of my favorite Patti-isms and re-read them before I begin. It helps me focus, so I thought I share them with you.
  • Go to the well
  • Tell one hell of a tale
  • Keep voice front and center
  • Don't be stodgy
  • Get it all down first
  • Set it aside
  • Do it again...
  • Ask yourself: Does it go far enough?
  • Is it sassy enough?
  • Be extreme enough when making a point.
  • Don't pussyfoot around!
  • Make the reader worry. It means they care.
So there you have it. Wonderful advice from a mentor. Now back to work, everyone! 

Keep writing,

Because It Made Me Laugh...