Monthly Archives: March 2011

ABC’s of Writing: W is for Words an S is for Story, Reflections on Green

Matilda Butler, ABC’s of Writing, #13

Today is the vernal equinox, the official start of spring. According to my research, spring actually began at 11:21 pm last night, but I’ll settle for March 21. At least as a child, I always thought spring arrived on this day so it is comforting to accept that same date as an adult. After all, there is a limit to precision since then I’d need to adjust for the hemisphere I am in, the time zone I’m in, and whether I’m using the astronomical or meteorological definition of spring.

But of course the word, and precision in word choice, is the domain of writers. Over at Women’s Memoirs, I’ve been reading all the entries for our Reflections on Green contest. [You can go to http://WomensMemoirs.com to see the winners and begin reading their stories.] As I read through some of the amazing entries, I began my own reflections on green. If you look up the adjective green in the thesaurus, you get words such as:

bosky, budding, burgeoning, callow, developing, flourishing, foliate, fresh, grassy, growing, half-formed, immature, infant, juvenile, leafy, lush, maturing, pliable, puerile, pullulating, raw, recent, sprouting, supple, tender, undecayed, undried, unfledged, ungrown, unripe, unseasoned, verdant, verduous, youthful.

That’s a lot to conjure with. I started to consider what stories those words related to green evoke for me. Sometimes, as an exercise, I like to look at lists of words to see where they take my imagination. Sometimes, as an exercise, I choose specific words to use in a story. These are just little ways to stretch myself as a writer. The particular words I choose may never make it into a final polished piece. But they have reminded me to focus on individual words.

Another way to look at the word green is to consider the many flavors of the color. For example, if you look in Wikipedia for shades of green you see the chart shown to the left. If you go into a paint store, you’ll find even more words associated with various greens. I know that when we painted the Point House that we’d built on our property in California, we settled on a color named Olive Leaf because the structure was at the edge of our olive orchard. No one else knew about this match, but we liked the symbolism of it.

And whenever my mind is embracing the word green, I think of the funny incidents associated with my partner’s color blindness. There was the time that I was asking friends if they could figure out the quiche of the day based on surveying slices being delivered to other tables in Bullock’s Tea Room (long before Macy’s bought the chain starting the department store on a path to its eventual demise). I pondered what vegetable it might contain — spinach, broccoli, zucchini. My partner said, “Maybe it’s a mushroom quiche.” That was the moment I realized that he thought mushrooms were green. The vegetable turned out to be broccoli but none of us ordered quiche as the thought of green mushrooms had spoiled our appetite for that dish.

I no longer let him go shopping by himself. The last time was a few years ago when I was shopping at Chico’s in the Outlets at Gilroy. My partner went next door to the Van Heusen store. We met out front and he showed me the gray shirt he had found on sale. I gently turned him around and we went back into the store to exchange the lavender shirt for a black one. Well, you get the point. Red-green color blindness has made for fascinating conversations as I try to understand what he sees in comparison to what I see.

And, in a way, that is what stories are all about. We want to find the right words to convey our story to others so that they see what we see.

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Here is the link to the first-place winning story in the Wonderful Memories category.

Here is the link to the first-place winning story in the Difficult Memories category.

Here is the link to the first-place winning story in the Memories of Life Observed category.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

by Matilda Butler, Post #12

I focus on the ABC’s of Writing in these posts, but today I want to step back as part of an ongoing celebration of Women’s History Month. Kendra Bonnett and I have been writing about women in several of our posts on our website. Kendra’s most recent post, last Friday, described three women who have been important in her life.

This set me to thinking about women I admire who have influenced my life, directly or indirectly. The first is Eleanor Roosevelt and I’ve given my reasons in a blog on Women’s Memoirs.

Betty Friedan has also had a major influence on my life — and actually continues to do so. Her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, came along at a fortuitous point in my life as it did for so many women. Because of her writings, I began the long, serious look at what I was doing and where I was going. At the time, I was recently married and about to be swept into a life that might be described as a continuation of my mother’s life. Instead, I was soon in a consciousness-raising group with other women who wanted to carve out a place for themselves rather than relinquishing all that space to their husbands.

The rest, as they say, is history — my history.

But even now, Betty Friedan influences me. I am conducting more research on women born during World War II — the women known as Rosie’s Daughters in the collective memoir that Kendra and I wrote. It has been ten years since I conducted my initial interviews and it is time for me to talk with women about this past decade as we all head into our 70s. In researching the literature on aging, I once again found myself reading the words of Betty Friedan. But this time, instead of The Feminine Mystique, I’m reading her Fountain of Age.

Once more, I am indebted to this forward-thinking, insightful woman who put her thoughts on paper for all of us to consider.

If you would like to read about the woman who was my first source of inspiration, follow this link to my post on Story Circle Network’s One Woman’s Day.

Hope you celebrate the many women who have influenced your life. If you like, leave me a comment about some of these women.