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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Writer’s Skill/Craft (04/22/10)

TITLE: The Wrote-off Writer
By Ann Grover


The coffeepot on the general store’s potbelly stove bubbled merrily, as if chuckling along with the knee-slapping men huddled around the stove’s warmth.

“That were a great story!” Roy exclaimed, tears streaming down his weathered cheeks.

“I wish I coulda seen John’s face when he seen that bear eatin’ turnips in his root cellar.” Billy shook his head.

“You got a gift for storytelling, Henry. You should write a book, yer memoirs, like,” suggested Roy. “All wrote down for yer grandkids.”

“I ain’t no writer,” said Henry modestly. “I can’t write no book.”

“Jus’ write what you tol’ us,” encouraged Billy.

Henry sipped his coffee. “I’ll give it a whirl, but I don’t figure it’ll be much. Like I said, I ain’t no writer.”

“Preten’ like yer talkin’ to us,” Roy coaxed.

While the men chatted about recent rainfall and the price of feed, Henry reckoned if he did what the men said, write as if he were storytelling by the glowing stove, he could do it.

On his way out of the general store that afternoon, Henry bought a tablet of paper and a bottle of ink. That night, by the light of his lantern, he penned, I were but fourteen years old when I shot my first wolf...

Each evening, Henry would write a few words about his homestead and his encounters with wildlife, livestock, and country folks with their eccentricities. The tablet filled up, line after line of spidery script, until he reached the last page of the tablet and the end of his adventures.

It were early summer after branding and cutting. The calves had growed big enough to trail into the summer pastures with their mamas. I had rode ahead and them cowboys was on the drag. Sudden-like, something shaked in the scrub and out come the biggest dang she-bear you ever seen. She jogged straight for them calves.

I hollered and spun my lariat, hoping she’d pull up before spooking them cattle. No, sir.

So, I throwed that loop...

“Mighty fine, Henry,” concurred the men beside the potbelly. “Jus’ like we was there. Now, go to the city and get it printed into a genuine book, maybe with some pretty pictures.”

“Naw, it’s jus’ everyday stories,” protested Henry sheepishly.

But, the men were persuasive, and after the crops were harvested, Henry put on his Sunday shirt, dusted his hat, spit-polished his boots, and oiled down his hair.

Billy took him to the train station in the buckboard, and when Henry got to the city, he roamed the paved streets, marveling at store windows bursting with fancy dresses, radio sets, and gleaming china.

The dapper man in the publisher’s office adjusted his spectacles with an ink-stained finger.

“May I help you?” he inquired, studying Henry from the worn soles of his boots to the warped brim of his hat.

“I wrote a book, sir.” Henry reddened and placed the tattered tablet on the counter.

The man skimmed a few pages. “Hmm. This won’t do. The grammar is atrocious.”

Henry turned his hat in his hands.

“And, unfortunately, the tales are crude and outlandish.”

“I said I weren’t no writer, but the boys were pushy-like. I wrote what I knowed.”

A glimmer of amusement appeared in the man’s eye, or perhaps it was compassion or even opportunistic eagerness.

“Look here. I’ll print it, but I must do some editing.” He smiled tightly, lifting the book with forefinger and thumb as if the book were indeed sullied by the vulgarities mentioned within. “I’ll send a copy when it’s printed.”

When the package arrived the following spring, Henry opened it at the general store. The men ran their fingers over the title, Critters, Cowboys, and Courage, engraved on the leather cover.

“Read a piece,” commanded Billy.

It was early summer, the delightful time when blossoms breathe their perfume into the sun-washed breezes. The gentlemen mounted their gleaming horses, conversing jovially. We rode through alpine meadows, the gentle bovines ambling serenely through the lush grass.

A bear strolled out from the greening shrubbery, and I cordially hailed her, “Hello! Fine day!”

“Whoa, that ain’t right,” roared Roy indignantly.

“It’s the sorriest piece of writin’ I ever heard,” agreed Billy.

Henry scratched his head, frowning.

While the men puzzled over why Henry’s fine stories had been swapped out for sissified hogwash, the book curled, then blazed brightly inside the potbelly stove. The coffeepot hummed a wordless tune of sympathy.

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This article has been read 932 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mona Purvis04/29/10
Just glancing through this week's entries and the title grabbed my attention. I'm so glad I stopped to read it.
This is sooo good on so many levels. Love it with a passion, wish I had written it. The atmosphere you created is dynamic and the characters so wonderful!

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/30/10
I was drawn right into the story. I felt the indignation when the authors words had been changed so radically.
Jackie Wilson04/30/10
I loved this! There was so much truth here.
Eliza Evans 05/02/10
Just fabulous!!
Wonderful atmosphere. I really felt like I was there and could see and hear it all.
Love the details you always include. You have a gift, girl!
AnneRene' Capp05/03/10
Superb! My stomach ailed me somethin fierce when that publisher, he done change all a Henry's words!!
Rachel Phelps05/03/10
This was such a great story. I loved your characters and it is spot-on topic. Awesome!
Carol Slider 05/03/10
What a fun story! The editing definitely didn't improve the book... in fact, it sapped all the life and reality out of it. Very enjoyable to read... great job!
Catrina Bradley 05/03/10
I absolutely love this one! The dialog is outstanding, and I agree with his friends - that publisher ruined his book. I hope he got his original manuscript back.
Benjamin Graber05/05/10
It's sad how much our rules can take the life out of something - I like the original version of the book much better! Great story!
Author Unknown05/05/10
Love the first sentence! And my other fave phrasing was "sullied by the vulgarities"-- gems :)

I also liked the interpretation of the theme. Nicely done.

Beth LaBuff 05/05/10
I was totally immersed in your colloquial dialog. I had to smile at what happened to Henry's stories at the hand of the editor (…. "cordially hailed her, 'Hello! Fine day!'" LOL!) … and I was sad at the same time. I WANTED a copy of his stories!!
Barbara Mahler 05/06/10
Wow! I am inspired and encouraged. Thank you.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/06/10
I just read it again and I still found myself hanging onto every word even though I remembered the ending. That is why it won a well-deserved EC.
Beth LaBuff 05/06/10
Ann, Congrats on your Editor's Choice... I hope we still get "the original version" of your MC's stories sometime! :)
Ruth Stromquist05/06/10
Especially loved the word pictures in your opening description and the stories your MC told. His voice and word use were so real.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/06/10
Congratulations in placing in the top 15 in your level and in the top 30 overall.
Connie Dixon05/07/10
Congratulations! Wonderful dialogue. I would have liked to have thrown the editor in with his refined book but guess that wasn't an option. Good job!
Patricia Turner05/07/10
Perfect title. I'm sorry this editor just didn't get it; Henry's original "vulgarities" were much more picturesque. What a gift you have indeed. Congratulations!
Noel Mitaxa 05/11/10
And I guess the editor would describe Noah's flood as "occasional showers!" Love the integrity of the characters and how they relate with each other. I enjoyed your description of the laborious writing process. Sadly the book only ended up warming their bodies instead of their hearts. A great entry.
Celeste Duckworth08/02/10
I just loved this as you so defined a mountain man and his buddies. Storytellin' in Missouri sounds jus' li' dis.
We're a'meanin' to do better'n than them thar other folks ou'n yore neck of the woods.
Purdy darn talented one ya are! Dad-nab-it...I thank'ye thar Anne for a mighty good read...