Casting Call for American Fork, August 25, 26, and 28

Depending on how this goes, you could be locally famous when we’re done. Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

The American Fork Heritage and History Pageant is being revived this year on the evenings of Friday, August 25; Saturday, August 26; and Monday, August 28.

This is my last-minute casting call for one of the vignettes. I’ll tell you a bit about the pageant, and then I’ll tell you the roles we’re trying to fill and some information about filling them.

Circle the Wagons? Or Leaven the Loaf?

Circle the Wagons

Wagon trains crossing the plains parked their wagons in a tight circle at night for two reasons. The circle was a somewhat defensible, makeshift fort, in case the company came under attack. And it formed a sort of corral, to keep cattle and other livestock from scattering.

circle the wagons

The age of wagon trains is long passed, and “circling the wagons” has become a metaphor for the way we sometimes treat outsiders, when we feel threatened by their presence, their choices, or their views. Even in a religious context, we try to keep some people in and shut others out – as if sin were a germ we could catch against our will, and only on the outside.

As if we could fence in our children forever, to protect them, rather than preparing them to live and serve in the world.

As if we weren’t already sinners too.

As if you must agree with me about religion, politics, fashion, sports teams, tattoos, and adult beverages in order to fit the commandment I’ve been given to love my neighbor. (See Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; Doctrine and Covenants 59:6.)

As if God didn’t have a higher calling for us.

My Mother’s Mind

My mother’s love, her service and sacrifice, her canned peaches that were better than candy — all of these deserve their own essays. But today I’ve been thinking about her mind.

Elizabeth Babcock Rodeback and siblings
Mom and her seven siblings. She’s in the front row, second from the left.

She grew up in Lost River, a tight-knit farming community nestled in a valley just beyond Arco, Idaho. Her dad survived one of the grimmest episodes of World War I, before returning home to start a family and to raise sheep, cattle, and grain. Her mother served an LDS mission to the Southern States, but not before setting an example of sacrifice in pursuit of education.

So my tale begins with Grandma, since it must begin somewhere.

On Writing: “I can’t teach you how to have something to say.”

Here are a few more gems — I know it’s been a while — from Ann Padgett’s “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life.” You’ll find it in This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (New York: Harper, 2013, pp. 19-60), which you should buy — or borrow from the library — and read.

If you write.

Writing must not be compartmentalized. You don’t step out of the stream of your life to do your work. Work was the life, and who you were as a mother, teacher, friend, citizen, activist, and artist was all the same person. People like to ask me if writing can be taught, and I say yes. I can teach you how to write a better sentence, how to write dialogue, maybe even how to construct a plot. But I can’t teach you how to have something to say. (pp. 31-32)

About that American Fork Critique Group

It’s a Critique Group

Last time, I told you about the critique group held twice a month by the American Fork chapter of the League of Utah Writers. It’s every second and fourth Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. at the American Fork Library, and you can read more of the basics in that previous post.

Here I’ll give you a better taste of how it works, in case you’re on the fence about whether it will work for you.

Our meetings consist mostly of three activities: reading (aloud), giving critiques, and receiving critiques. Each of these could make someone squirm, I know, but it’s the price of improving as writers. We try to be kind, helpful, and candid.

How It Works: Reading

Some or all of the writers in the meeting will read excerpts from something they’re writing, or the whole thing, if it’s very short. They may or may not preface their reading with a brief explanation of the work, of what has happened previously, or what sorts of help they especially want. It’s all on a clock; unless the meeting is especially crowded or we’re running late, each reader gets up to seven minutes for the reading itself and any introductory explanations.

man in bow tie reading

In the meetings I’ve attended, I’ve read from three short stories (one written that day on the train, because an idea struck), the first and second chapters of a novel I’m polishing, and an essay I drafted a couple of years ago and have revisited a couple of times, but which really isn’t working yet.

After each reading, the author circulates a signup sheet. Anyone who wants to read more and provide a critique at the next meeting will sign up. Sometimes two people sign up; sometimes it’s six or seven.

After the meeting the author sends out the piece – up to 2,500 words – by e-mail, at least a week in advance of the next meeting, so everyone who signed up has time to read, reread, and critique it.

Writing in American Fork (If You’re Serious)

The Elevator Speech

American Fork’s chapter of the League of Utah Writers (LUW) meets twice monthly, on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, at 6:00 p.m. We meet in the American Fork Library, in the smaller of the two conference rooms near the east entrance. The chapter itself is just a few months old, and new members are always welcome.

There’s a Facebook group, Good AF Writers. Take the name as a fact or an aspiration, as you choose.

I’m told that different LUW chapters run their meetings differently. In our meetings, those who bring writing for critique read from it aloud for several minutes, then circulate a sign-up sheet. Anyone who wants to read more and provide an oral and written critique at the next meeting supplies a name and an e-mail address. The author sends out the piece, usually in a Word doc, at least a week before the next meeting. We limit the length of that to about 2,500 words – lately down from 5,000 words – to reduce the workload for critics. (You can always bring in the next chunk next time.)

We who signed up as critics then read and reread your piece, offer a brief oral critique (generally not more than several minutes) at the next meeting – assuming you’re there – then send the Word doc back to you with any markup and comments we may have added. Sometimes you get a lot, sometimes you get a little.

It works.

Of Light, When We Cannot See It

I wrote this for my congregation’s January newsletter.

They say that it’s darkest just before the dawn. Perhaps that’s physically true, but they usually don’t mean a sky without sunlight. They’re saying that rescue, recovery, revelation, or some other relief we seek comes only after – shortly after – we are stretched to our personal limits.

That was Joseph Smith’s experience in the grove, for example. Just as he felt himself on the verge of destruction, the pillar of light appeared (JS-H 1:16). We trust in our own happy outcomes too; in the end our darkness will be just that thing that happened for a while before the lights came back on.

That’s true, but it can be difficult to believe, when all we see and feel is darkness.

“Poor As I Am” (A Modern Tale of Christmas Eves)

David Rodeback, Poor As I Am

“Poor As I Am”
(A Modern Tale of Christmas Eves)

by David Rodeback

Copyright 2016
All rights reserved.

 

Two grad students, wrestling with real life on limited budgets, spend Christmas Eves together. Each year (and sometimes in between), something momentous happens. Along the way, they learn about themselves and each other and Christmas.

One reader writes:

“A lot of writers invent a fake world, maybe because the real world isn’t worthy of them. This writer focuses on the real world and allows the reader to lose herself in the beauty and breathtaking quality of real life. Because real life is beautiful, even if it has rough edges.”

“A gentle, unassuming, powerful story.”

“In an endearing, utterly captivating way, I was brought into the lives of two people who felt too real to be fictional.”