Storyteller, Not Decorator

“My advice to writers yearning for publication is to minimize description, and be sure you don’t stop the story while describing.  You are a storyteller, not an interior decorator.” – Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

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‘cold tangerines’: keep your eyes out for another serving

cold tangerines: celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life

By Shauna Niequist

Zondervan, 2007

I needed this book.  I didn’t realize it until about halfway through, but “better late than never.”

Painted with a “Faberge egg” brush – stunning, exquisite and slightly outrageous – cold tangerines (lower-cased) is divided into four parts.  Stand-alone, first-person stories in each section include: spark, french class, carrying my own weight, lent and television, broken bottles, writing in pencil, island, and my favorite: old house.

Cold tangerines is spunky.  Profound one moment, whimsical the next.  At times you feel like you’re seated in the front row at the Improv; at others you’re sniffling and reaching for Kleenex.  In each section the author sweeps us into her everyday life with pithy observations about family, unexpecteds, writing, Africa, vacations, friends: “True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves… Friendship is acting out God’s love for people in tangible ways…, an opportunity to act on God’s behalf in the lives of the people we’re close to.”

Maybe what I like best about cold tangerines is that the author is Real.  Genuine.  Humorous, hearty.  Disarmingly candid.  She’s flawed and knows it.  Niequist asks the tough questions and avoids the canned answers: “What if I’ve missed the cosmic bus to my best future because I was watching E!?”  The author has an “eyes open” storytelling style about babies, loss, vulnerability, disappointment, being overweight, motherhood, heart attacks, “the healing effects of a barbecue” and jealousy “like a house fire.”  The slice-of-life vignettes are Christian themed without being preachy or pompous.  They reflect an author who’s cracked and chipped.  Human and hopeful.  Daring.  Kinda kooky.  Someone I can relate to.

This book is crunchy and quirky.  As succulent as a cold tangerine on a scorching August afternoon.  Reading this book is like walking into a dark living room on your birthday, bummed that no one remembered, and having people in party hats jump out and yell, “Surprise!”

I’m keeping an eye out for another serving.

“Tech-Save Us”

Roads Diverged is pleased to feature new talent and fresh voices from time to time.  Today it’s author Gib Check.  Grab a chair and sit down for some chuckles and “oh yeah!” moments with Gib’s humorous ode to modern day technology, Tech-Save Us:

            These days we’re always hearing how the latest technologies will save us precious time and make our lives easier. Great, but what I’d like to know is; what’s going to save me from technology?

My troubles began years ago at UWSP when taking my first exam, not with blue book and pencil, but on-line. Though knowing the material pretty well, I was sweating bullets because I also happened to be computer illiterate. Seated at the keyboard with my computer-savvy wife, Ruthie, alongside, I nervously fumbled my way along and was doing OK. But then I accidentally hit the wrong key and deleted my entire exam sheet! We managed to recapture it, but it was panic city.

Having It Ordering Me Around…

It hadn’t been the computer’s fault, of course, but I’ve been trying to come to grips with our increasingly high-tech world ever since. For instance, one day my van’s digital display suddenly warned, “Low pressure in tire # five!” This only confused me because I couldn’t have told you which tire was number one, let alone five. After stopping to do some air-gauging, sure enough, number five turned out to be the spare I’d put on and it was a bit low. But even though forced to award my van’s computer some points just this once, I hate having it ordering me around.

Some of these electronic marvels strike me as creepy, especially ones which talk. While we were visiting Connecticut, our hi-tech grandkids steered me into an automated check-out line at the supermarket. As I began sliding bar-coded stuff past the scanner, a loud and very eerie metallic voice interrupted, “ERROR! PLEASE SCAN AGAIN!!! Nearly scared out of my wits, I nervously complied. But again, the menacing voice told me I’d screwed up. Really fidgeting by now, I tried once more to obey the confounded thing, but this time I managed to shut down the whole system. When a harassed-looking clerk came over to re-start, she glared at me like I was some ancient relic from pre-tech times. The kids then demoted me to bagging while they effortlessly ran the items through. But to this day I avoid automated check-outs and go to human ones no matter how long the line.

Spaghetti Wiring and Tech Gibberish

When ready to hook up our new DVD player, I actually tried something I normally never do; read the directions. I was soon scratching my head over instructions like; “Connect  Y Pb Pr (COMPONENT-OUT) jacks to corresponding Comp-Vid. If using Comp-Vid. In-jacks (Progressive Scan), set Progressive to On…(I’m  not making any of this up)… Otherwise,  Progressive-Off.” Completely befuddled, I had to go to Emergency Plan B. “Ruthieee!!!, I yelled. Somehow comprehending this gibberish, she untangled my spaghetti bowl of wiring and quickly got our DVD up and running.

“Terminator” Telephone?

It’s no use my trying to fight these gadgets, either, because some of them, including my multi-function cell phone, are like The Terminator. They just won’t stop. While in water up to my waist raking weeds out of our channel, I’d forgotten the phone was in my short’s pocket. When I dug it out after its soaking, it was coated with drippy mud and looked very dead. With nothing to lose, I plugged it into the charger, while smirking, Well, here’s one gadget that won’t pester me any more, right? Wrong. It lit up and has run fine ever since. This set me to thinking; OK, it’s indestructible. With all its built-in functions (which I’m always afraid to try), it’s also smarter than me. Could I coax it into teaching me how it takes photos and sends text messages? If it decides it will, I’ll give it a break and stop taking it swimming with me.

Plan B

I’m clear about one thing, that to keep climbing this high-tech mountain I’m on, I’ll need help. Fortunately, we do have a great library staff that’s always happy to show me where to find “Computers For Dummies”. Also, our 15 year-old grandson, who’s currently building talking robots, can maybe convince me I needn’t flee from them. Meantime, no problem. I can always fall back on Emergency Plan B.

About the author:

Author Gib Check

Retired from construction, I live on a Wisconsin lake with wife Ruthie and am finally exploring being an author. When I write about our travel adventures, I focus on the fun we have meeting people and exploring these places. I’m also big on hiking, biking, canoeing, and thrill to stargazing. (I keep hinting to Ruthie and the kids about a new ‘scope). But always, it’s the writing I love.