wrote my first story when I was six or seven years old, about the
hillbilly who formerly graced the returnable bottles of Mountain Dew
soda."Mountain Dew the Hillbilly," I called it. He ran away from home,
his family searched for him and found him (hiding in a tree), and they
lived happily ever after. My grandmother saved this story, about four
pages long, front and back, on notebook paper. It's in my mom's picture
box at home. I've often pondered what made me take pencil to paper on
that occasion, or what makes anyone take pen to paper for that matter.|
Maybe it was an intriguing character. What would he sound like, how would he act, what would his personality be if he leapt off the front of that bottle? As a freshman in college, I entered a short-story contest staged by the public library in Tahlequah, OK. I had begun reading Anton Chekov and was particularly struck by a story, "The Lament," (sometimes translated "Misery,") in which a bedraggled, luckless carriage driver is so overcome by heartache and loneliness he begins earnest conversations with his horse. By this time I had a year or two of experience writing sports stories for the local daily newspaper, the Muskogee, OK, Daily Phoenix. I simply turned the carriage driver into a cabbie driving a beat-up car in Muskogee. None of his passengers cares that his son has died of pneumonia, so at the end of the shift he goes home to his shack and talks in earnest to his German shepherd. A surefire winner. But not only did the story not win, it didn't get so much as an honorable mention.
I did attend the awards ceremony and noticed who won first place. I sought him out as he was leaving, to pick his brain, bend an ear, but bearded and hermitlike, he was reluctant to talk. I decided to follow him, trailing him through the streets of the small college town. He did nothing but return to a small apartment above a tavern, further deepening the mystery of writing for me. I don't remember much about his story, but I had to admit that it was more honest and realistic than my cabdriver tale.
I wish I was disciplined enough to write every day, or to write regularly in a journal. But when I am working on a story, I carry a notebook around with me, ready to use anything I see or hear. For instance, in one story I was working on I had a character sitting on a park bench. Walking through a park I saw a squirrel nibbling on a dog turd. I scribbled it down and when I went back to the story, stuck that moment into it. Or, for instance, if I have a character walking at night, and I read a passage in another story that describes the stars, or clouds, or moon in a way that strikes me, I'll use that for inspiration. I'll have a pad by my bedside and write things down in the middle of the night. But even though I may not be sitting down to a certain story every night, I'm constantly turning it over in my mind, running through scenarios and rejecting possibilities.
|Eddie Chuculate, Creek-Cherokee Indian, was born in 1972 in Muskogee, OK. He was a sportswriter for nine years before attending the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and was persuaded by the poet Jon Davis to change his major from Museum Studies to Creative Writing. He held at Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University and lives in Denver where he works as a copy editor at The Denver Post.|
I met Eddie on Twitter: @Eddie_Chuculate