I have a cardinal rule.
I write what I enjoy reading. I have definite tastes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. So, if I write a novel or an article, it is a story or an essay that, if I had chosen it by browsing a book shelf or picking up a magazine, I would have read. With pleasure.
I have written history books that I would have enjoyed reading if written by another author. I have read many such books that other authors have written. Every once in a while, I go back to a history that I have written, and I read bits of it, and I say, Wow, this is really good!
It’s good, of course, because I like it. I read what I like and I write what I enjoy reading.
A few years back, I wrote a regular column for the local newspaper. Each week I had a story or an essay to offer the readers. I call them stories and essays because there are limitations to describing this genre in the English language. I didn’t invent the genre, but there is no precise word that identifies the genre without using a bunch of adjectives. And like Mark Twain, I believe that, most times, when you find an adjective, you should kill it. Maybe you’ve noticed that quirk in this story, or essay, or whatever it is.
If you have little imagination, you will call this a blog post.
It is a story, or essay, or whatever.
Anyway. I have collected the first year of my weekly column under the title The Annals of Goshen. You see, the narrator of the column, EJ, wrote from the perspective of a mythical town called Goshen located somewhere in Northwestern Ontario. The narrator was my muse, EJ, and I, I was the writer. Who recorded what the muse dictated.
Yes, in many respects, it was a strange column. Or, I should say, the stories and essays were strange.
Meaning, different. Not to everyone’s taste.
This past Friday, I picked up the shipment of my latest book, The Annals of Goshen. I plucked out one copy and opened it.
That was a mistake.
Because I couldn’t stop reading it. I slit open the box and pulled out a copy, admired the cover, sat down behind the steering wheel, and began reading. After a while, I closed the book, admired the cover again, and drove to the hardware store in downtown Goshen (Yes, it does exist, in many places). There I left the first copies for sale.
I returned to the car, read some more, then approached another business, Goshen Department Store (by any other name), and convinced them to carry copies for sale. I read some more.
I drove home. I live in a big cabin in the woods by a big lake. I read some more. And more. And more.
Wow, it is really good!
Olga and I went out to a spaghetti supper, a fund-raiser for the local food bank. I passed around a copy of The Annals of Goshen. People opened it. They started to read. And read. And read.
I hope I didn’t spoil their meals.
Some of the stories, or essays, or whatever, can spoil a meal.
When I glanced over at the readers, though, they were either rapt or they were smiling. Many said they’d be going to the hardware store or the department store on Saturday.
It was pitch black when we got home. In the normally still woods, there was a horrendous sound.
It was the sound of a big lake freezing up. It can sound like a freight train racing down the track. It can sound like a battlefield just over the horizon. It can sound like the earth grinding its teeth.
If you don’t know what it is, it can be a truly frightening experience.
But I knew what it was.
It was obviously reading my newest book, The Annals of Goshen.
It was groaning with pleasure.