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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 170

Updated on October 2, 2017


My grandfather always seemed old. That’s normal, right, for a little child? When I would sit on his lap, and he would tell me a story of the past, his face grizzled, his breath a mixture of pipe smoke and an afternoon “pick me up,” he seemed ancient. In truth he was probably younger than I am now, maybe sixty, possibly sixty-five.

He died by the time I was ten. I remember him always slipping me a quarter after our talks. He really didn’t have to. I would have sat and listened to his stories for free, stories about the Great Depression, life on the corn farm, working in factories, dust storms, the God-blasted fickle weather, eating snake and squirrel, a lifetime of experiences that seemed so foreign to me then, almost unbelievable.

He was a wonderful storyteller. I come from a family of storytellers, and perhaps it was their influence that led me to being a storyteller. I really don’t know.

I’m just glad it all worked out that way.

Enough nostalgia . . . let’s get to the mail.

Welcome to the Mail Room!
Welcome to the Mail Room! | Source

Quieting the Inner Beasts

From Eric: “And so in my meandering way I ask another foolish question. Do you write away your issues? I must have 100 sermons that are not published but written to get me through an issue. Do you sometimes write just for your inner deal? And I listen to "The House of the Rising Sun" one of the finest organ riffs ever. We are at our best sometimes when we are Animals.”

I’ll do you one better on the organ riffs, Eric: Lee Michaels playing “Stormy Monday” on the organ. Check it out on YouTube if you get a chance.

As for your question . . . all the time! My stories are all about the struggle to be human. I’m always listening to my inner demons and arguing with them in the form of a story.

“The House of the Rising Sun” is a great example to use. Talk about a look at the dark side of human nature . . . “and it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy, in God, I know, I’m one.” I can relate, and if people are being totally honest with themselves, they can relate as well . . . not necessarily about frequenting a whore house, but certainly about the constant battle of Good vs Evil which goes on in each of us.

And I’ll tell you a secret, Eric: I doubt I would be the writer I am if I hadn’t visited my own personal “House of the Rising Sun.”

I’ve seen hell and I’m in no hurry to return to it. But I’m more than willing to write about it.

Great question, buddy!

Write a simile for this river
Write a simile for this river | Source

Analogies, Similes, and Metaphors

From Linda: “Bill - I know that you've covered this in earlier mailbags, but some of us are slow learners. Analogies, similes, metaphors--how are they different? When to use them? How to best use them? Do you have a preference and if so, why?”

Linda, this question may take up the rest of the Mailbag, but it’s a good question which benefits all writers, so let’s get to it.

An analogy is the comparison of two things using their similarities as the focal point i.e. the heart and a pump.

A simile is a comparison of two unlike things also, but with a simile the words “like” or “as” are used i.e. she had cheeks like roses.

A metaphor is also a comparison of two different things to provide clarity, but unlike a simile, the words “like” or “as” are not used i.e. the world’s a stage.

How are they different? Truthfully there is very little difference in them unless you really want to be nitpicky, and I don’t. The main point to understand about them is they are all three used for clarification.

When to use them? Use them when you want to make a particularly strong point, or paint a particularly vivid picture. Like any tool of the English language, though, they can be overused, and if overused they become a distraction more than a clarification . . . so use sparingly.

And no, Linda, I really don’t have a preference. I think all three are wonderful tools, and I think all writers should practice using them, but it’s a personal preference when and how often. I love using them. I give myself a pat on the back every single time I use one in a book. I’m so proud of myself when it turns out good.

But I try to limit their use.

Hp Advice

From Shallow: “Congratulations on your Hubbie Award. I’m new to HP and not quite certain what that award means, but congratulations nonetheless. Since I’m new, I was wondering if you had any words of advice as I start out on HP?”

Oh, Shallow, I’m full of advice. Some of it is actually useful. It’s your job to figure out what is useful and what are the ramblings of an old man. J

Here’s my first word of advice: if you are at HP to make money, you might want to stop wasting time and go into freelance writing instead. You’ll make more money quicker that way.

If, however, you are on this site to become part of a community then congratulations on making a wise choice; my only words of advice in that case is to become an active member of the community. Visit the sites of other writers. Comment on their articles and be sincere in those comments.

I think HP has great value as a supportive community.

I think it’s a joke as a passive-income site.

What do the Hubbies mean? To me they mean acceptance and a certain amount of validity. Sure, they are somewhat of a popularity contest. I get that. But you don’t win that popularity contest without the respect of your peers, and you don’t win if you are a terrible writer. You gotta have game or you aren’t winning anything and you aren’t making any money.

So learn your craft, become an active member, and one day you might win a coffee mug. LOL

Sincerely, thank you to those who voted for me. You have my heart!


From Robert: “I was watching the PBS series on Vietnam by Ken Burns, and I was so impressed by the, I guess you would call it, screenwriting for that series. It was powerful and I wonder if I could teach myself how to do screenwriting. What advice can you give on it?”

Robert, it was powerful for sure. I was reading a couple articles about that project the other day. Evidently some vets are upset about it, saying it wasn’t totally accurate, and some South Vietnamese vets said there wasn’t enough attention given to them in the film. I’m not here to discuss historical accuracy. I’m simply saying it was powerful storytelling.

I’ve never done any screenwriting. I wouldn’t even know how to begin. I wouldn’t know what to tell you. I know zero about it.

If, however, I wanted to learn, I would probably go to the library and find the best book on the subject I could find. Then I’d read that and find another after that. I would watch videos by successful screenwriters and really hear their message. There are courses to take, online and in person. And on and on we go!

Best wishes to you! If I were younger I’d probably join you on that quest.

Memories | Source


Robert reminded me of something I was thinking about while watching Ken Burns’ series.

I was listening to the firsthand accounts of that war, from the men who were there, and tears were in my eyes. They were telling history, of course, but they were telling history as storytellers. Their emotions, still raw after all these years, came to the surface as they told their stories. It was impossible for me to watch that series without crying, so powerful were their reactions while telling their stories.

Their storytelling brought me to tears!

That’s what we, as writers, are called on to do . . . make a connection, an emotional connection . . . with our audience.

Remember that the next time you sit down to write.

And a sincere thanks, once again, to anyone who voted for me in the Hubbies. I am humbled by your votes.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Perfectly stated, Lawrence. It's an amazing job we do, as writers, that connection with others through words, spanning the globe...amazing!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 6 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Really great stuff here, Robert's question reminded me of a Documentary I've got on DVD here of Sir Peter Jackson and turning the Book 'Lord of the Rings' into a movie series.

      He said that there were times when something 'said' in the book just didn't fit, where it was supposed to in the movie, yet the statement was just too powerful to leave out!

      Instead, the screenwriter put the words into the mouth of another character in a different part of the movie!

      I think as writers, or creative people, we're not always going to be totally accurate, our job is to 'connect' with people on a deeper level, that of the emotions.



    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Brilliant comment, Anusha, and I thank you for it. I love your thoughts on the quality of the questions related to the quality of the answers, and I totally agree. Thank you for that insight and blessings to you always.

    • anusha15 profile image

      Anusha Jain 8 months ago from Delhi, India

      In another mailbag, someone was inquiring about the popularity, and in short struggle and success story of the writer's mailbag. You replied, apart from other things, something of the sort of, "I like to think I've something to do with it".

      Of course, you do. And people do ask you brilliant questions! Deep, insightful and stuff which benefits everyone.

      The other day, a video was talking about how female celebrities are not asked questions related to their work, unlike their male counterparts. Females are asked stupid, sexist questions, when would you settle down, who would you have an affair with etc. The video argued we should ask better questions.

      And I agreed. These ladies, after all, have such amazing success stories from which all of us can learn, get inspired. They must be having intriguing failure stories too which could serve as warnings. When the interviewer chooses to ask dumb questions, we as audience suffer. The opportunity cost is huge.

      I'm glad and thank all the fellow hubbies for asking awesome questions which are (hopefully) utilizing your potential as a mentor and a guide.

      PS: I aspire to be a screenwriter/director too. And I can see how easily writer's mailbag can become not just something I look forward to, but also could get addicted to. I mean you already have 170 more of these! (That person who leaves/forgets about everything, including sleeping and/or eating, when she is either reading a book or watching multiple episodes of a show she didn't get time to catch up? Yeah, that one. Guilty as charged. ;) )

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great word, "sot"....LOL Thanks for the kind words, my friend. Answer in the a.m.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 8 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill this is my third reading of this. It is fully full of gems of wisdom.

      Now I have a question you may want to avoid. What was the toughest thing to overcome to go from being a sot to being the hottest hubber ever? You have my desire of success, love energized over and over again. What must we overcome to reach that next level?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very sweet, Mona! Thank you so much. I hope this finds you well and happy!

      Blessings always

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 8 months ago from Philippines

      Dear Mr. Bill, you truly deserve the award. Hub Pages would be very sad and different without you. We feel a greater sense of community because we have an excellent teacher and mentor among us in you. Regards to you and Bev, have a happy Thanksgiving:)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rachel, and welcome to the Mail Room!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Jo! For sure we'll keep them going.

    • Rachel Dawidowicz profile image

      Rachel Dawidowicz 8 months ago

      I love this, these are great

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 8 months ago from Tennessee

      One of your better mailbags, Bill. I hope you keep them going.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I will for sure, Kari! Thank you!

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 months ago from Ohio

      I, for one, think you should keep posting them! :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I really appreciate that, Peggy! As long as everyone still enjoys the mailbags, I'll keep posting them.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill! After six years here I am still surprised by the number of newbies who think they are going to make good money within the first year.

      Spring is here....LOL...but it isn't fooling me for a second.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I remember that scene well, Mike! Powerful is the only word to describe it...but your mention of the soldier's wounds as his medals....unbelievable! Thank you for sharing that.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I think that every child thinks that his grandparents are old given their youth at the time. Cherished memories come from the 2 grandmothers and 1 grandfather that I got to know. Your advice about writing on HP to Shallow was excellent. It is a wonderful place to interact with others and to hone one's writing skills. Your mailbag articles are always a treat to read.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 8 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Excellent week for the mailbag. I especially like your advice to the new hubber, Shallow. I think new members need to know exactly what they are getting into here so good for you for not sugar coating HPs. It’s a great place to learn, improve your writing skills, and be part of a community. No one is getting rich here and I think new members need to know that up front. Great job, have a great week.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so very much, Devika!

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 8 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill - In the Ken Burns documentary there is a piece where the Vets are throwing away their medals in protest. One of the Vets said throwing away those medals was as difficult as earning them. I have known many Vets. Talking to one one day he pulled up his shirt to show healed bullet holes, 'those were his medals.' The story of these men and their willingness to tell those stories has a powerful impact.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 8 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Your work stands out. You bring out amazing great memories.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great memory about the kerosene lamps, John! It's amazing what we remember from those childhood days, isn't it?

      Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That is so cool, Lori! I always loved Michaels. He always reminded me of a big kid just having fun when he played.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ann! I did have a tremendous Tuesday as we are experiencing perfect fall weather. The old photos certainly help, don't they? I will never give mine up.

      Have a wonderfully whimsical Wednesday!


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Zulma, I might read one of them for curiosity some day, but count me out of making that a habit. Writing is a craft and computers should not be allowed into our secret craft society. Period!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 8 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Not a lot of questions but I enjoyed this mailbag, Bill. I only knew one of my Grandpas and he died when I was four so I don't really have many memories of him than his rocking chair and the smell of kerosene lamps he had to light a room above his shed (which I wrote a poem about). I would love to have heard the stories he could have told.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 8 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      I'm no longer getting email notifications for your work for some reason. But if I'm on FB I see the links.

      Thank you for the explanation for metaphors, analogies, etc.

      Back in the 70's my ex and I went to a Lee Michaels concert on a date. He was phenomenal.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 8 months ago from SW England

      Story telling is so important. The verbal passing on of stories and nursery rhymes is rapidly declining. Not only is that sad but also it means we are losing our traditions and our heritage. As writers we need to pass on important stories, important history. Without that our identity and our history die. So glad I have a bank of my father's photos as historical reference.

      Great mailbag.

      Hope you're having a tremendous Tuesday, Bill.


    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 8 months ago from United Kingdom

      I was reading an article the other day and it depressed me no end. It seems writing can now be done by using algorithms. Why? I know there is a limited amount of storylines, but can a computer really write a decent story based on what the average reader (if there is such a creature) would like?

      This world is getting to crazy to comprehend.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dee! It's is father was 50 when he died, but he looked so old. My goodness, I'm probably going to lap him in age.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 8 months ago

      Since my mother had me late in her life, she had silver gray hair as long as I could remember. Seems funny to look back now and see how she really was not that old to me at the time. Wish I had spent more time listening to her share stories from her childhood. Thanks for the tips, always useful to all writers.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I just heard that, Rasma! It's too bad. I had high hopes for that site. Sigh....onward we go. Thank you for the congratulations!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Linda, and thank you!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm going to do it from now on, Kailey. Thank you! I'm glad you like those little tidbits.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I hope not, Kari! Stories are meant to be shared and passed on. I think it's time you told another story. :)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 8 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      First let me say congrats on your award. Another great mailbag. Wanted to let you know that it has happened NIUME is done with and gone. Hope you have an inspirational new week.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 8 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your introduction brought back memories of my grandparents and my childhood, Bill. Thank you for creating another interesting article.

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 8 months ago from New Jersey

      Another great mailbag. :) I like when you include bits from your past.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 months ago from Ohio

      Linda has raised a good point, and one I never thought about. After my Grandmother died I was sad I never asked her more about her life. She had moved to America in the early 1900's from Norway. So many stories lost. Will our children's children be sad in the same way?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you again, Heidi! I just hang with some great people. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ahh, Dora, who says it doesn't? :) Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, you happened to hit upon one of my major concerns. I'll vocalize it next Monday. Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I really appreciate that, Pop! Thank you so much.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 8 months ago from Chicago Area

      Happy Mailbag Monday! Not much to comment on, except congrats, again, on another Hubbie award. Well deserved. Hope you have a terrific week! (We might even get some rain this week. Yay!)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 8 months ago from The Caribbean

      Informed by every mailbag, but especially touched by the "Memories" section in this one. I would like my writing to affect people similarly.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, thanks for including my question in the mailbag.

      I love your memories of your grandpa being a storyteller. And, that got me to thinking--might the new generation lose the ability to tell a story? Years ago we relied on family elders passing on oral history to young folk. Now, those "memories" are documented on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

      I know I'm oversimplifying the issue. As long as people like you and Eric and Jodah exist there will be wonderful records of stories, but your numbers are dwindling--just like the numbers of people who can still read and write cursive.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 8 months ago

      Congratulations on your Hubbie, billy. You are a great, and I mean great, storyteller.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Venkatachari M! I have some very good friends on HP who seem to find value in what I write.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      All true, Flourish! The niche writers, if they are good writers, do well on HP.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Kari! I had to train myself not to do that because it messed me up just the same way.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I totally agree with you McKenna, and thank you for the comment and the kind words about me.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 8 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Another great mailbag this week also. Enjoyed the questions and your wise answers. Your answers are very useful and insightful always, helping the hubbers to develop their writing skills. Your "Most Helpful Hubbie" Award was well deserved. Congratulations on the award.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 8 months ago from USA

      On the HP question I think having a niche and promoting it on social media really helps. The success stories on the home page are inspiring but it takes time to get there.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 months ago from Ohio

      Here I am, reading other comments before commenting. I know better than to do that. Now my mind is a blank. Congratulations on your Hubbie. I greatly enjoy your articles.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I do both, Shaloo. That is just part of my overall business plan.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 8 months ago from Bend, OR

      Congratulations on your Hubbie, Bill. It's well-deserved. You inspire us to write for the love of writing and the relationships it builds. I love what you said about making an emotional connection with our readers. When people write with truth and vulnerability, it's a powerful thing. We need more of that in this crazy world and less of the mean-spirited crap that tears us apart on social media. We're lucky to have a civil environment like Hubpages to share and discuss writing.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 8 months ago from India

      I really liked your advice about treating HP as a community and not as a money making site. However, I often ask myself if I should be putting the time and effort on my own blogs or on HP. Over the time, even my blogs have a dedicated set of readers. This dilemma sometimes keeps me away from HP for long periods of time.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Kristen! I appreciate it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for sharing that, Janine! I'm glad you were able to hear those stories and spend that time with your grandparents.

      Happy Monday my friend!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 8 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great mailbag Bill. Congrats on the Hubbie Award win. This was informative with your pearls of wisdom on various subjects. Kudos!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 8 months ago from New York, New York

      Bill, I would give anything to have another hour with my own grandfather or grandmother listening to their stories from times past in all honesty. As a kid, I loved when they'd tell me the types of stories, as well. And just glad that I did pay attention when they did. But still wis I could here more as it was also this that made me want to write and tell my own stories. So, I get this completely and was reading nodding right along in all honesty. Thanks for the reminder here today and you always wonderful Monday writing advice. Happy Monday once again now!! :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Melissa, five in a row, and this year was the biggest surprise of them all. We have seen such changes to the site, and few of the old-timers are still around to vote, so this one shocked me a bit.

      And made me very happy!

      Thank you my friend!

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 8 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Congrats on yet ANOTHER year as top hubber! How many years in a row now? I know it doesn't come with any monetary award, but I'm glad it lets you know how respected you are by your fellow hubbers.

      Have a fun and productive week!


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