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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 276

Updated on September 30, 2019

What Are Your Favorite Smell Memories?

I was thinking about this the other day. Maggie and I were out on our daily walk, in the country, and someone had a burn pile going on a farm we passed. The wind was blowing in our direction and I got a sniff of that pile burning and it reminded me of my childhood . . . just an instant and I was back in 1955 with the neighbors burning leaves on a brilliantly clear October Saturday.

And that got me thinking of other favorite smells . . . freshly baked bread right out of the oven . . . lavender . . . that distinct smell of a county fair . . . a field freshly plowed . . .

How about you? Surely you have smells which instantly transport you back to the memory vault. What are they? Share with us, please, in the comment section.

So let’s do this!

The Mail Room!
The Mail Room!

What Is Your Goal?

From Francis: “Bill, what is your goal when you write a story? I mean, besides the joy you receive from writing it; do you have another goal you aim at?”

That’s an easy one, Francis. My goal is to entertain and to carry on the tradition of storytellers throughout our history. I am of the belief that storytellers are very important for civilization. We are the glue which connects the past with the present. We are the glue which binds us all together as a species. We suspend reality for just a moment and transport our readers into another place, another time, and give them a respite from the daily grind.

When I pass on, if people remember me as a storyteller, I will rest comfortably with a smile on my face, for I think storytellers are vital for us all.

Specific Words

From Elise: “How often is too often when using specific words in a story? I have this thing against repetition, but I’m wondering if there is actually a guideline we are supposed to follow.”

The Oxford Dictionary has a total of approximately 240,000 words in the English language; of those, about 170,000 are used on a regular basis in speech and in writing. In other words, there is no excuse for repetition of specific words in storytelling. In fact, repetition is just plain lazy writing.

I don’t know if there are specific rules regarding repetition. I try not to use a specific word more than once in a paragraph. Of course I’m not talking about words like “and” or “the.” In addition, I’m also very careful about using the same word to open a paragraph. I remember picking up a book at the library last year, and seven of the first ten paragraphs in that book began with the word “I.”

That’s lazy writing, Elise, and it should be avoided like the plague.

Almost a quarter-of-a-million words to choose from, plus the ones you can invent for a whimsical purpose . . . there are just no excuses for repetition!

Writing as Therapy

From Barbara: “I know you recently received some bad news about your best friend. Do you feel you use writing to help you cope with those hard times? Is that normal to do so for most writers?”

Barbara, I don’t know what is normal for most writers, but I do know, for me, it is one way for me to connect with people on a very human level. I spent a large portion of my life hiding my feelings and not allowing anyone to see me as vulnerable. I won’t do that again. I talk my feelings out with Bev and AA friends, but I also share them with my writing friends, and I think it’s important to do so. I don’t want to just be a name connected to an article or story. I want to be a real person that people can relate to, and for me that means wearing my heart on my sleeve and being vulnerable to everyone. My very survival depends upon me being open with all of you. I don’t want sympathy and I’m not looking for answers or suggestions on how to cope. I’m just keeping it as real as I possibly can.

Social Issues

From Louise: “Your recent short story about a hitchhiking homeless girl was touching and so very real. I wonder, do you gravitate towards social issues in your writing for a reason? Do you think all writers have a responsibility to do so?”

No, Louise, I don’t think all writers have a responsibility to write about social issues. I think it is perfectly all right to just write a story without a social agenda, but it’s a path I want to follow. If I can just make people take two minutes out of their busy days to think about issues like homelessness, then I will have achieved one of my goals. These issues are incredibly important and I think someone should write about them.

Most of my novels and short stories have a deeper meaning imbedded in them, whether that be homelessness or the environment or man’s inhumanity towards man. These things are important to me and thus they are important to my characters. Whether you choose to do the same is entirely up to you. Some folks are not comfortable writing about issues. Me, I’m quite comfy standing atop a soap box.

You won’t find me on HP forums because I see no sense in engaging in arguments about politics, religion, or social issues. I would rather cut off my own testicles than argue about Trump or Socialism or abortion, but I have no problem whatsoever making those topics a part of my creative writing.

Social issues abound if that's what you want to write about
Social issues abound if that's what you want to write about


From Tammy:”How’s your memoir coming along? When can we expect to see it available for purchase? And then what’s next for you?”

Thanks for the pressure, Tammy! LOL It is actually coming along quite nicely. I’m approaching the 50,000 word threshold, and I was aiming for sixty, so I’m getting close. I just might have it ready for sale by the end of 2019.

After that I need to finish my next Shadow novel, this one titled “Shadows Across The Pond,” and then I’ll turn my attention to my retrospective and reflective novel about life during the 60’s. So far the working title for that is “A Time and a Place,” although I think that title is going to change.

And after that, Good Lord williin’ and the creek don’t rise, I want to do the sequel to my very first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today,” and then a book detailing our current transition (my wife and I) into tiny house living.

That should keep me busy, don’t you think?

My memoirs are nearing completion
My memoirs are nearing completion

Any Smell Memories Yet?

I’m looking forward to reading about your smell memories, so please include some. You’ll be helping me by doing so. I’m sure some of your memories will make it into one of my stories or novels in the near future, so allow me to thank you now in advance.

Have a great week, and don’t miss any chance to say “I love you” as you go about your day. It's such a simple act and yet so important.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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