Guest Post: Start your writers' conference learning now with a series of guest blog posts from some of the conference faculty.
This guest post comes from Bob Jenkins, one of America’s distinguished storytellers. Twice featured as a headliner for the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee, he performed in circus tents for thousands of story lovers.
He lives in the Sierra Foothills of California where the events of Azriel Dancer unfold.
Mama sent her ever-so-forgetful son to the store to buy some soap.
“Don’t you ferget what yer sposed to fetch.”
“What is it?”
“Soap, soap, soap. Say it.”
“Soap, soap, soap.”
“Keep sayin’ it, and git straight to the store.”
“Soap, soap soap,” and off he went.
By and by, he came to a loblolly (that’s Tarheel talk for a mud puddle). Not paying attention, he stepped in the mud, his feet slid out from under him, and he landed on his rear end. I tell you, he was covered in that sticky, red Carolina mud.
“Oh durn,” he said, and picked himself up. He walked on down the road.
“Now what was I supposed to be doing? Fetchin’ something from the store, What was it? I forgot! I must have lost it in the mud.”
He walked back.
Pointing to one end of the loblolly, he said, “Now, there I had it.”
Pointing to the other end, he said, “And there I lost it.”
Pointing, “There I had it.”
Pointing, “There I lost it.”
“Oh no, I’m gonna have to tell mama I forgot, and she’s gonna sluice me in the rain barrel and scrub me down with that lye soap.
Off he went, “Soap, soap, soap.”
I am that lad. I go out into the woods, to run and think up ideas for my stories. That’s when I get my best ideas, in fact, most of my ideas. But, just because I think me up a good one, way out in the hills, or down in the canyons, it doesn’t mean I’m going to get that delicacy all the way back to the truck. Truth be told, I’ve left more tasty rabbits out on the trail, than I ever brung home for mama to cook.
Now that I have slid into the loblolly of my elder years, memory troubles and all that, coming back with ideas gets harder all the time. I have taken to wearing a running belt with the kinds of items senior runners ought to take along: water, GU energy chews, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and identification. No cell phone. Where I run, there’s no coverage. And one more thing. What was it? I forgot. There I had it. There I lost it. Oh, yes, pen and a little notebook wherein I record my ideas whilst I pause for a moment, chew my Gu, and conscientiously hydrate on orders from my wife.
All very good . . . when I remember to strap on my running belt. When I don’t, there is little likelihood of returning with a game bag full of ideas, but how about three? My three best ideas. Is that too much to ask? So, I get an idea and I repeat it aloud, over and over. Then I get the second idea, then the third. And I repeat them aloud as I run along.
Soap, soap, soap.
Today’s soap? A prayer for Janabai, the heroine of Book Two of Daughters of the Kali Yuga. A new final line for the same book (no, I’m not going to tell you). And three . . . the idea for this article.