A Vigorous Chat from Julie

Friends,

I would introduce you to Julie, but you already know her. Who doesn’t, right? She throws a great cocktail party at A Thought Grows, but you already knew that. Like so many of us, we met on the virtual pages of the weekly prompts at Writer’s Digest. Now that was a cocktail party.

Although I never phsically met Julie, I type this with a significant degree of certitude. She would make a lousy vampire. Too warm and friendly.

The topic for this week’s vigorously chatty blogswap is the landscape and how it inspires writers. Read on my friends and enjoy Julie’s words. I’ll be lurking in the background, filling up your red Solo cups. Nothing but the best here at this party.

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The Landscape Of Creativity

Mountain Lion: Take One!

The scene: a woman is jogging up a lonely mountain road with her dog. Cue gentle music in the background. The scenery is bucolic— fields and mountains, a creek, pillar rock formations in shades of sand and red. Just off the side of the road, a young mountain lion cub sits. The woman and her dog stop to admire the cute, tawny animal with its kitten-like features. Increase dramatic music as the woman realizes, where there is a cub, there is a watchful mother cat lurking nearby ready to protect her young.  The woman looks around, scanning the sage brush, pulls her dog on the leash and heads up the hill. The music crescendos in minor keys, her breath becomes ragged, anxious.  And cut!

Ancient Spirits: Take One!

The scene:  a woman in green cargo pants and hiking boots heads up a rocky dirt path into the mountains. Her head is down. Suddenly she stops, picks up a triangle shaped rock, holding it in her hand. The shape is so deliberate and set inside the triangle is another cut stone of a lighter color. She closes her eyes. Cue echoed chanting of an ancient people, ghosts of cultures past whispering mystic incantations.

Pan camera back to a ring of snow-capped mountains—a 360 degree view of open wilderness obliterating signs of civilization. Suddenly, as she crests the hill, a huge buck emerges, a majestic rack on its head. Haunting flute music softly plays in the background.  She holds her breath as three more bucks with equally huge racks step out and stare at her. The woman clutches the rock in her fist realizing they are signs. Build music. She closes her eyes as the ancient spirits from the mountains envelope her. And cut!

Rodeo Cowboy: Take One!

The scene: a woman sits in the grandstands of the annual rodeo scanning the bullpens.  Country music, laced with twangs of heart ache, pours from the loud-speaker. Dust kicked up from the hooves of bulls and horses filter in the air, as a rodeo announcer’s voice proclaims the over 100-year tradition open and the National Anthem is sung. Pull camera across arena where a cowboy walks out in his tight Wranglers outfitted with leather chaps. His cowboy hat tilts over his eyes. He stares at the bull. Crowd sounds fade. The bull’s breath puffs in slow-motion, steamy snorts. It’s all the cowboy hears…smells…feels. He climbs the pen, ready to lower himself onto the tensing muscles and pulsing rage of the beast.  And cut!

Environmental Inspiration

Each of these scenes are creative non-fiction—actual events I have experienced with an added spin of imagination to give them meaning.  I have spent the last 19 years in a small town nestled at 8000 feet in the Colorado Mountains. My environment with its culture of outdoor recreation, skiing, wilderness, and history of ranching, mining and Ute Indians provides vivid experiences and landscapes for writers and artists.

Many artists—song writers, writers, photographers, painters—have been influenced by their environment, whether it be the Rocky Mountain High of John Denver, the frontier of Louis L’Amour, or the red rocks and desert colors of Georgia O’Keefe.

The stories of your world can provide great inspiration for your settings, characters and plots. Have you ever felt so immersed in an environment that it filters into your memory and finds its way into your words? What is your landscape? How has it influenced you?

 Joseph’s blog is among the first I ever began following. His writing is smart, humorous and always thought-provoking. I’m honored to have been allowed a guest spot on his blog.  I am writer published in regional and national magazines and regularly hike, bike, kayak, ski, jog and otherwise thoroughly enjoy and absorb the Colorado mountains I call home.

 

About JJerome

I am a writing teacher by trade and novelist by passion. My first novel, The Crossover Test, was written in the summer of 2011, after a student by the name of Daniel wrote in my yearbook - "Mr. Schwartz, you should write a book." What started as friendly words ended up as a supernatural thriller that I would not want him to read, not without parental approval. Daniel, if you are reading this, thanks for the inspiration, and I hope you enjoy the ride (as long as your Mom says it's okay).

Comments

A Vigorous Chat from Julie — 29 Comments

  1. I live in the French countryside so nature, small rolling hills, and old country dirt roads inspire me and influence my writing. I also lived in Paris for a few years so no surprise, that part of my current wip takes place in the city of love. Super post Julie, love the excerpts and nice to ‘meet’ you Joseph. (:

  2. Mr. Jerome,

    Thank you for hosting Julie and for your post on her site. Thought-provoking.

    Jules – wonderful post. I have heard a couple of these instances during the course of our friendship, and you know what I just thought of? These are three excellent beginnings for stories on your new stint at Chiseled in Rock. I love how you handle creative non-fiction! Hmmm…:o)

    • Mike– thanks for stopping by. Yeah– the scenes of my life. Narrowing down the few was the hard part. I feel fortunate to live in such a rich area to inspire me!

  3. Whoa, Miss Julie, you’re rocking the creative non-fiction side of you. I thoroughly enjoyed these scenes, especially the mountain lion one. Are you ever nervous when you’re out alone jogging. I’d be so scared a black bear or mountain lion would feast on me. Not to mention accidentally stepping on a snake. Well written my friend.

    • Demetria, I’ve seen bear once from my front porch, a mountain lion cub just that one time, so no, mostly I’m not afraid. (Skunk-fear, maybe.) I am glad to have a dog with me, though. I have had coyote and fox stalk me before though, believe it or not. I actually wrote an article for a magazine on hiking in safety and got some great advice from a wildlife officer.

      Honestly, where I jog I fear motorists who drive too fast and hug the mountain curves too closely.

  4. Hey Julie! Fancy meeting you here. :) I really enjoyed your narratives and was wowed when you revealed they were based on pieces of your life. I admit I’m not an outdoorsy person but I do enjoy reading things that have a rich background. I was so engrossed in each piece, I was sort of sad to to see each one end.

  5. Great post Jules!

    I love how you and Big Joe exchanged places. I was concerned that Joe might leave his man smell over at your place but I know that you keep a clean house and with a little febreze, all will be well. However, his place needed a womanly touch and I really like what you brought with you, Great Job!

    To answer your question, I am inspired by the landscape. I have been all over the world and I always wonder how people survived in the old days. In the West, how did they navigate the Rocky Mountains in the wagon train. How does anyone survive the jungles of South America or Southeast Asia. The frozen tundra of Siberia or why would anyone venture away from the islands of the south Pacific?

    The environment is tough but people are tougher. In my work, I try to incorporate that thought into my work. Any character can be a hero sitting on the couch. It takes a special person to survive a Bengal Tiger attack in the jungles of Thailand or land a stolen airplane in the raging winds of a hurricane or endure endless hours being tossed around on furious seas in a small life raft. To me, that is the landscape which speaks to me.

    • Hi Rob, thanks for reading and commenting. I can think of no good way to respond to the comment about Joe’s scent, so I’ll leave that one alone…

      I’ve read a fair amount if journals and books about the westward journey especially from a woman’s perspective and it amazes me. Those people had fortitude and guts (or lots of gold greed –although the women rarely had a say in the decision).

      Sometimes, when I find a chipped or worked on stone in the mountains behind my home, I get lost in a reverie of thought imagining the young Indian boy who maybe sat up there, watching and waiting for the deer, antelope or elk to wander by so he could provide food for his family.

  6. I’m glad you’d make a lousy vampire, Julie. ;)

    Our real-life scenes can make such a great jumping-off point for fiction, adding that flavor of truth into the mix. (says the person who writes wild fantasy)

    Your descriptions are so vivid. You really place the reader into the scene!

  7. (Yay, my internet connection lives.)

    Thanks for the wonderfully rich glimpse into your world, Julie. There’s something special about the connections we form with our environment, whether it be natural or man-made. Capturing the ‘special’ in words is something you seem to have an aptitude for.

    And I disagree with Joseph. The warm and friendly vampires are the worse kind. You’d be great!

    • Egg, I wrote Joe an email and let him know my kids would argue his vampire premise. Thanks for reading and commenting. Just from the few things I’ve read on your site when you comment on your area or travels, I imagine landscape is influential to you as well.

  8. What a great post! It’s why I love reading good nonfiction so much — puts me right into something that I know really happened. It makes it so fascinating to hear and see what the person (you, Julie!) see and felt! For instance, the rodeo cowboy description reminded me of the last time I was at a rodeo — put me right back there at the National Western Stockshow many years ago. Thank you for that great memory!

    • I have other thoughts about cowboys in wrangler’s but I’ll leave that to the romance writers. It’s a big deal here and a very old tradition. New to this city slicker. Thanks for the comment, Julia.

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