Tag Archives: montmorency

First cherries, first lines

cherriesOut of our four young cherry trees, we ended up with just a handful of tart cherries this year. Our Montmorency tree (left), the first one we planted three years ago, yielded the most fruit.

The first line of a story should be as memorable as the taste of a tart cherry–tangy, sweet, then tangy again. It’s almost lemony, but there’s something else–the flavor of early summer, morning breezes, balmy nights, the eerie song of the wood thrush in the hollow.

“One fine evening the no less fine office manager Ivan Dmitrich Cherviakov was sitting in the second row of the stalls, watching The Bells of Corneville through opera glasses.” (Anton Chekhov, The Death of a Clerk)

“Miss Matt was at least partially conscious that she looked like the teacher everyone has had for English in first-year high school; she was small and pretty, in a rice-powder fashion, with a great mass of soft dark hair that tried to stay on top of her head and straggled instead down over her ears; her voice was low and turned pleading instead of sharp; any presentable fourteen-year-old bully could pass her course easily.” (Shirley Jackson, The Sorceror’s Apprentice)

“Hazel Morse was a large, fair woman of the type that incites some men when they use the word ‘blonde’ to click their tongues and wag their heads roguishly.” (Dorothy Parker, Big Blonde)

Does your first sentence sing with vivid language? Mystery and intrigue? Does it draw your reader deeper? As I revise the stories I drafted this past month, I’ll be cognizant of the work of the masters in the first sentences of their stories, as quoted above. There’s a trick here, and these authors do it. That first sentence must hint at the plot and the universal truth (or unique vision) that caused the author to write the story in the first place.

As we approach the end of my story-drafting blitz this month, (three more to go!) I was delighted to receive a note from the editors of  The Birds We Piled Loosely, a hip online literary magazine, that they accepted two of my short humor flashes: “Etymology in the Neighborhood” and “We Are So Very Sorry” for their July issue.

Come to think of it, submitting work for publication is also a bit like growing cherries in the south. It’s unpredictable, a little scary, (will a late frost hurt those flower buds?) but the scarcity makes the few cherries you do harvest that much more delicious. So keep it up…both the cherry growing and submitting!

 

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Life is Just a Bowl of … Tart Cherries

Today I attended a meeting of the Sisters in Crime writers’ club where the speaker was none other than my fellow novelist Rick Bylina. His talk on social media was both informative, and, as always, entertaining. He stressed the importance of blogging, which inspired a great lunch discussion. All writers, myself included, sometimes struggle with this. You’re already a writer, so you have your book(s). So what do you write about in your blog?

Rick wisely advised us to just be ourselves. Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you have to blog about the dangers of dangling   participles or how the comma is provoking civil unrest in Denmark. It’s perfectly fine to blog about your cat, the dogwoods you’ve just planted, or even just the kind of day you’re having. There is always a connection to your inner world, the most precious domain of the writer. It was to Rick’s credit that we all left the meeting newly inspired about our blogs.

On that note, yesterday I travelled to a cherry orchard just north of the state border. The purpose was cherry-picking, more precisely, to take advantage of the two-week window in early June when you can pluck those delicious garnets of the cherry world: Montmorency cherries. Unlike sweet Bing or black cherries, Montmorencies are tantalizing tangy; small but nearly perfectly round and so glossy that they look as if each one had been polished by the cherry fairies. Imagine a tree filled with marachino cherries and you’re there! Cocktail time. Pie time. Cobbler time.

Having baked with my share of sweet cherries, which are delicious in their own right, I had always wondered what makes tart cherries so coveted for the pie. Well, just a few hours later, after taking two crumb-topped cherry pies out of the oven, I knew. The piquant, mouth-watering flavor of the Montmorency gives your pie an irresistible kick. It’s the conflict in your novel. The menace in your plot. The poignancy in your happy ending.

Such reflections are the benefit of taking a day away from the writing. You’re also rewarded with a host of new sensory experiences and characters galore, from hippies to cherry rustlers to the two men who nearly came to blows in the parking lot about a little bump-up.

Then there was the wise-cracking orchardess (orchardatrix?) who was pushing the weary cherry pickers to the scale and then on to the cash register. When asked if it was okay to eat the cherries without washing them first (even though we’d been sneaking them all day), she said: “Ain’t nothing wrong with them cherries. If there were, I’d be dead by now.”