In an Elephant's Graveyard
INTENTIONS | 10.1.19
In an elephant’s graveyard
When elephants die, they are often at the river. This is assuming that they outlived the slow stripping of disease and poaching, and in old age, they are now tired. They lie in the sand. They die.
I have more thoughts regarding elephants and their way of dying, but you’ll have to get to reach the end of the newsletter for that.
For now, enjoy our fall issue of The Herd! October is packed with good reads, one of my favorite writing exercises, a reader’s petition, and an ask for Herd members to share their work from any of our prompts.
And of course, October 20th I will be leading that poetry workshop in Point Reyes.
Happy October, creative humans!
CREATIVITY CRUSH | 10.1.19
Novelist Ruth Galm offers readers a lens “we are not normally allowed.”
Ruth always loved driving on her own, but never consciously set out to write a road trip story. Since publishing, Ruth “realized that it’s inherently different to have a woman’s body moving through space. I wish this weren’t true, but it is. It’s still anomalous for a woman to take her own road trip.”
Ruth’s novel Into the Valley is poetic, emotional, and eerie. It follows a young woman named B. in 1967 driving inland into the Central Valley. All of it is a departure from “men-on the-road” novels, and offers a lens we are not normally allowed.
WRITING EXERCISE | 10.1.19
Coffee talk: 15-minutes of casual eavesdropping
Dialogue is the bread and butter for any good story. Even if you don’t use dialogue directly in your art, the words we hear will always shape our world.
This month, we have a timed exercise: 15 minutes in any cafe, coffee shop, etc. Write down everything you hear. Is the conversation interrupted? Are you writing down disjointed bits of several conversations or focusing on one? What happens if you scramble the conversations and words on purpose?
I always change any names I hear, out of respect for other’s privacy. It is a public space where people are talking; however, should you ever publish something with chunks of what you’ve overheard, consider changing any and all names.
Tip:If you can’t keep up with the speed that people are talking, jump ahead and have chunks of dialogue missing. It’s okay. Click here for more tips on writing dialogue.
Call for responses!
Please SEND ME SAMPLES from this writing exercise, or our previous two prompts, to be featured in our November issue. Our November issue will be Herd-centric and fabulous.
QUICK LIT REVIEW | 10.1.19
Tommy Orange wanted to write about “what it means to be Native right now.”
Tommy Orange’s book has been reviewed countless times at this point, so I’ll only say this: if you haven’t read it yet, it’s wonderful.
There There is a “novel of voices” that explores the lives of several Native characters living in Oakland. The stories range from hopeful to tragic, to fierce and pulsing with self-determination.
Orange was tired of the limited and harmful portrayal of modern Native identity, so he popped out a New York Times Bestseller. “There’s something powerful,” Orange says with a soft smile, “about seeing yourself on the page or on the screen.”
Check out his interview with PBS here.
HAPPENINGS | 10.1.19
Kevin’s adventures in flash fiction.
In the last issue, I dared you to submit any of their work for publication. Did you? For me, submitting work ranges from daunting to exciting. I get rejected a lot, and that’s part of the process.
Shout-out to fellow Herd member Kevin Dick for taking the challenge and submitting to Manzano Mountain Review! Not only was this his first writing submission, but also he dabbled in flash fiction. His submission is both hilarious and chilling. I look forward to reading more from him.
Stop the largest book ban in America.
If you have ever felt that a book changed your life, you’re probably right: it did. That’s what good writing does: it changes lives.
Congress is banning a lot of books in prison this 2019. Over 10,000 books in Texas, for example. This petition is asking Congress to stop this.
In an elephant’s graveyard.
When elephants die, they are often at the river. This is assuming that they outlived the slow stripping of disease and poaching, and in old age, they are now tired. They lie in the sand. They die. That is all.
Time and vultures, hyenas and black-backed jackals—they are the artists who whittle the decayed into the new. They are the ones who pluck green from grey.
What I mean to say is this: elephants do not die by the river on purpose. There is no such thing as an elephant graveyard. There is no ritual in this death. Grasses by the river are soft. Reeds by the river are hydrating. It is all an old elephant can eat.
Elephants lucky enough to experience old age have ground their last rotation of molars into flat disks. They are moving towards toothlessness. That is what old age does to them and so, they starve by the river. Pass on. Die.
I hate to discomfort you. Am I the only one thinking thoughts of transition and leaves? Where do the leaves go when they fall? Who sweeps the leaves from the tombstones? Where will elephants go to die when the rivers are dust?
What falls becomes the dirt beneath our feet. What falls becomes the fodder for spring’s grass. It emerges in spring as cud in a deer’s stomach. It births a fawn who studies the hills for lionesses.
For me, this is where the comfort lies.
For me, this is where the ritual begins.
That’s it for this Issue III. Thanks for reading The Herd!
Feel free to email me your questions, musings, and writing exercises from our monthly prompt. I might be slow to reply, but I will respond.
P.S. You can unsubscribe at any time. Or if you like The Herd, buy our glow-in-the-dark salt and pepper shakers, in stores everywhere.
c. October 2019