Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Thursday, October 05, 2017

October 5: Letting Go

Perhaps I do understand what I didn’t know yesterday
as the suitcase fills up, the airline tickets
print, the alarm set for 4:00 am.
Everything that I know and love
will remain here for now;
for the next weeks,
we sleep aboard
a ship,
elsewhere.

Today’s OctPoWriMo prompt is to brainstorm a list of the things you now understand that maybe you didn’t quite comprehend before. Distracted by preparations for our coming trip that leaves this Saturday at 4 am, I couldn’t see a way to respond to the prompt . . . until I found Robert Lee Brewer’s list of poetic forms online on The Writer’s Digest website

The Nonet, a nine line poem that starts with a 9-word line, with each following line one word less, intrigued me because Brewer says this poetic form is a sort of ‘count down’ poem. We are certainly counting the hours down just now before this trip begins.

Tomorrow’s poem will be my last posted poem until August 26th, for we will be traveling down the coast of Mexico without any access to internet. 

Meanwhile, here's the link to OctPoWriMo poets. May you find poetry every day and everywhere!

Pigeons of San Miguel de Allende (Camp)

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

October IWSG: Have I Slipped?

I typically spend about three years in writing my historical fiction stories, all set mid-19th Century in times of great upheaval. My characters struggle, and I love to write about them as they fight their way out of despair to a new life they’ve crafted.

In Standing Stones, Mac McDonnell protests evictions by the new landowner of a tiny island in northern Scotland. As Book 1 ends, Mac is jailed, sent to a prison ship in London, and then shipped to a penal colony in Australia. 

Years of Stone, Book 2, follows Mac as he struggles to survive a seven-year sentence in Van Diemen’s Land. Mac doesn’t know that Deidre, his sweetheart, has followed him. Do they get that ‘happy-ever-after’ ending?

That leads me to Rivers of Stone, Book 3 of the McDonnell clan. 

I loved researching and planning the story of what second brother Dougal McDonnell did as he left his island home. But Rivers of Stone is really about Catriona’s journey. She disguises herself as a boy and, with Dougal, is hired by the Hudson’s Bay Company (based on a true story). Once they land at York Factory in Upper Manitoba, Cat and Dougal are separated. 

Catriona’s inventiveness, and chance meeting with Canadian artist Paul Kane, take her all the way to Fort Vancouver in the Oregon Territory, a wonderful story that essentially asks: Will Cat and Dougal get that ‘happily-ever-after’ ending.

In the earliest drafts of Rivers of Stone, I struggled for months over how to stage that ‘happily-ever-after’ ending, for essentially Dougal abandoned Catriona at the first opportunity. How could she forgive him? After the first draft was complete, I realized (with the help of beta readers) that I had profiled an abused wife. This was not the story I wanted to tell.

I do write intuitively and then work as logically as I can. With Rivers of Stone, for some reason, my characters played out the drama of my childhood. I didn’t realize how toxic and how long lasting these underlying issues were. Despite many years of a solid marriage, I still painted the picture of a woman who was mistreated, undervalued, and abandoned. 

Deep revision followed, and I am happy to report that Catriona displays the strength and personal growth of a true heroine.

This month’s IWSG question is: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose? 

My answer is yes, but, thank goodness for editing and perseverance! Working on the emotional bedrock of a story, its subliminal message, is not easy. But maybe that’s just what readers take away after they finish reading that last page.

Thank you to IWSG October co-hosts Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan! Read what others have posted for the Insecure Writers' Study Group HERE.

Have a great month reading and writing. Remember that NaNoWriMo is just a few weeks away.

October 4: Where Does Poetry Hide?

I’d like to think that poetry
hides under my bed,
inspiring dreams. Early in the morning,
just before I wake, words dance 
along my eyelids, 
bringing me to that half-life
of awareness.

I can’t quite remember anything
after I’m awake,
other than the shape of the words
laid out on a page,
staggering toward some meaning,
rather like a paint by number,
the colors not filled in,
and my brush strays outside the line.

Street Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil (Camp 2009)
















Today’s OctPoWriMo prompt invites us to explore where poetry hides in our life. Thank you, Amy McGrath, for your lovely photos and invitation to write. 

Most of the year, I do wake with words and images for the morning writing session, but, for me, poetry hides throughout the year, except for October and maybe April. The rest of the year, I'm writing and editing stories!

Click HERE to read what others have written -- and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

October 3: Untitled Cherita


after packing my suitcase one more time

Tucking your postcard
into my daybook

A packet of letters on thin paper
comes unbundled,
little cherished histories



Cherita is the Malay word for story. This stylized poem is presented without a title. Its three stanzas are centered and have one 1 line, 2 lines, and end with 3 lines. I hope my little poem gives the sense of a story in this tradition. 

Today’s OctPoWriMo challenge was to write a cherita, perhaps around the theme of metal. Click HERE to read what others have written -- and enjoy!

The photo is by Liz West on Flickr of a packet of letters she bought at an auction. They were written in the 1860's.

Monday, October 02, 2017

October 2: Maybe the First Time

Maybe the first time,
some rhythm of song
resonated to your bones,
and you noticed you were different.
Or was it the shock
of a blow
that led to stars,
white stars that circled as spirals
into words only you could hear.
You became an observer,
watching, not dispassionate,
but once removed,
recording for some unseen audience
you knew would listen
to these words
that finally spilled out on the page,
well before laptops or i-pads or texts,
words that the heart knows. Sometimes
we write because we must.


I'm posting a little late with today's poem (and picture taken earlier this summer in Manito Park), for it's after 11 pm here on the west coast. A busy day, but OctPoWriMo's prompt for today was to free write for ten minutes stating, "We write because we must."  Click HERE to read what others have written -- and enjoy!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Oct 1: How Did I Get to This Place?

Manito Park, Spokane (Early Fall 2017)

How did I get to this place?
Every day edges closer to the end of my days,
from west coast to east, across oceans,
north and south, other languages tumble
in the wind of this journey. I remain
always grateful for each year with you.
Seasons wind round again and again,
while I, fueled by the blood of Vikings,
fight down night terrors to make
our home, a respite.

Today’s prompt from OctPoWriMo included these jumping-off words: family tree, DNA, roots and branches, origin story, ancestry, heritage, and the question: “How did I get here?” Click HERE to read what others have written. 

This year, we'll be traveling once again -- far from internet! So while I can only post these poems written for OctPoWriMo through Friday, October 6, I'm taking a journal with me and will post on our return -- after October 25.

I took this picture of the Japanese Garden in Manito Park in early fall. Why do I love participating in OctPoWriMo? Because it's a nice break from writing historical fiction. Because I enjoy that nonlinear connection with images and ideas that seem very different every day. I hope you join the challenge!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

September 28: The Role of Poetry?


When words emerge
in a certain shape on the page
or rhythm within, close to the sounds
of each vowel of my heart,
I think poetry is a little anchor
to this moment, something small,
so personal that
what remains on the page
is hard to share with others
and nearly impossible to read aloud.

But these words help me recognize
my own white hair in the beginning of winter
in that line of snow birds heading north,
and to see again the ending of summer,
as we walk along this tree-lined path,
leaves above us curling red and yellow to brown.

I do not count words in a poem
or rage as much as I should
against all those worldly wrongs.
Some stories, some poems resonate
larger than life, then slip away,
one line at a time. Like a crane,
Its steady walk profound,
I move without regret . . .
as yet, unfinished.

Today’s poem tries to answer Tamara Woods’ question, “What is the role of poetry?”, in her post for OctPoWriMo HERE. The picture of that beautiful white crane comes from Jeffrey Stemshorn, a Tucson photographer with the vision of a poet who is dear to my sister.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

September 27: Follow the Flower that Bends


Even in early spring,
one flower always seems
to bend in its own direction,
as if to say, “Follow me. I know
where I am going.” 

Over the years, I have followed you
here and there, everywhere,
at home in a world of other-ness,
affirming we are one community, at peace.
And then nature blows the flowers away,
the houses, the wires that connect us so well,
bringing death and destruction.
“We know death is
inevitable,” one forlorn wife says,
“But that does not mean
we are ready.”

I am wishing for
that one flower that points the way,
bending slightly to a path
that few follow.
In the spring, we will shake loose routine.
A lot older now, we cannot quite travel
as we once did. But our hearts
are together,
here and there,
everywhere.

Today's poem came early this morning as we prepare for a trip that means we'll be far from internet from October 7 through October 25. Despite my commitment to OctPoWriMo, I won't be able to post that daily poem. But I will write in my journal and post on our return, hopefully with pictures and new adventures to share.