Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Coffee Shop Chronicles - No. 27

There is joy in learning new things on a subject you are passionate about, for me that subject is writing. I am on a quest to close the gap between the writer I am and the writer I want to be. Part of that quest involves taking writing classes. I was fortunate enough to have taken two classes last year with Amanda Mays of ALM Writes that helped me finally establish a daily writing routine. A routine I had been wandering around avoiding for the past two years. My daily routine has brought such joy to my writing life.


But even with a daily writing practice the gap remains between the writer I am and the writer I want to be. In the on-going quest to become a better writer I started a new writing e-course this week taught by the very talented Jenna McGuggian. We are learning about writing with our heads, our hearts and all of our senses. Which are all great things until I tried to put all of these components into this week's coffee shop chronicle. Let me tell you, things quickly became a muddled mess. I was trying to find the most exquisite, mouth-watering description for my cinnamon twist. When I really wanted to say "it was a less-than warm, slightly misshapen cinnamon twist that had been delivered to the coffee shop in a  white cardboard pastry box sometime in the early morning hours. It was sitting on a small glass plate with a plastic, fast food style fork as its only companion." Maybe next week I will try to savor the flavor a little more. Or, maybe I should go back to that first coffee shop, the coffee shop where the chronicles began and get a freshly, in-house made, double chocolate muffin with little surprises of mini chocolate chips inside. The chocolate chips having been made all soft and melty by the fact that the muffin has been warmed and slathered with fresh butter.

After endless pages of sensory overload and mindless dribble I decided to rip all the pages that I had written out of my notebook and throw them on the cutting room floor. What you are getting now is written directly from my heart, the place I have always written from best. I will slowly continue to add in the other components we are learning. I will continue to enrich the story without overloading it with detail. The gap can't be closed in one day, one story, or even in one writing course. It is a process, and I know in my heart that the joy is in the process.

I arrived at the coffee shop at eight o'clock on the dot.

This seems to be the perfect time to arrive. I have missed the coffee to-go, before work people and it is a little early for the morning coffee date people.


I had been coveting this perfect writing spot all week as Scout and I walked past the coffee shop windows on our morning walk. It is the perfect little window nook with three sturdy, wooden bar stools. One bar stool for my writing bag, one in the middle for me, and one empty one for space. You know that no one, unless desperate, would sit that close to a complete stranger. I was counting on that fact and I didn't feel the least bit bad about it. I like to spread out when I do anything creative and this was the perfect amount of counter space.

The big window makes me happy. I love looking out at life going on downtown. Being a photographer, I liken the window to my camera view finder. I can frame the picture, or the story anyway I want to, choosing what I want to focus on.

As I settled with my cinnamon twist and my chai latte, notebook and my pen, I began the process of framing the individual stories.

First, my favorite story, the continuing story of the little china doll grandmother from last week. This little lady is a relentless walker. I don't walk downtown on the weekends, but last weekend my husband and I happened to come downtown to his favorite breakfast place. They serve the best restaurant version of a home-cooked breakfast, and cinnamon rolls the size of dinner plates oozing with frosting. As my husband and I were turning the corner onto the main street, there she was crossing at the intersection ahead of us. I pointed her out to my husband, thankfully he had already read the chronicle that week so he knew who I was talking about. Earlier this week I gave her a big hearty Good Morning at our first crossing of paths for the day. I think I scared the crap out of her, because since then she won't even make eye contact with me. But on a positive note, she doesn't move over as far on the sidewalk when she sees Scout and I coming towards her. I continue to make it my goal to have a conversion with her someday.


My next story involves a man and his dog. I have never seen them downtown before. They paused outside my window so that the man's medium-sized Chewbacca looking dog could lift his leg to pee on a tree. Now I am not a fan of this type of behavior. I have a male dog but I take him discreetly behind the buildings to a little square of grass (currently a patch of snow) to pee. Thankfully Scout also squats like a girl, due I think to his less than stellar hips. Anyway while Chewbacca was leaving a trail of yellow on the tree and at the base of the tree, I turned my focus to Chewbacca's owner. This man could have been a tree himself, he was dressed in a big, puffy brown winter jacket and atop his head sat a forest green, knit stocking cap. He stood just as still as a tree too, waiting while his dog relieved himself. Maybe he was embarrassed by Chewbacca's behavior? Well you know what then? You can change that behavior. You are the owner, you have control.

After the man and his dog moved on, a movement in the tree caught my eye. A long, shiny white ribbon wrapped around a tree branch. A string belonging to some child's lost ballon, the ballon now long deflated. I sat mesmerized by the swaying of that shiny white ribbon in the gentle breeze. I wondered about the child who lost that ballon. Was it their prized possession from a long, tiring day spent downtown with mom and dad? I am certain there were tears involved, there always are in these situations. Did Dad save the day by going to get another ballon for the young one? Or were they just as crabby as the child by this point in time and told the child that they should have held on tighter? Unfairly placing blame on that young child for something that was an accident. We will never know, but I am hoping there was the appearance of another ballon before the day was over.

My last story framed through the window was of a man in a bright red snowmobile suit digging through the trash cans. In his hand was a plastic bag, he was collecting remnants of uneaten food. Did you ever think that your half eaten hot dog would be another man's meal? Every town, every city has their underbelly, the thing they don't want exposed. The man in the red snowmobile suit is ours.

18 comments:

  1. I love your post Sarah! You are a great writer!

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  2. That window nook and big counter space looks like the perfect spot to observe life going on around you and invent stories of other people's lives.

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  3. I am so glad you find such joy in your writing. I can tell by reading it.

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  4. I like the 'real' description of the cinnamon twist!

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  5. In the city where I work there are many like the red snowmobile suit. One in particular sells his Big Issue papers with his little dog and smiles at those who pass him singing out occasionally a little poem. People pass him by as though he isn't there but he says God bless you as they ignore him. Others, like me, will buy his paper along with a coffee to keep him warm and something for the dog. The underbelly are in every city and deserve a few moments of everyone's time. Another wonderful Chronicle Sarah xx

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  6. You don't have any trouble incorporating those details when you are FEELING them! You had my mouth watering with your description of those warm, buttered muffins and the cinnamon rolls at your favorite restaurant place. Maybe a cold, bent cinnamon twist plopped on a plate with a plastic fork just isn't very inspiring. I love it when you write in your own voice, because it's like being there with you. By the way, your downtown looks awfully cute through that window.

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  7. I'm so glad you love to write...because I love to read what you write.

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  8. I love the beginning of reading you . . . and the build, direction, description . . . the tease and wonder . . .
    I really like reading you . . .

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  9. I'm so glad you found a new class. I know how you love to write. I love your style of writing, as if we're sitting there together in the window booth sharing a not-the-best-cinnamon-twist and watching the world go by!

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  10. Any story worth telling has to come from the heart as much as from the head. There is an art to telling a story, an art that sometimes defies the rules of style. (just as with photography - know the rules, then break them). I look forward to following along your journey and enjoy your style that speaks in a universal voice.

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  11. All great things come from the heart, the head tends to get things tangled up, you know? ;) And just like photography, it's just nearly impossible to, when we are first learning or improving on, to add all the things we learn. It's something that we add gradually, until we find our "thing". I love your view xo

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  12. I think the same things when I see a balloon stuck somewhere. Keep writing-you do it so well! Xoxo

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  13. I can tell by your ease of writing, your descriptions, your love of the written word all come through loud and clear. I took a couple of writing courses at our local college and so enjoyed them. I may look into the on-line one you mentioned. Keep up the great work, I appreciate it!!

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  14. Sarah, I've been evaluating my writing style of late - thinking of taking a class to hone my skills or perhaps joining a local writer's group. I'm struggling with some of the same things you seem to be working on - how to make my writing more engaging, using more descriptive language, without drowning the story in words that simply don't need to be there. Overly flowery language just gets on my nerves - sometimes. So much to learn. . . Love your latest installment of the Chronicles and I find myself wondering about your characters and wanting to see what comes next. I'd say that makes you a very good writer!

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  15. Love your continuing tale of the china doll woman, there certainly is a story there waiting to be told. Glad your writing continues to stimulate you.

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  16. I always wonder about the lost balloon too. :) So many things can happen in one trip. You capture everything so well in words and photos, it is as if we are right there walking and having coffee with you. I enjoy reading your posts and do look forward to the next one.

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  17. Sometimes when I see lots of writing on a blog I tend to skim over some of it (shameful admission :-( ) but I didn't skip a word of this......you totally engage people. And you've made me think about writing....I really need to improve my skills.
    I'm glad I found you Sarah!

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  18. Another great Chronicle, Sarah! I especially liked "the joy is in the process". But I was also curious to know more about the man in the red snowmobile suit. I always wonder about their life circumstances that would require them to be in that kind of situation...

    I also saw this story on the news the other night but here it is straight from NPR. Maybe Holland could adopt something like this too. Anyway, thank you for Paying It Forward with this post. It really brightened my day ;O)

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2015/01/14/377033772/philadelphia-pizza-lovers-pay-it-forward-one-slice-at-a-time

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Thank you so much for visiting today and taking the time to read my thoughts on life. :)