By Catherine Hedge
When I was a kid, I used to daydream about being a storyteller. It’s in my Irish blood. My great uncles could take a two minute event and stretch it to at least a half hour, especially when beer was involved. My Uncle Bill prefers wine. So did my dad, Joseph Hedge.
My Scotch-Irish grandmother had a favorite story. With a whiff of encouragement, she’d launch headlong into the tale. Each flourish, eyebrow raise, and whisper was finely tuned, occurring at exactly the same moment every telling. Once, my ex-husband stood behind her, mimicking her every move. He’d heard it often enough to have it memorized. Grammies was delighted by our howling laughter and the tears streaming down our faces.
I remember early on hearing,”That was a good story, Cathy.” I was sitting on my grandfather’s lap. Before I could read, he’d show me the “funny papers,” the comics, and ask me to explain what was happening to him. He kept asking me “Why?” and I kept spinning tales as long as he would listen.
When we’d spend the night at our Aunt Joan and Uncle Mark’s house, there were eleven children, five Hedges and six Heistumans. We’d get out the sleeping bags, bedrolls, the cushions from the front room couch and pile into the girls’ bedroom. My little cousins would plead for a bedtime story. I’d get the top bunk, a place of honor. I’d prop pillows up around me like a throne. Then, we’d turn off the lights.
We lived in a logger’s town, Arcata, California. At that time, they’d burn the sawdust in huge cone-shaped incinerators with mesh tops. They looked like badminton birdies with red-hot tips. The sky would glow blood red and pockets of exploding pitch sent gold showers like solar flares into the dark sky. I’d lie on that top bunk, staring out over the city, and create tales until I was the only one left awake. That’s when I really decided I wanted to be a writer.
My dreams were deferred for a while, but then I found a fantastic group of individuals who also crave hearing, “That is a great story….” Now, I get to work with them every week. Yes, we are serious about our critiques and finding ways to improve our writing. But we also get to take time away from reality. For two and one half hours a week, we are the audience, getting to hear a brand new adventure, romance, mystery, history…before anyone else in the world gets to see it. I get harassed if I have nothing, praised when I do, and am continually inspired to try something new. I’ve just finished a novel, Crossing Deep River, and am sending out my first queries. Now, what’s next?
I don’t sleep on the top bunk anymore. I’m afraid of heights. But I can still imagine my cousins pleading, “Tell us a story, Cathy…” or my grandpa asking,”Why?” I’m so thankful that now, in the sweetness of a writing life, I have the time to answer him.
For some delightful reading, you might want to check out the blogs of our friends at Pen In Hand. I promise, you’ll never be bored!