A hot day in Arkansas. What is our favorite activity? Finding shade. And something cool to drink. And what tops off a hot day better than a great story?
Recently, I held seven or eight upturned faces in the palm of my hand as I stood in a shady spot and told stories. It was an awesome feeling of power. As their little bodies cooled off, and they eagerly listened, they were almost literally hanging on every word. I reviewed the stories I had planned to tell, and chose each word carefully. First goal, keep them listening. More than just talking, I needed to be animated, interesting, intriguing. Then, make sure that the thoughts they took away when they went back out in the heat were worthwhile. A weighty task for a fifteen minute job.
After being serious for a little bit, and talking about the difference between truth and fiction, I related a funny story from my childhood and a completely outlandish tall tale. Then, I turned the tables, and asked them to come up with their own story. It was much too hot to write War and Peace on the courthouse lawn that day. What they came up with was a short story, with a great mix of popular culture and imagination. Here you go: the first creation by the Stories on the Square gang:
“We were having lots of fun at Saturday on the Square, but no-one expected to see a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple eater. He ate ten people.”
Nothing could have been more satisfying for this old story-teller.
Of course, there are times when you don’t want to listen, you’d much rather hold your story in your hand and read it for yourself. This works under a shade tree, or a beach umbrella, or inside in your favorite lounge chair with the A/C blaring.
Here are some ideas from my bookshelf to get you started:
“As Waters Gone By” by Cynthia Ruchti. Set on the cooler Northeast coast, this one is a contemporary tale of a woman who is starting over. Her husband is paying for some mistakes he made by serving his court ordered sentence. Instead of enduring the constant questions and scrutiny of well- meaning friends and family, she gathers up her own emotional and financial mess and moves into the bare bones fishing cabin that he has used, but she has rarely visited. Her journey will have you laughing and crying, and relishing the characters she meets along the way, including her new mentor with the unlikely name of Boozie Unfortunate. No, Really. Extremely unusual, nominated for awards, what could be better? Find it in your bookstore or on your electronic reading device.
“Robin”, the first book in a historical series called Brides of a Feather, is the first published work of my new friend Julane Hiebert of Southwest Missouri. Set on the Kansas prairies in the latter nineteenth century, it introduces us to a young lady who is determined to make a contribution to her family and her community, despite her own physical difficulties. Her bachelor uncle is not quite sure how to react when she comes to help him on the ranch. And then, of course, like any good romance, there is a bachelor nearer to her age who is having trouble deciding exactly what he is looking for in a wife. Also, just for an element of surprise and lots of action, there is a charming orphan who has a way of saying exactly the right thing at the right time. Delightful.
“Chapel Springs Survival” is the second in a contemporary series set in a southern tourist town. The lead characters are moms and grandmas who love to spend time together, and love to share their ideas for improving the lives of everyone around them. Think Lucy and Ethel in modern-day Georgia. Their adventures keep us laughing, and we identify with their efforts to keep everyone happy. Ane Mulligan may not be a household name yet, but that will soon change.
“The Christmas Star” by Arkadelphia favorite son Ace Collins. I love reading Christmas books in the hot summertime, and this one looks wonderful. It describes a family that is dealing with the legacy of a soldier who gave his life during World War II. This one will be moving to the top of my To Be Read pile.
“Where There’s Smoke” by Susan May Warren introduces a new series by one of my favorite authors. Stories of firefighters are guaranteed to spark my interest (I have a million more of those references if you are interested.) Hot weather, smoldering romance, perfect in my book.
Enjoy your summer. Anytime is a good time for a good story. Stay cool!