The Story Farmer
Once upon a time, a not-so-old, yet not-so-young nonfiction book editor climbed to the loft of her yurt to unpack a crate of books. A kitty the color of a tree-ripened peach accompanied her. As the editor, an inveterate reader of handbooks and scholarly disquisitions, shelved the volumes, she noticed they were her almost-ancient college textbooks. “Oh, hurrah,” she thought, “more manuals, monographs, and treatises to read!” One title in particular caught her attention: Writing Fiction.
“Fiction? What good is fiction?” she asked. “You can’t learn a thing!” The orange tabby blinked in accord. With a scoff on her lips and the kitty on her lap, the editor settled against the book case to read. A merry flame leaped and snapped in the wood stove below as the nonfiction book editor cracked open the tome.
That one wintry afternoon stretched into months and years. Now and again, the tabby arched her back and gazed approvingly at the editor. The nonfiction book editor reread all the old texts and acquired many new ones. She studied plot and characterization, setting and point of view, tone and voice. She pondered showing versus telling. She examined effective dialogue. She researched symbolism and theme, story structure and narrative arc. “So, great novels don’t appear as if by magic!” she exclaimed. “Fiction writing, like nonfiction, is a craft that writers can cultivate.”
One spring day, a story arrived in the editor’s inbox. She read it; she reread it; then, she listened. The story mewled for help! So, the nonfiction book editor set to work nurturing the poor thing back to life. She fed and watered, pinched and pruned, staked and trellised. She slashed weakling words and burned boring scenes. She sowed the seeds of foreshadowing, she buried the backstory. The tabby marched across the keyboard to remind the editor to eat. After not too long, the editor decided it was time to send the story to market.
As leaves turned golden and frost nipped the air, the nonfiction book editor peeked into the store room to see what she had reaped. There, lining the cellar’s shelves, was row upon row of ripe fiction, firm and crisp with the bloom of summer sun still upon it. The editor smiled as the kitty twined between her shins. They had done good work; it had been a fruitful season. With a cat the color of apricot wine, the nonfiction book editor sat in the slanting sunlight and tended to her slightly new yet well-worn tools, sharpening the machete, honing the hoe, readying her implements for next season’s crop of fiction.
And this is the tale of how the not-so-old, yet not-so-young nonfiction book editor came to be the Story Farmer. She and the faithful feline lived happily ever after.
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