Ninie Hammon’s Blog for Readers

YOU…AND EWE…AND ME. COULDN'T WRITE WITHOUT ALL THREE.

Posted: January 3, 2015, 8:36PM

 


This is Bob. He may be my favorite, but don't tell the others. 

          I have a picture of you on my desk. Of YOU. No, really, I do.

           If I didn’t, I wouldn’t even be able to write this blog post, let alone a book. It was that way for the decades I wrote a newspaper column every week, too. And it started when I was an announcer on a radio station more years ago than a good many of you have been alive.

          No, I was not a “disc jockey”, though it was my job to play music and at that time the music really was on discs. I was not a “radio personality,” either, though I think I could lay legitimate claim to at least one word in that phrase. And no, there was absolutely nothing glamorous about the job. It was at a small station in rural central Kentucky where the biggest news all week was when a herd of pigs got out of a field and stampeded—to the extent that pigs can stampede—down the middle of a busy road.

            The broadcast room in “WGRK on Tower Hill in Greensburg where we play all country all the time” was a windowless cave with sound-insulating foam on walls painted black. Dials, buttons, bells, whistles and thingamabobs on the control panel blinked and buzzed and beeped. My job was akin to flying a 747 through a drainage pipe.

            And I made a horrifying discovery after I got the job, which I landed by presenting my degree in English and theatre to the station manager and bragging that I’d played roles before crowds of thousands of people so I wouldn’t be intimidated by talking into one little bitty microphone. That part turned out to be true. It wasn’t talking into a microphone that intimidated me. It was talking period. Sitting in a dark room by myself, I had absolutely nothing to say.  Fact was, I couldn’t talk unless I had somebody to talk to.

The clerk in the store in Pitlochry where I bought her says Millie here is Lillie's sister. 

          Writing is much the same. Though the room where I write now is bright and cheery. With a cozy fireplace, a cow skull over the mantle (Once a Texan, always a Texan.) and my muses—Scottish sheep and California Raisins—lingering comfortingly nearby. I can’t imagine a more pleasant environment. But even so, I’m still sitting here by myself, trying to think of “something to say” when there’s nobody to say it to.

            I solved the problem in writing the same way I solved it years ago in radio. After three agonizingly mute days at WGRK, I was so desperate I put a photograph up in front of me on the control console and forced myself to talk to it. To her, specifically. "She" was a picture I snapped one day in downtown Greensburg of an anonymous woman who looked like the demographic composite of WGRK listeners. Via all manner of surveys, reports, studies and polls, the station had zeroed in on their “typical listener.” We called her Mrs. Jones On Route Four. She was 35 years old, married to a farmer, had two children, both a vegetable and a flower garden, volunteered once a week at the library/nursing home/school/Goodwill/animal shelter/hospital and crocheted/quilted/knitted/scrap-booked for a hobby.

This is Lilly. And I do see a family resemblence--they have the same nose.

            Later, when I became a newspaper editor, we made our own Mrs. Jones On Route Four, except she was a he named Billy Bob with different characteristics altogether. I clipped Billy Bob’s picture out of our own newspaper and the staff and I often considered his wants/likes/prejudices etc. when making editorial decisions. Would Billy Bob be offended if we published a picture of a fatal accident? Does he care about the high school football team or would he rather read about University of Kentucky sports? How would he react if we raised our subscription price? Changed the masthead? Stopped home delivery?

            Which brings us to the picture of you I have on my desk. It’s you, alright: Loyal Reader. And I think about you often when I write. But I don't talk to you about the internal workings of the story or how the conflict is working out. That would be like dragging you under the hood of the new luxury Mercedes I'm building for you. I don't want to concern you with the pistons and the tie-rods and the muffler. I just want you to drive the car and enjoy the ride.

           Oh, I do talk about those things, out loud--a habit born of my long-ago radio days. I discuss plotting and character development and setting with my muses. A whole herd of them. Sheep, each one purchased individually in Scotland over the course of the past ten years, graze contentedly on a nearby tabletop. They’re genuine Ewe and Me Sheep, so they came with names I didn’t give them. As  I've said before, I've long suspected my story ideas are generated by four rubber California Raisins. But I conduct day-to-collaborations about writing with my sheep.

Harry is a dapper chap, don't you think. I'm particularly fond of his shoes.

            “Harry,” I’ll say. “How can I get Will to go back in the mine when he’s scared spitless of it?”

            Or: “Millie, what do you think of ‘Riley DuShane’ as the main character’s name?" Millie just looks at me. "Yeah, you're right. Too cheesy. How about ‘Gabriella Carmichael’?”

             And after my sheep and I have ironed out all the lumps and smoothed over the bumps, I look into your earnest face and begin my "once upon a time," just like I would if you were sitting there opposite me. And when the reviews start to roll in after the book’s published, I like to imagine that one of them—a five-star one, of course—was written by you.

            My Loyal Reader isn’t a researched demographic composite, but rather how I envision the people I write for. I know who you are, who you must be if you enjoy my stories. Oh, I know some of you don’t fit my model at all--but every one of you is just as important as that person whose picture rests on my desk.

            It’s a good picture of you—really. Not your ax-murderer driver’s license picture or the passport photo where you look like an escapee from Saint Somebody's Home for the Bewildered. It’s very flattering, your good side. You have a smile beginning at the corners of your mouth and a look of rapt attention in your eyes.  So lean back and relax. Get comfortable. I have a story I want to tell you.

Write on!

9e






Comments

Karen Pillay January 6, 2015, 12:26AM

I like Harry- you're right, he is rather dapper.
Whatever works to keep you on track, is what works. Personally, talking to sheep is probably better than musing out loud to the thin air- people are less likely to think you've totally 'lost the plot' (sorry- bad pun) if there's something in front of you. Even if it is a very handsome herd of clothed sheep. :) I talk to thin air - father in law often wonders to whom I'm chatting. I tell him not to worry unless the conversation has two different voices and im the only one in the room! Keep on doing what you are doing. The outcome is worth it.   Reply

Replies (1)

Don Hussey April 9, 2016, 8:11PM

I could use some help Ninie
Thanks
DonHussey.com   Reply

Replies (1)


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"Oh, and about the 9 and the e beside my name. Say it fast, emphasis on the 9. That’s how you pronounce my first name -9e. (Think “rhymes with tiny and shiny, NOT with skinny and penny.”)

Suspense Author
NINIE HAMMON

I have soooo many stories I want to tell you, so many worlds I want you to see, so many people I want you to meet. People in trouble, most of them. Big trouble they didn't ask for but there it is. Ordinary folks like you and me who are forced by circumstances to fight for their lives. And then, smack in the middle of their everyday worlds they encounter the unexplainable. It's always the game-changer.

Welcome to my world. If you'd like to know more about me, I'm easy. Click on Meet Ninie and you'll see. My life isn't really an open book; it's more of a pamphlet, and you are cordially invited to read it. I'd love to interact with you on Twitter, Facebook Fan page, and Goodreads. Or come visit with me at 9e's Kitchen Table, a Facebook group where readers and I hang out. I think you'd like it.