Monday, October 21, 2013

Guest Blog by K.B. Laugheed - Why We Need Stories - October 21, 2013

Please welcome K. B. Laugheed to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Spirit Keeper was published on September 24, 2013. You may read an interview with K.B. here.

Why We Need Stories
by K.B. Laugheed

       I have considered myself a writer ever since my 5th grade teacher gushed over a poem I wrote. At the time I appreciated Mrs. Brock’s kind enthusiasm, but over the years I have, on many occasions, cursed the poor woman for setting me on this arduous course. A writer’s life is one in which you no matter how hard you work, you are continuously criticized, rejected, and ignored.
       You have to be crazy to be a writer.
       By the time I reached the age of 50, I had had enough of battering my head bloody against the brick wall that separates “authors” from lowly writers. I vowed never to write again, determined to find pleasure in all the things I’d ignored while always writing. I didn’t want to waste another precious second of my life hunched over a piece of paper, frantically scribbling stories no one wanted to read.
       Days passed. Months passed. Years passed. And a funny thing slowly become apparent to me. Not writing left me feeling far more depressed and miserable than did all the criticism and rejection my writing had garnered over the years. When an artist friend explained she drew pictures not because she was trying to produce great art but because she was trying to keep herself sane, I finally understood what was wrong with me. Writing isn’t something I do for other people; it’s something I do because if I don’t, I soon start frothing at the mouth.
       You, do, after all, have to be crazy to be a writer.
       I have always been intrigued by the prehistoric drawings deep in the caverns of France, drawn by people who were little more than cavemen. Now that I understand why I write, I also finally understand why those distant ancestors of ours scrawled their stories on stone walls. Humans need stories. We need to give our churning brains something solid to chew on, or our restless thoughts will inevitably turn inward, snapping and snarling like rabid wolves until our tender psyches are torn to shreds.
       Humans need stories because we need to focus our thoughts, to make inexplicable things make sense, and to find refuge from our weird and worrisome world. Just as researchers have found our brains can cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through the use of certain specific mental exercises, I believe our brains are hard-wired to use stories to cope with the infinite stresses of everyday life. Stories are Nature’s anti-depressant.
       Though reality is always beyond your control, you can easily control the stories in your head. Are you bored at your tedious job? Then find an exciting story and get a free rush of real adrenalin. Has it been ages since you fell in love? Then enjoy a romantic story and let your body bask in all those lusty hormones. Are you frustrated, sad, or fearful? Then tell yourself a story that makes you feel powerful, overjoyed, or fierce. Why settle for the basic life you’re living when you can explore an infinity of other lives, other worlds, and other ways?
       In my 55th year I sat down to write The Spirit Keeper, not because I believed this time would be different from all the writing projects that led to criticism, rejection, and despair, but because I needed to restore my sanity. And if you respond to The Spirit Keeper in a positive way, perhaps that’s because you feel it too—the Prozac-like waves of comfort that come from getting lost in a story. It’s the same feeling the cavemen must’ve felt as they stared at those drawings in the flickering firelight of 25,000 years ago, and it’s the same feeling our distant descendants will no doubt feel when they someday watch hologram recreations of our adventures here in the 21st century.
       I only hope the stories they tell about us satisfy them as much as the stories I now write only for myself.

The Spirit Keeper

The Spirit Keeper
Plume (Penguin), September 24, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

This is the account of Katie O Toole, late of Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania, removed from her family by savages on March the 2nd in the year of our Lord 1747

The thirteenth child conceived of miserable Irish exiles, Katie O Toole dreams of a different life. Little does she know that someone far away is dreaming of her.

In 1747, savages raid her family home, and seventeen-year-old Katie is taken captive. Syawa and Hector have been searching for her, guided by Syawa s dreams. A young Holyman, Syawa believes Katie is the subject of his Vision: the Creature of Fire and Ice, destined to bring a great gift to his people. Despite her flaming hair and ice-blue eyes, Katie is certain he is mistaken, but faced with returning to her family, she agrees to join them. She soon discovers that in order to fulfill Syawa s Vision, she must first become his Spirit Keeper, embarking on an epic journey that will change her life and heart forever.

About K.B.

K.B. Laugheed grew up in the shadow of the site of the 1812 Battle of Tippecanoe. She is an organic gardener and master naturalist who has spent a lifetime feeding the earth, and her efforts have culminated in The Spirit Keeper, her first novel and largest contribution to the potluck so far.


Twitter @klaugheed


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