Natterings & Noodlings


There’s no time like the present to launch a newsletter or blog, so here I am. I hope to post regularly, no more than once a week, and I hope you will enjoy Natterings & Noodlings. And if you’d like to respond to my posts, add to the narrative, ask questions, or comment, please do so. If you’d like to guest-post here, please ask. Your perspective might be just what we both need today.

This blog’s primary focus will be on writing interests – building and refining one’s art and craft, books and reading, sharing resources, creativity. As I broaden my skills in this field, I want to share what I learn with you. It’s never too late to learn something.

Sometimes I will wander into other subjects, like history, the natural world, personal philosophy, and aspects of living a Christian life. A number of posts from a previous blog now exist on my web page, most of them about tidbits of 19th Century American history that struck my fancy.

Although I have strong positions on current events, this blog will not be a political platform.

Please join me on this journey! It’s always more fun to travel with a companion.

A Quotation To Tease Your Mind

“Never be a prisoner of your past.
It was a life lesson, not a life sentence.”

Eric Stanley, a native of Virginia, only 29 years old, says this. He is an award-winning and nationally known violinist and composer. With his siblings, he founded OneWayHope, a digital-media company dedicated to inspiring youth who have lost faith in humanity.

This remarkable quotation certainly gives one pause, especially those of us who carry around guilt, guilt that too often stifles our creativity. It reminds me that none of us has come this far in perfection and never will. Each of us has made mistakes. Each of us will continue to do so. It’s important that Stanley says, “it was a life lesson.” If we learn from our mistakes, we can lay them down and move on, a better person.

Natterings & Noodlings

It’s serendipitous, perhaps, that I picked this piece of flash fiction on the same day that Eric Stanley’s quote spoke to me. I didn’t plan it, but that’s how the Spirit and how the Muse often work. Who am I to argue?

I wrote this a few years ago, as part of a prompt in the introductory online seminar “Writing Great Dialogue” from Joan Dempsey, writing coach and author. The prompt stated merely: Write some dialogue between two people in a car beside a lake. I was surprised by what emerged from my pen.


“Why did you bring me out here tonight?” Marie asked.

A half-moon, just rising, threw shards of light between the trunks of the trees. The breeze had stiffened from the afternoon’s light air. She could tell by its smell that it would soon rain. By morning? Small wavelets roughened the surface of the lake, their tops edged with the growing moonlight. They coughed at the shore’s low sandbank, gnawing its undercut.

Rick seemed sad, his inherent gentle melancholy somehow amplified. Absorbed, he stared out the windshield over the car hood to the restless water before them. Marie knew enough to be patient for his answer. A thread of moonlight silvered his coarse salt-and-pepper moustache. The ambient light accented the prominent angle of his cheekbone, the strong profile of his nose – features she found endearing.

“Fifty years. Fifty years since …  Joey … drowned here.”

“Has it been that long.” She set her hand gently on his thigh. It was rigid. Why was he so tense?

“Fifty years ago … tonight.”

“Oh, Rick! I didn’t realize. I’m so sorry.” She stroked his leg to soothe him. “Even after all this time, it still bothers you so?”

“It always will.”

“It was an accident. It wasn’t your fault.”

He started, then swallowed. It took a moment before he could speak. “It was. My fault. It was not … an … an accident.” He shook his head.

She had heard the story, soon after their dating became serious, from his parents, from his brother Jacob. He had never uttered a word to her about it. Now, if he needed to speak, she had to listen. Would it ease that distance he had carried since she met him, the remote sadness that had always marked his demeanor, that reserve that had first attracted her? It wasn’t that he wasn’t loving, just the opposite. Did this explain his deep passion and compassion for her? Was he trying to make up for something?

“How could it be your fault? You and Joey were both – what? – all of twelve? And you’ve never had a mean bone in your body.”

“No, I wasn’t mean,” he said gruffly. “I was a coward.” His breath caught in his chest. “A night like this, except no moon. The wind came up, and he couldn’t fight it. It blew him out further. It was all I could do to get back myself.”

“So how is that your fault?”

“I didn’t go help him. I was stronger than him. I should have tried. Even if I died trying.” He shuddered. “I should have tried.”

His eyelid glinted. “I come out here every year, on this night, to tell Joey I’m sorry.”

“Oh, Rick!” she whispered, and leaned over onto his shoulder. “I had no idea.” Moisture filled her eyes.

“I had to … bring you with me this time. I can’t … lug it around by myself anymore. I can’t hide it from you anymore.”

She caressed his stubbled face. “It’s all right, love. It’s all right.”

The moon breasted the treetops, thinned and blurred by a smear of cloud moving in. The breeze shifted and cruised into the car, surprisingly chill for July. Rick shivered and rolled up the half-open window.


Joan Dempsey – Author, Writing Teacher

Since Joan inspired the flash fiction above, why not highlight her here?

Joan Dempsey
Author and Writing Teacher
Award-Winning Novelist – This Is How It Begins (2017)

Writing Great Dialogue Master Class – online, self-paced course
Self-Editing for Writers Master Class – online, self-paced course
Gutsy Great Novelist Writing Retreat with Joan and guest authors

I registered for Joan’s “Revise With Confidence” writing class four or five years ago. I found the course invaluable and still log in now and then to engage with others in the class.

“Writing Great Dialogue” was her next online course. I haven’t taken the master course, but I have taken her introductory one with exercises from the full-scale course. These few exercises brought out stuff I didn’t know was in me.

Joan’s courses are not only self-paced, but once you have registered, you can go back to the lessons indefinitely, work through them as often as you like, and learn from other students’ successes and struggles through their comments. No matter whether you are a newbie or professional writer, these courses are well worth your investment in your art and craft.

Joan’s novel, This Is How It Begins, is a dynamic read, too, with a powerful message relevant to our times.


A Book Worth Checking Out

The Elements of Style – fondly referred to as “Strunk & White”
William Strunk, Jr., & E. B. White

If you don’t already have a copy of this book, you seriously should consider getting one. It is a small, thin text, easily read in an hour or so, and readily available at retail bookstores and used-book shops. It has been a go-to for writers of every ilk for over half a century. Simple, clean examples of simple, clean writing, for clarity in any kind of prose.


Calendar & Announcements

Like everyone else, I have little to nothing on my calendar for readings, performances, book fairs, and so forth. The number of online events is growing, however, available by invitation through Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other video-conferencing software.

Merrimac Mic Open Mic – Sunday, June 14, 2020 – 1-3 pm
Isabell VanMerlin, host
Read and share your poems or short prose works with other artists.

Isabell has hosted Merrimac Mic for many years and has published five anthologies of works by poets from eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

Contact Isabell directly at to get on her invitation list.


Do you have comments or questions about this post? Post them below. Let’s talk!

Happy reading! Happy writing!

Sally M. Chetwynd
Brass Castle Arts
Email Me | Visit Website | Sign Up For Newsletter

If you are looking around for something new to read, you might like to add my published novels – Bead of Sand and The Sturgeon’s Dance – to your to-be-read pile.


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