Monday, April 8, 2019

Color my Life - a Writing Tip and Book Review

Color My Life - A Writing Tip and Book Review
I thought I’d share a trade secret. It is a tiny tip from (and for) a student of writing. (I’ll always be a student of writing.)
I made a curtain valance for over the kitchen sink. The morning sun shines brightly through the leafless trees.
Since this tip is briefly mentioned in general writing-helps – if mentioned at all – I’m highlighting it here.  It’s one of those little things in life, easily overlooked, so it's given less credit than it deserves.

If writing is an exercise in black and white, how do we convey what we want to say in black and white and appeal to the imagination? The most direct way of doing this is to add color-words. Color-words are the simplest of all the sensory languages. I find color-words to be a natural, easy-going way to engage imagination. Color is part of our beauty-sense. 

Make a quilt using colorful scraps from former quilt projects - was the challenge I took up over winter.
A writer has a pool of experience. Drawing upon her sense-experience she describes what she has seen, felt, smelled and tasted. Color-words find a happy home in fiction and non-fiction alike.

In Mother Culture (a collection of essays) I seek to bring intangible ideas to life by drawing upon my sense-experience. It occurred to me, only recently, that Mother Culture uses color-words freely. In fact, when I went back and flipped through the pages – with a mind to share this tip with you today – I found every color in the rainbow. These colors are straightforward; not fancy oil painting colors (although I do like the names of these).

This is what I like about color-words. They engage the imagination of the reader without detracting from the main ideas of the essay. This isn’t any hard-n-fast rule. It’s just my idiosyncratic opinion. I know some of you enjoy writing a blog and might welcome the occasional tip, while your own special writing-style is developing to your liking.

Here is a sampling of some of the simple colors in Mother Culture. (Scroll below for the book review.)

. . . pink and tan dress . . . p 37
. . . he knows something more about it than just its yellow color. p 57 (referring to a dandelion).
. . . the bright purple lupine by the roadside, . . . p 57
. . . leafy green forest . . . p 60
. . . juicy red watermelon . . . p 74
. . . expressive brown eyes . . . p 170
. . . flimsy black cape . . . p 181
. . . making patterns on the white tablecloth; . . . (from a passage on picnics by Charlotte Mason)
. . . the sky turned peachy . . . p 212
. . . a size two blue mitten . . . p 222
. . . orange flowers that seemed to match her personality. P 278

Book Review – For Mother Culture 
This winter I read The Lighted Heart (1960) by Elizabeth Yates (1905-2001).  I happily found it to be a story of rare sweetness.

I savored its peacefulness in the face of its frightening disappointment. After ten years of doing business in the city of London, an American couple, Bill and Elizabeth (in chapter one) move to rural New England. They find the antique house and farm of their dreams, near a country village. They have no children, but they do have some companionable dogs and friends. Elizabeth tells the story. It takes place over a handful of years and follows nature’s four seasons. Then the frightening disappointment befalls them. Bill loses his eyesight. They meet this tragedy with courage. Because of a diagnosis he was given in earlier years Bill and Elizabeth knew it was an eventuality.

While this couple adjusts to their new life together, Elizabeth tends a large vegetable garden. Humorously, she explores different ways to cook squash. She also takes up writing so they can butter their bread. As Bill learns necessary skills, his wife reads everything she can find in the local library about living with a blind person.

Some philosophizing pops up in between scenes. The wife (who wishes to keep gladness a quality of their lives) recalls a Chinese proverb: “If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.” She describes scenes for us and as she describes them for Bill. She describes the rosy sunset, the green forest trees, chirping birds at the feeder, the orange glow of firelight, how the table is set, Christmas decorations, the face of friends. One day Bill says something like: “I’m glad you tell me the color of things, because it’s color that soonest fades from memory, and what needs the most reminding.” This communiqué tugged at my sympathy – as Bill says it incidentally, not out of self-pity. He never moans, “Why me?” Rather, he is a remarkably patient gentleman with a "lighted heart.”

An incident proves Bill is a follower of: “I am, I can, I ought, I will.” After the incident (which comes as a big surprise to his wife) he says: “Listen, Elizabeth . . . you can’t say ‘I’m only one, there’s nothing I can do,’ . . . What you should say is, ‘Because I am one there is something I can do.’”

The value of this easy-to-read tale is the warm relationship shared between husband and wife. Theirs is an enduring love. “How do they do it?” I asked as I closed the book. In answer to this, an ideal I’ve found to be a very high ideal indeed, from the Word of God, entered my mind. Here we have two people who give the other precedence. Each, in humility, counts the other more significant than himself/herself. (Philippians 2:3) Isn’t this what true love is?
God is named as being the Source of life, love, and Christmas - although in a later novel the author clearly holds the opinion of a Unitarian where all religions are one. (This is not my view of Christianity and misses the truth of the the gospel of Christ.) Pen drawings accompany each chapter. The story is somewhat auto-biographical. Those fond of Gladys Taber’s non-fiction would surely warm up to The Lighted Heart, too. Dear Amy, I’m thinking especially of you.)

Post Script
Dear Cheryl, you can see how I’ve been using your gift to me of a green basket. Could you ever have guessed such a use?

Dear Mrs. Sharon White, uplifting and gentle Christian homemaking advice embodies your writings. I feel honored that you featured Mother Culture on your blog: The Legacy of Home. Your testimony of the positive influence of a wife, mother, homemaker, is encouraging. I feel myself rising out of a domestic slump when there. Therefore, I can invite my blog friends with confidence to visit you in the blog neighborhood. Your offerings are generous and inspiring.

Many thanks, dear Brenda, for including Mother Culture among your on-going book reviews. I am impressed with your fondness for books and am amazed at how quickly you devour them. Your bog friends can never be in want of suggestions at Coffee Tea Books and Me. 
A stack of blue quilt squares and a stack of red (Courthouse Steps) yet to be sewn together to top a dresser. 
 The Lighted Heart, on Amazon.

Mother Culture, on Amazon.

Thank you for visiting here today. Comments are Welcome.
Karen Andreola 


  1. Thank You Karen for this review. This book is such an inspiration and so touching. The love between Elizabeth and Bill is beautiful. God Bless You Karen and your family. Have a Blessed Holy Week and a Happy Easter.

    The book sounds like a lovely read. Such love and understanding by the couple. The valance you made is very pretty. I like the quilt very much.
    Wishing you and yours a BLESSED HOLY WEEK and a HAPPY EASTER

  3. Dear Karen,
    Your quilts are so beautiful! I've been slowly reading through your archives, and I'm so impressed with all your lovely quilting projects woven through your home education posts. So inspired, I'm making a baby quilt for my first grandchild due in July.
    Thank you also for the lovely book recommendation and simple writing tip. I will try both!

  4. Dear Karen,
    This book sounds like just the thing to add to my want to read list. Perhaps this summer I shall find some relaxing in the shade time on the porch just sipping lemonade and reading. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

  5. Hello Karen,
    (My phone is experiencing technical difficulties so I hope I am not commenting twice.) I read Gladys Taber's Stillwater Daybook some time back and enjoyed it very much. I like a conversational tone and a sense of humor in a memoir and she certainly has both. With pets and a temperamental old house I can relate.

    I always say this but I love your seasonal headers. It will be wonderful to see daffodils and lilies-of-the- valley outside. Here we are into April and there was snow on my car this morning.

    I like your valance. I washed my (embarrassingly) dusty curtains and valances this week and switched a few between rooms when I rehung them. "A change is as good as a holiday," as they say.

    A blessed Holy Week and Easter to your family.

  6. Lovely post, Karen. I *LOVED* the Lighted Heart. Swoon. So inspiring and such a good example of working together in marriage through difficult circumstances. I should pull it off my shelf and reread it slowly.