Coffee for WriMos: Day 24

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

November 25, 2014

Your story is both unique and part of something greater.

It’s snowing tonight and I can’t help but compare stories to snowflakes. Each storm is new, fresh. No matter how many stories go out each one is a fresh new voice. Like snowflakes, each story is unique though collectively it forms snow.

So what does that make our collective of stories? Literature. You might think of literature as high prose or the work of professional authors but did you know that literature is defined as, “all writings in prose or verse, esp. those of an imaginative or critical character, without regard to their excellence: often distinguished from scientific writing, news reporting, etc.”

Stories become part of the literature of one’s time and place. Do not underestimate the unique potential that your story can express. Treat it as unique, your voice, your perspective, your influences, your experiences. Let those things come through. Add to it your research, you imagination, but make your story unique as a snowflake then let it fly in the storm of literature.

Thought for Day 24:

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” ~Stephen McCranie

Word Count: 1,500

Excerpt From Rock Creek:

Not long after the men had left, a soft knock came at the door during supper. With all the men gone, it was just Emily, Mary, Sally, Celia, James and the children. Emily had a large shepherd that usually announced loudly the arrival of any strangers. He was silent so they assumed it was Julia or Mary Catherine, or perhaps one of their older children.

Emily rose and stepped back from the door looking startled. In the open frame stood a a small black man with gray at the temples of his curly hair. His eyes were wide with worry, his clothes dirty and torn. “I’m lost,” he said.

“Where are you from,” asked James, rising from the table.

“I don’t know. My family is the O’Bannons”

Celia wiped her mouth with her linen napkin and set it on the table as she rose. “Emily, go fetch a bar of pitch soap and some clothes that might fit this man.”

Emily looked even more startled looking back to the man and to her mother who stood firm until Emily went to fetch the items. Celia prepared a tin plate of food.

When she returned, Celia took them and walked over to the door. “Eat some food. Then I want you to go bathe in the creek, put on some clean clothes and then return here when you are through.”

The man nodded and left. Celia returned to her dinner and everyone turned to stare at her. “Mother, what are you doing?”

She took a bite and chewed before finishing. “I know the family he speaks of. They’re from Virginia.”

“He’s probably an escaped slave,” said Mary.

“He’s frightened. If he had escaped he wouldn’t have come to the door. Let him settle down and we’ll find out what his story is and help him find his way back to Virginia.”

James had stopped eating. “Your shepherd, Emily. He never barked.”

“Oh, no! He might have killed the dog.” She rose and pushed away from the table.

Monroe and his cousin Ranze got up, too.

“Hold on, boys. I’ll go look for the dog.”

“I’m going with you, Father,” said Emily.

Everybody filed out of the house except Sally who refused to go and said she’d stay with Lizzie. They all followed James to the creek. They could hear the man talking to someone. James raised his hand to keep his family quiet and to stay put. He crept quietly through the bushes as any old fisherman could do, and disappeared. Soon they heard James laugh and when he returned, the shepherd was with him, bounding through the brush and lapping his greeting across the smaller faces.

“He was talking to the dog as if it were his new best friend.”




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  1. Norah

    What a touching episode, Charli. I really enjoyed it. I’m a bit behind with my reading so not quite sure how it fits in, but it works as a stand-alone anyway. Love your thought for the day. Must continue to fail!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s one of the last times Mary will be among family. Even now I keep pulling little nuggets out by looking at census records. I never noticed until the past few days that while all the McCanless sisters (as well as Cob and his brother Leroy) and their parents were all educated. Even Sarah Shull was which was unusual. But Mary was illiterate. She never did learn to read or write. She lost much when she went out west and then lost Cob.

      Yes, continue to fail in good form as will I! 🙂

      • Sarah Brentyn

        I’m with Norah–not sure how this is all fitting together but enjoying it. How interesting that Mary was illiterate while surrounded by women in her family (and Sarah ;-)) who were educated. Do you know why?

      • Norah

        That is certainly an interesting discovery to make about Mary. You say that she lost so much when she went out West. I wonder how much that was influenced by her illiteracy. (You know that, as a teacher, that is what is of interest to me.)

      • Charli Mills

        Education in North Carolina in the 1840s-50s meant sending children off to academies. So there had to be money tho do that. Boys education had more value thus it was the norm to not educate girls. The McCanles family was one that valued both. I sense that Mary did not value education probably reflecting her own Greene family’s idea of it. Cob brought out two teachers from North Carolina to educate his children, but he died Mary never continued to see to their schooling. Nine years after Cob’s death, their youngest three children were listed as illiterate. Sarah, who was educated, never was able to use it to gain employment. Sad, but makes one think that Mary was right in a way–what’s the value of learning when it doesn’t put food on your children’s table or clothe them? Of course, we know that learning opens up the mind. Something we see with Cob’s sisters. They never worked outside of the home per say, but they were progressive in how they thought, raised their children and supported their husbands.

      • Charli Mills

        Norah, if you have information on how illiteracy impacts individuals, I’d be interested to learn more about it. Thanks!

  2. Annecdotist

    Love that analogy of stories to snowflakes. Unlike in the USA, our weather continues to be mild, altho had a sharp frost last night – lovely to see the white edging on the grass

    • Charli Mills

      I do love those first hard frosts, but winter decided to sneak in early. We’ll see if it stays or not!

  3. Jeanne Lombardo

    Like Norah I have had to restrict myself to a quick dip into your story but have been keeping up with the updates. Loved your analogy today of the snowflake. Very inspired, too, to see you sticking with the NaNoWriMo challenge. [I have not done too well 🙁 ] There is always much to ponder in your writing Charli. And, by the way, I have been studying your site as I prepare to move over from BlogSpot to WordPress. Thanks for the continuing inspiration.

    • Charli Mills

      I appreciate it when can spare a dip! 🙂 Keep at it. I like that other writers have taken on less words, but have used the month to set their own personal challenge. I’m going to have to keep at it, as there is more story than 50,000 words! You’ll like WordPress. t gives you many options and more visibility. Thanks! Your words inspire me in return!

  4. Let's CUT the Crap!

    Can you hear me clapping? This is a delightful excerpt. I believe I’m going to like the small black man and, of course, the big dog as well. 😀 😀

  5. Charli Mills

    It’s actually based on a true story, but I fudged the timeline. The man served a Confederate officer who was killed in a battle about 1863. This scene is summer of 1859 so before the Civil War. I’m experimenting with how I might possibly add it because it’s a good story and it illustrates the complexities of the region and the divided sentiments even in the south. Slavery was not a simple issue whether you were for, against or apathetic toward the “peculiar institution.” However, I find it difficult to write about, wanting to be authentic. But written authentically, it can be offensive. Not written authentically it denies what existed. So, I’ll see. I appreciate your feedback! Shep will have a greater role.

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