I did. And then I had to go back to the big dictionary on the shelf at the back of the classroom to look up another word “amaryllis.” I loved the way that word felt in my mouth when I pronounced it under my breath. Both the story and the words lingered with me for a long, long time. I went on to eagerly read two of Porter’s more popular novels: The Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles.
Porter was one of Indiana’s most famous writers. In fact, her two homes in that state are preserved as state memorials. Born on a farm near Wabash, Indiana, in 1863, Porter was raised by parents, who keenly appreciated God’s creation and taught Geneva to be a close observer. Porter took nature photos, made exquisite wildflower drawings, and collected moths and wildflowers. When she died in a car crash in 1924, obituaries declared that America had lost its most talented naturalist since Audubon.
By reading Porter, I learned that writers who want to write richly must not use those easy utility words so within our reach. We must stretch and search for the exact words. They do make a difference. For instance, I learned not to use the word bird when I could use cardinal, goldfinch or turkey vulture. Instead of using flower, be specific: is it a daisy, a rose or an amaryllis. Why use the word walk when I can choose from stroll, strut or amble? Just as an artist uses a paintbrush to paint a picture, to fill a blank canvas with color and image, writers must use diction (word choice) to paint pictures on a blank piece of paper.
Do you have a favorite Porter novel?
Don't forget to leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for The Perfect Gift by Elaine Manders. Winner will be announced in the November 27th edition of the Weekly Windup.
An award-winning writer and frequent conference speaker, Shirley Raye Redmond is the author of three inspirational novels, PRUDENCE PURSUED, VIPER’S NEST, and AMANDA’S BEAU, as well as two dozen children’s books, including LEWIS & CLARK: A PRAIRIE DOG FOR THE PRESIDENT (Random House), which was a Children’s Book of the Month Club selection. Shirley Raye holds an M.A. in literature and teaches through the Institute of Children’s Literature. She has been married to her husband Bill for over forty years. They live in New Mexico and are blessed with two grown children and three adorable grandchildren. Touch bases at shirleyrayeredmond.com or Facebook.