Tag Archives: Mothers Against Injustice

WHAT MY WRITING ROOM LOOKS LIKE

Last week, I wrote about plotting my story at the beginning of my book effort.  Today, more years later than I like to admit, I am assessing what has survived to the end. As I await the  final draft of my manuscript for the approval that will send it to the publisher, I have time to look about me and consider a question from a curious reader, “What does your writing room look like?”

Usually, I try to avoid this topic because my answer may be a bit depressing to an aspiring writer. There’s no beauty in my writing room, no scents, no music, no comfy writing chair. My my writing room looks like me: serious, hard-working, no frills, no comforts. But I am possessed with a dogged-determination to succeed. We feel it here: Detroiters never quit.

In front of my computer is a black, hard-backed, folding chair that I like better than those soft office types. I’m sitting there now and I invite you to look around with me. I will begin our tour to the left of my desk. At the far left, on the floor, are three large plastic tubs containing reference materials. Many of them are copies from Mike’s and my papers that are on file at the Walter Reuther Library Archives at WSU. Along with these essentials are stacks of journal articles, book reviews, and a file box of contacts and contracts. Books are scattered about.

Moving clockwise around the room one will notice that on the wall, I’ve taken down my plotting paper and stickies, which were the topic of my last blog, and replaced them with a piece I wrote on becoming an activist. It is pasted on the wall in a plastic sleeve, and begins: “How My Story Will Contribute to Understanding…what an activist is, how an activist operates, makes decisions, and pays the price,” followed by ten bullet points. And ultimately, “What I have learned in the process.” These were always on my mind, and in front of my face, as I wrote.

In a pile to the left of my computer are major documents that I consistently refer to. These include my book description, the table of contents and a copy of the vows I wrote for Mike’s and my re-commitment ceremony on our 35th wedding anniversary. My book is, after all, also a love story. Finally, there is a copy of a poem my editor sent me, titled: “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk” by Portia Nelson. It reminds me that I’m not the only one who keeps making the same mistakes over and over.

To the right of my computer are folders holding consent forms signed by those who graciously permitted me to cite their pertinent written work or photos. Somewhere buried in this pile of papers are copies of difficult sections that I tried so hard to get right, a book listing my computer passwords that I can never remember, and a fat folder, marked “expenses.” At the far right, forcing me to stand up to retrieve documents, is my printer. My phone is also placed across the room. Without these mandates to move, I would turn to stone.

My attention moves again clockwise to the couch, where my corrections and proof-reading notes, all coded by color, are filling my husband’s empty seat. This is where he watched TV and listened to me banter and rave when I couldn’t get things right. He also functioned as my first-line proof-reader, and he could spell any word in the dictionary. Mike was my most ardent supporter in getting this book done. I’m trying to refocus after losing him.

After staring at the computer screen, I pause to blink and look out the window. There I see Detroit’s aging main post office, the undeveloped West Riverfront Park, the Salvation Army, the Sixth Street ramp, the infamous train station and several boarded up buildings. In the distance are the spires of St Anne’s historic church and the entrance lanes to the Ambassador Bridge. That’s it, that’s Detroit, and that’s me. And that’s what my writing room looks like.

I would love to know what YOUR writing room looks like. Please “leave a reply” at the top of this page and share your experience.  

MY NEW BOOK IS COMING SOON                            

What My Left Hand Was Doing: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist.

Click “follow” at the top right of this page for updates on publication.

MARTHA ALDERSON PUT STORY STRUCTURE ON MY DINING ROOM TABLE

I didn’t begin my life thinking that I would be a writer. I was always much too busy for that. But after my kids left home, I began to write some small articles for newsletters and I found myself keeping a journal. I felt empty with everyone gone and it gave me comfort to commit my thoughts to paper. Over the years, my urge to write kept growing. I started writing stories for my friends and they encouraged me to write more. The idea of writing a book seemingly started without my consent but the words kept waking me up at night. Writing was taking hold of me.

As I struggled to make sense of my bedside notes, I learned of a writers’ group at Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology, called “Adventurous Writers.” It was there that I began to learn the trade: developing a theme, learning how to plot a story, the elements of the hero’s journey, and the importance of through-lines. After the basics are in place, you top it off with a “hook,” a cherry on top of an ice cream sunday, something to immediately capture the readers’ interest so they can’t put it down.

We studied many different approaches for mastering story structure. My favorite book that taught me how to write was The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson (Adams Media, 2011).  In the text were diagrams of plots illustrating elements of the universal story, prescribing how many pages should be devoted to the beginning of the story, exactly what page should end the beginning and when to move the story upwards in intensity towards the crisis. Once your hero is over the hump and just when you thought everything was going well, she is thwarted by another barrier, the climax, which quickly unfolds into the resolution. All stories follow this same plot structure. Think about it when you are watching a movie or your favorite TV show.

As I took hold of the ideas in Anderson’s text, I dutifully made a trip to the butcher at Eastern Market and tried to explain why I needed a long piece of butcher paper. The butcher looked puzzled but he gave me the paper. I started my plot-planning on the dining room table, minimizing our eating space to my husband’s chagrin. I used red sticky notes for hot emotional scenes, blue for the cooler transitions, and yellow for the lessons I was learning. As the story grew more involved, i needed more space and I moved to the to the living room floor, blocking access to our front windows and my husband’s favorite easy chair. After a spousal chat, I withdrew to the wall next to my computer but the story moved on.

My confrontation with the archbishop was my first chosen hook, but as my story evolved and I worked to get its elements in the proper places, the archbishop got replaced with J. Edgar Hoover’s counter-intelligence program, COINTELPRO. You will want to meet the characters in my upcoming book:

What My Left Hand Was Doing:

Lessons from a Grassroots Activist

by Joann Castle

Coming soon: Click “follow” at the top of this page for updates on publication.

MOTHER FOUND AT THE HENRY FORD

Ken Car Mother FoundYou all know the slogan. All Michigander’s do: “You haven’t lived until you…” followed by some Michigan international destination like “Greenfield Village”. It was always easy to gauge how well you know the state by these monikers. When they changed the name of Greenfield Village to “The Henry Ford,” I was totally lost. But now, for a very personal reason, I’m getting found again.

You see, I’m the mother of seven children. They are all equally precious to me. Every once in a while, one of my children will do something publically noted that gives me permission to boast a bit about their contribution to the world. This time, the evidence can be found at Greenfield Village… Oops, excuse me, I mean, The Henry Ford.

My oldest son, Ken, is a mechanical engineer. He grew up the kind of kid who couldn’t keep his hands out from under the hood. I think his first word was ‘car’ which soon grew into ‘car racing’. Currently, Ken is Vice-President of an Ann-Arbor company that makes prototypes and tests parts for transportation and motorsports.

A few years ago, Ken joined a team competing for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, a $10 million competition aimed at advancing technology for more fuel-efficient vehicles. More than 111 teams from all over the world worked to build a car that achieved 100 miles per gallon or the energy equivalent.

Ken’s company developed the engine for Edison2, winner of the Mainstream class of the Automotive X-PRIZE with its 100+ MPG car of the future – Very Light Car. This car is on permanent display in the Henry Ford Museum Automotive Exhibit at (Yes, I’ve got it now) The Henry Ford.  Take a look next time you visit: Edison2 – the Very Light Car.

Won’t you join us on our journey, click ‘follow’ on this website and we will keep you updated on our adventures.

A MOTHER’S BATTLE AGAINST INJUSTICE

Against the Tide Books is dedicated to publication of historical narratives that others can learn from. That is the goal of my new book. The work is directed at young mothers of social conscience, seeking to give them confidence and change the way they think about their role in the broader world that their children will inherit.

In the spring of 1967, I moved my family from the suburbs into the city to expose my children to a real world environment and teach them about social responsibility. We arrived just a few weeks before the 1967 civil disturbance and we became deeply involved in the movement for black self-determination that followed.

By 1969, I was working with Michael Hamlin, a leader in the movement for black workers power. Mike and I developed an idea for a book club that would bring blacksJoann CCC and whites together in a multiracial educational forum geared to developing the support of whites for the black struggle. Three hundred and fifty people showed up for the first meeting.

My oldest son, Ken, recently came up with this photo of the Control, Conflict and Change book club, April 1971, at Central Methodist Church in Downtown Detroit.

My new book is finished. Watch for my story of these turbulent and rewarding years.   Between Two Worlds: A Mother’s Battle Against Injustice by Joann Castle. Follow my journey as I work to get the book published.

Click ‘follow’ on this website and join us on our journey.