The Many Versions of Truth


So…I know that it’s a little late to post autumn leaf pictures (it’s snowing here, for crying out loud!), but that’s me—a day late and a dollar short. But better late than never, right?

Lately, I’ve been trying to get serious about my writing (the two blatant clichés in the previous paragraph notwithstanding). As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have any actual formal education in writing, but I do read. A lot. Which, for me, has probably been the single most helpful thing in learning to write. And, lately, I’ve been branching out a bit by reading stuff that I might not ordinarily read. Writing doesn’t have to be literary to be good. Sometimes, I think it’s enough just to tell a good story. And, sometimes, lots of ostentatious literary allusions and fancy metaphors get in the way of a good story. Sometimes, they just seem like showing off. Like, Hey! Look at me! Look how smart I am!  But, who knows?  Maybe I’m just not smart enough to appreciate them. (Possibly indicated by the fact that I originally typed “literary illusions” in the previous sentence. Haha. Maybe that’s what I have—literary illusions).

Anyway, I was thinking, as I looked through my photos, about how they are sort of like the stuff I’ve been reading. Some straightforward, some symbolic, some poetic, some metaphorical. Just different ways of presenting truth. Though some would say, I suppose, that that means there is no truth—only your perception of it.

I’ll leave that to the philosophers. Meanwhile, here are my many versions of the truth.

(And, by the way, don’t forget that you can click on the photos to enlarge them.)

(I love these water constellations.  They remind me of the Bruce Cockburn song with the line “All the diamonds in the world/That mean anything to me/Are conjured up by wind and sun/Lie sparkling on the sea.”   I LOVE that line. Of course, this isn’t the sea.  It’s Lake Junaluska.)

(After the storm—that lovely, golden, late-day slant of light)

35 Responses to “The Many Versions of Truth”

  1. Steve Says:

    …your allusions may be occasionally be illusions, but certainly not delusions!

  2. Sharon Says:

    Hi Beth,
    IMHO, it is ALWAYS good enough just to tell the story. Also, a story does not have to be downbeat and grim to be good. Interestingly, I’ve been exposed to a lot of styles lately in the short story class I’ve been taking at church, and have been surprised by (a) the number of downbeat, grim stories (b) the writers who used a convoluted style, e.g. Eudora Welty in “A Still Moment.” I think talent lies in communicating universal stories in a simple manner, and that’s a talent (among many) that you have.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Aww…thanks, Sharon! I would definitely say the same about you. You know I’m a big fan of your writing.

      It’s interesting you should mention the general tendency towards despair amongst literary stories, especially these days. I am about halfway through the 2010 New Stories from the South (chosen by writer Amy Hempel) and, while I do like the stories very much, I couldn’t help but notice that every single one was quite bleak, even the one by my favorite short-story writer, Tim Gautreaux. It seems unfortunate, really, as I do think that the entire nation could really stand to have a little hope right now. I don’t even think that complete bleakness in a story is particularly realistic, since one can generally find something positive and hopeful in almost any situation. I just recently entered a short story contest where past winning stories have been almost all grim, so I told Tom that I was going to write a grim story. He said, “I don’t believe you are capable of that.” I laughed and said, “Sure I am!” Well, my story started out dreary enough, but somehow, despite my best efforts towards gloominess, it ended up being funny. And my story didn’t win. An utterly dismal and depressing one did. Haha.

  3. Martha Says:

    I’ve always enjoyed stories that are simple and easy to read; I find them much more enjoyable. When I read – and I read A LOT – I like to relax during that time, not feel as though I’m in a classroom. And that’s what I like about your writing. It’s interesting, fun and easy to follow, so no matter how long it is, I’ll read the whole post! You wouldn’t believe how many books I skim through trying to get past all the fancy language and abundance of details…yawn…

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thanks, Martha! I love your writing, too. And I love your sense of humor—it is so much like mine. 🙂 I know what you mean about skimming—I just recently finished an autobiography where the author went on and on and on and on about ALL the many, many, many books she’d read. After a while, I was like, “Okay, okay…we’re impressed by your vast literary experience—enough already!” But she kept going on, so I ended up skimming over half the book, which I’m sure is NOT what such an incredibly erudite person as herself *rolls eyes* would have wanted.

  4. The Southern Lady Says:

    That lovely, golden, late-day, slant of light. I love those words and they describe the picture perfectly and make me think of my favorite time of day. My Bob reads a lot and so do I. He took a course in speed reading and says many times he only reads the first sentence of a paragraph. He says you can tell what the paragraph is about by reading the first sentence and if you want to continue to read it. He reads a book much quicker than I do and seems to retain what he reads. I guess we all do things differently. I like simple stories, too. I have always enjoyed anything you write.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      I enjoy anything you write, too, Judy. Wow, I was just thinking about how helpful it would be for my kids to be able to speed read like Bob! In college, they are literally assigned hundreds of pages at the time, often without much time to read them. Some books, I would be happy to read quickly; others, I want to savor, like fine chocolate.

  5. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Of course, this post leaves us all wanting to know exactly what you’re reading (besides the aforementioned anthology). I kind of felt the same way about Ron Rash’s recent story collection–really great stories, truly wonderful but not in any way uplifting. I wonder if the thought is that happy stories are not realistic or are trite and sentimental. To which I say “What’s wrong with sentimental?” Of course I say that because I’m a sentimentalist. Can’t sentiment or humor also be true, as you ask?
    I’ve always loved the Flannery O’Connor quote where she was asked if she thought that universities stifled writers and her answer was that they don’t stifle enough of them.
    True talent (like yours) will eventually shine beyond what’s currently “in”. Your writing reminds me so much of Lee Smith and Elizabeth Berg and Jill McCorkle. They found markets and I hope that you will too.

    I’m rambling, sorry.

    Love the photo of the Junaluska shoreline, especially.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      I am truly humbled to be compared to writers like Lee Smith, Elizabeth Berg, and Jill McCorkle—thank you, Wesley. I am certainly not quite in their league, but I’m working hard to get there. I LOVE that Flannery O’Connor quote! Of course, speaking of bleak, Flannery O’Connor’s stories were awfully grim…but they were so, so good.

      As to what I’m reading (besides New Stories from the South): I just finished House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I was interested in it because the main character (who was suspected of murder) was autistic (he had Asperger’s Syndrome). Have you read it?

      And, of course, you know I am a fellow sentimentalist. And my stories are often sentimental…that’s one of the criticisms I most often get. That’s the thing I find most fascinating about Tim Gautreaux—he manages to infuse his stories with hopefulness without getting too sentimental (except for his most recent one in New Stories from the South—it’s bleak). It’s a balance that is difficult to acheive, but he does it so well. I, too, like Ron Rash’s stories, but I can only take them in small doses—has he EVER written a hopeful story? Benjamin was surprised when he met Ron Rash—-he was actually a very cheerful man! 🙂

      Okay, now I’M rambling…haha

  6. Betsyfromtennessee Says:

    You are a good writer, Beth, AND a great photographer… Gorgeous pictures. Love that Lake Junaluska one. WOW!!!!!

    I think most of us just love reading stories which people write from their hearts, from their life experiences…. You have a gift –so all you need to do is to just WRITE…


    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thank you, Betsy! That means a lot coming from a photographer like you! Speaking of autumn leaf photographs, your Blue Ridge Parkway shots were absolutely stunning. They were definitely my favorites of all the fall shots I’ve seen this season. Your photos just keep getting better and better.

  7. Jayne Says:

    Heck, I don’t know… I think I write the way I talk… with lots of ellipses and exclamation points? LOL! I personally don’t like melancholy, sad, dreary writing or stories. I also don’t like gritty, dark ones either. I read to escape to another place or perspective. Entertain me or teach me. I’ve put more than one book down when I found myself dreading the next chapter. There are many books I wanted to like, but found myself fully disconnected. I think I’m going to order me a t-shirt that says… “Life is too short to sit in a dark, dreary basement for 300+ pages.”

    I love the way you write Beth and am always fully engaged when I read any of your posts. You just be YOU girlie! Love you!

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      I love you, too, my friend! I LOVE your idea for a t-shirt. I think you should consider selling those! You know, I probably could write grim, if I really set my mind to it. But then I imagine someone reading what I’ve written and finishing it with the feeling that my writing somehow confirmed their sense that the world is hopelessly cruel and greedy…and I just can’t do it. Not to say, of course, that my fiction is all sweetness and light. I write about darkness and brokeness. But I think there is always at least a narrow shaft of light that reaches through those cracks in us. Usually, at least. Unless, as you say, we choose to sit in that “dark, dreary basement.” 🙂

      And, by the way, I love the way you write, too, Jayne. Always honest, always true.

  8. Jes Says:

    The water constellation picture is beautiful! I would have never thought to have called it that–perfect!

  9. CountryDew Says:

    Well, looky there, Beth is back writing and has been for a while. I am sorry I didn’t realize you were back. Welcome! I am so glad to see your lovely words here.

    Now you need to figure out how to throttle that inner critic once and for all, sweet pea! You don’t need no education to be a writer, and you don’t need lots of money, but you do need a pinch of talent and my dear, you have that! It never goes away, though it might get a bit rusty from lack of use. So keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, and let those words shine forth like ol Rudy’s nose in a blizzard! Be well and blessed, my friend.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      What a kind and lovely welcome back, Anita—thank you! And I thank you, too, for coming back to read my blog. I haven’t meant to seem fickle or capricious about my blog—I really did fully intend to end it. It’s just that I was surprised at how much I missed the writing and the connections and, of course, the comments. Y’all have given me so much encouragement in my writing, and I can’t tell you just how much that’s meant to me. It is a special thrill when professional writers like you assure me that I can write—it really does boost my confidence.

      I wish I could throttle that nasty inner critic—I’m working on it! That’s one of the reasons I started back—I wanted to learn to write more freely, without so much fear and worry. I’m just so grateful that y’all have come back—it means a lot. Thank you again, kind friend.

  10. sweetflutterbys Says:

    I’ve always loved your writing. It’s even more amazing that you have not had any formal training. A natural talent is a God given gift. Keep going Beth. I want to hear more!

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thank you for those kind words, Mary Ann! I’ll keep writing as long as you keep reading! I am very grateful to God for the gifts He’s given me—I hope I can always use them to His glory.

  11. eemilla Says:

    I love your view with the stormy gray sky and just a touch of sunlight.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thank you, Eemilla. By the way, the little red shed in that picture is Tom’s workshop. You might have noticed that it shows up in a lot of my photos—little red shed in the snow, little red shed with rainbow behind, little red shed in fog… I really like our little red shed. 🙂

  12. Rider Says:

    I want to say something about your “nasty inner critic,” Beth. It’s she who pushes you to refine your writing art, to make it better and better. It’s she who won’t let you rest until your every word sparkles like the water constellation picture. It’s she who gives you a lovable and perfectly clear writing voice.

    She’s your friend, Beth. The two of you make one truly wonderful writer.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thanks, Rider! You make an excellent point. I probably do need that inner critic as my writing companion. If only she could be a bit more benevolent! She can be pretty harsh sometimes—constantly harassing and haranguing. 🙂

      I do want to add that I won’t ever stop editing my stuff—that’s essential because my rough drafts are usually pretty mediocre (or at least that’s what Inner Critic says, haha). It’s just that I want to be able to STOP editing once I’ve done a reasonable amount of it—to be able to put a fork in it (so to speak), call it done, and feel good about it.

      Thanks again for your comment—I appreciate it.

  13. Debi Says:

    Beth, good stories ARE literary. Just because they might be a commercial success, doesn’t mean they’re not literary. I can’t read formula stories. I’m way past that. Not to be ostentatious, lol.

    And I think cliche’s get a bad rap. Just like stereotypes. They have their place in painting a picture. Ut oh, is that a cliche’?

    Your photos are beautiful as always.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Hey there, Debi! Oh, I know you’re not ostentatious—-just discerning! After all, you read my blog, haha.

      I guess “literary” could have a lot of different meanings. I have certainly read books that were commercial successes that were also literary. Cold Mountain is a good example. Have you read that one?

      I know what you mean about cliches. I use them when, in my opinion, they are the best choice for a given passage. And sometimes, they really are! Sometimes, they are as good as gold! As right as rain. 🙂

      Thank you for reading my blog, Debi. I like yours a lot.

  14. Vicki Lane Says:

    Beautiful pictures! And in my opinion, the very best training for writing is extensive reading.

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thank you, Vicki. I agree! Though I do think a writing class someday would be helpful. It really is funny that, although I do have my own writing voice, my writing does often seem to reflect whatever I’m reading at the time. The effect is usually subtle, but it’s there.

  15. Darla Says:

    Found your blog from, oops…where…oh yeah, I think from Vicki Lane’s blog… 🙂 Anyway, read the first one, skimmed through a few, have enjoyed your writing so, in spite of my intentions to not add further blogs to my reading list — since I am determined to WRITE more and read less! HA! — yours is getting added. LOL

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Thank you , Darla! I’m really pleased to have you visit and even more pleased to know you’ll be back. I know what you mean about resolving to cut back on blog reading—I’ve said the same thing, but there’s so much good writing out there and I find such pleasure in the connections I make through blogs. Speaking of that, I’m heading over to your blog right now…I’ll be right there!

  16. Debi Says:

    No, I haven’t read Cold Mountain. Is it set during the Civil War?

    • blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

      Yes, it is, Debi. And it’s really good, although I’d have to say sometimes he went a bit overboard with the similes and metaphors and poetic descriptive language, and those words went from enhancing the story to detracting from it. But that’s just my opinion—I’m sure some folks liked every single flowery word. Overall, I liked it very much. The author is actually from my area or at least, he used to be.

      • Rider Says:

        I also loved “Cold Mountain,” Ms. Blue, though I agree with you that Charles Frazier’s style took some getting used to. But then, after a few pages, something magical happened. My city-fied eyes were transported into the rural-mountain, end-of-the-Civil-War world created by Mr. Frazier’s words. Just like your words and pictures transport them into the present-day Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

  17. colleen Says:

    The last shot is a magazine cover for sure!

  18. Benjamin Says:

    I love simple expressions of the truth. Thanks…

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