‘Righting’ Disturbing Childhood Incidents in our Novels.

Simple, really. Life experiences affect the way you write. And, as authors, you have the power to change, modify and/or right the pains you may have endured when younger.

Sometimes, when writing, you don’t even expect a terrifying childhood event to pop into your consciousness. Especially if that incident has nothing to do with the story’s plot line. But memories pop in, don’t they? When that happens, your fingers peck down on the keys and type a different scenario, a different outcome.

I won’t go into the gory details. But I’d like to share a disturbing memory.

It’s my fault. That’s what I thought as a ten-year old.


Me with Buffy

After my friend discovered our missing eighteen-year-old Cocker Spaniel dead in the creek, she gave me a new puppy for my birthday, part Lab, part Beagle.

‘Buffy,’ named after the girl in 60’s show, Family Affair, was still young–two, I believe. I let her come with me across the quiet residential street to play with neighborhood friends. She was so happy before she ran in front of a parked car. The driver didn’t see her. (To this day, I accuse him of speeding, especially when he was driving past a group of kids  playing in a front yard.)

Not disclosing the images still in my mind, my dad called me from the vet clinic. “Carolyn,” he said, his voice choking with tears. “Since she’s your dog, you have a decision to make. She can live with three legs or we can put her to sleep.”

Back then, I had never seen a dog with three legs. My young, limited brain had to make a choice. Guilty Carolyn said, “Every time I look at her, I’ll remember my mistake.” Compassion Carolyn said, “I don’t want her to suffer.”

“Put her to sleep,” I whispered into the phone, because I didn’t have the life experience to tell me otherwise.

Later in life,  when I had children, I sat in the living room in our new house, my five-year old daughter next to me on our sofa. As we watched my baby-grand piano being set up, she said, “Mommy, why does it only have three legs.”

Spontaneously, I said, “Because, sometimes, that’s all you need.”

Then, I thought of Buffy.


Now, fifty years later, I’ve met many three-legged dogs.

In my latest novel, Distilling Lies, the plot line doesn’t require a dog. Even so, Emma June has one.

Page 283:

Beating ourselves up kept us from moving forward. When Choppers lost his leg, my guilt stungso much I could barely look at him. Then I realized his sadness hadnothing to do with losing a limb but from my lack of attention. He wanted me to love him regardless of how many legs he had.

And there is was, a theme relevant to my novel. The new outcome put a different kind of smile on my face. Buffy (Choppers) is happy with three legs.

One way or another, aren’t we all three-legged dogs doing the best we can?

Traveling Mercies (Anne Lamott),


Writing to heal-   http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun02/writing.aspx via @APA

How to Turn Traumatic Experiences Into Fuel For Your Writing  https://shar.es/1Efxfr via @sharethis

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