"The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursey than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath...He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by and by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful..

"What is REAl?" asked the Rabbit one day...
" Real isn't how you are made." said the Skin Horse. "It is a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." ...

The Rabbit sighed. It would be a long time before this magic happened to him."
Velveteen Rabbit

Here at Soul Food some folks struggle with the notion of becoming REAL WRITERS.

Real writing hasn't got anything to do with what is grammatically correct, whether writing is published by a publishing house or if it earns the writer mega bucks.

To become a real writer you do not even have to have written a book. Here at Soul Food some magic takes place and writers who have not been formally published become REAL.


Becoming Real

I just wanted to know if YOU knew what comes before the crafting? Before style, you know, there is stimulation. Even in the dictionary, it's first on deck. T'aint no coincidence, that. Proof? Evidence, you'd like? Fine.

Cleaning supplies. When the dirt hits the fan or the floor around here, I care more about outting my own **** spot than spouting out symbolism like my friend Willy Shakespeare. Like many others, I can become ragingly eloquent on the spot when excited or angered about something of immediate, tangible importance (or annoyance) to my life. I know this is true of others because I clicked on a link on Heather's homepage and went off on a two hour link tangent whereon I unearthed a whole list of writing contests, several with $1000 prizes.

The contest holders were cleaning supply companies who wanted to hear cleaning stories detailing the most surprising and innovative uses of their product. Wonder why they'd give out a $1000 bucks for a couple hundred words? Advertising. Research. The stories told provided them with both...cheaply as going pay rates for advertising researchers are concerned!

Cheezy, you say? Not real writing? Hey...define real. To me, real writing is the clear communication of an idea. It's a form of sharing. These contest winners and their twenty runner-ups who received other prizes offered some fantastic 'flash non-fiction'. Because they were detailing a particular event, out of sheer instinct for the sharing of their day with a friend, they commented on what they saw, heard, smelled, touched, and sometimes tasted, concluding with what they felt about it all in the end. And that's precisely the way it's supposed to be done.

How could amateurs with no literary training reel off perfect personal essays on the fly? They cared about the subject and they had experience. The pressure of writing for a cleaning supply company or a fabric softener manufacturer hardly compares with the pressure of audtioning your verbal skills with a high end literary magazine or a well-renowned publishing company. Again...why? A theory? Because we know that the manufacturers can't wait to hear from us, to improve themselves and make more money with the guidance of our personal experiences, but we are told over and over again how inundated publishers are, how they will use any excuse to not have to read our work along with the countless other offerings on their tables.

So what's the answer? That depends on the question, doesn't it? If you want to know how to show the world some extraordinary literary skills, the kind akin to magic and chanelling, then...I don't know...ask someone with a magically channelling muse. If you simply want to communicate something to the world, then by all means tell 'em about your day. Carve up a slice of your life and make sure you include the delicious aroma of your experience, and the warmth of your fresh cut conflict, and you can be guaranteed the audience will want some of what you're cooking up.

Stephanie Hansen