Author Sherry Isaac on Imagination + Excerpt + Giveaway

>My guest today, Sherry Isaac is an amazing writer and an even better friend. Her first collection of shorts, STORYTELLER, debuted last month, July 2011.

She will be giving away one copy of her book and 5 custom made bookmarks. Post a comment or ask a question to enter!

Welcome, Sherry!!

by Sherry Isaac

Write what you know.
That’s the advice we’re given when we start to write, but what does it mean? Does it mean that, because I don’t know a Phillips from a Robertson, a mallet from a hammer, a G-clamp from an A-frame, my hero can’t be a carpenter?
If it does, then it’s re-write time again.
True, author John Grisham (A Time To Kill, The Chamber) uses his knowledge and experience as a lawyer to write his legal thrillers. But did Anne Rice actually interview a vampire?
Or did she draw on her knowledge of New Orleans and the gothic impressions of the ornately decorated churches of her childhood, and fill in the rest with imagination?
Don’t know about you and Stephenie Meyer, but I’m going with the latter.
When looking for a starting point in a story, nuggets of truth are a great place to find inspiration. It is imagination that dictates where the story will go, and how it will end.
My maternal grandparents, Isaac and Katie, are gone, but a year or so before my grandfather, who went first, passed, I heard a story. A story of how they met.
Isaac and Katie both fled Russia in the days following the revolution. Isaac ended up in Winnipeg, Katie in Ste. Anne, a small farming community southeast of the city.
Isaac, educated and wealthy in his homeland, retired a machinist. I don’t know where he worked or what he did in the twenties, but suspect it was factory-oriented. As the story went, Isaac and his cousin knew where to go to meet girls.
And on what day.
Like many girls her age at the time, Katie worked as a domestic in the city, and Wednesday was the standard day off. Woolworth’s on Portage Avenue, in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, was the place to meet their girlfriends and ‘spend their earnings on ox-blood lipstick and the new flesh-colored stockings that were al the rage’.
There are a lot of blanks in the story. Who caught whose eye, who said what, and how a chance meeting turned into a life-long love is a mystery. In the end, a fact: In a city park, under the shade of a tree, my grandparents shared their first afternoon together.
A scandalous afternoon spent… Kissing!!!
Grandpa, you sly dog.
What I knew for sure when I started to write seriously was that someday I would write a piece honoring Isaac and Katie’s lifetime devotion.
Isaac had a steadfast rule: Never ask a girl out more than twice. A third date meant you were serious.
Bit of a player, perhaps?
After that afternoon with Katie, he confided in his cousin: “Let’s just say there’ll be a third date.”
What I knew for sure when I heard that detail was that someday, somehow, in some story, I would have to use that line!
Years later, the two things I knew for sure came together, and I wrote what I knew, filling in the blanks with imagination, dicing it up with a little research to get the details right.
Imagination fuels the give and take of dialogue, gestures, the dance of body language: ‘She turned to the inside leaf of the dust-jacket; her hazel eyes darted across the lines. Simon slid three book lengths closer and pointed to the open page. “That looks interesting. What’s it called?”’
Imagination sorts through the fashion of the day: ‘There were morning girls, too anxious and eager to please, in their flapper dresses, all pearls and feathers, bare arms and knee caps… The shapeless lunch-hour girls disguised their curves in boyish clothing, with hairstyles to match and hats that hid their eyes…’ and settles on the heroine’s look: ‘Her flowing floral print dress fell to mid-calf, slender ankles tapered into low-heeled Mary Janes. Her fair hair caught the light, rippled finger-waves that skimmed her fine jaw’.
Imagination devises a pant leg caught in a bicycle chain, the clank of metal on a wooden sidewalk, and Simon’s reaction,“Bloody hell!”, to shape setting and character.
Imagination is a twist, a tango, a Texas two-step. Writer and reader, the partners. A cluster of clues fill the reader’s mind and soon the scene takes shape. When the young man in wide-cuffed trousers who dreams of owning a Ford Model-T suggests a date, “Why don’t I treat you to a soda?”, the reader supplies the malts, the floats, the egg salad sandwiches.
A Love of Reading is not memoir. Outside of their initial meeting and their life-long marriage, the heroine and hero, Lila and Simon, bear little resemblance to my grandparents.
The end result ‘reveals,’ in the words of author and reviewer Tanaz Bhathena, ‘nuances of a love that is all at once innocent, mysterious and timeless’.
I like to think my grandparents are proud.
Short Story Excerpt
Sherry Isaac
“Simon, it’s your turn. I can’t read anymore! My voice is getting hoarse.”
The spring sun was warm so they’d sought the shade of a large weeping willow. Simon lay in the cool grass, his legs crossed at the ankles, his hands behind his head. He’d been wrong, ole Roger Ackroyd held out for several chapters. Simon removed the long blade of grass from between his teeth. “But I love the sound of your voice, Lila. Even when you speak of poison and suicide, it’s like an angel sighing.”
Lila sat on Simon’s jacket so she wouldn’t stain her skirt. She tapped the toes of his boots with the book. “Oh, stop!”
Simon rose to his knees and tossed the book aside. “If you’re tired of reading, I know something else we could do.” He crawled toward her until his face was inches from hers.
She lowered her long lashes. “What would that be?” Her rosebud lips barely moved. Her breath was warm, sweet.
He leaned closer, his lips a mere breath away from hers. “This.”
Simon rode his bicycle to work the next day without incident. The journey seemed to last only seconds as he pedaled the last stretch down McPhillips Street. He entered the gate and saw Jacob leaning against the fence, waiting for him.
“Where’d you get to yesterday?”
Simon dismounted and parked his bike. “Nowhere.” He lowered the brim of his hat, chin tucked under to hide his broad grin as he walked toward the plant entrance.
Jacob was ahead of him, walking backwards so they could face each other. “You met her, didn’t you? You finally met her!”
Simon bit his lip to erase his grin before answering. He stroked his chin, eyes downcast, as if considering a complicated mathematical formula. Numbers and symbols danced in his head, the language that didn’t exclude him. The tactic worked. He could meet his cousin’s eyes with an aloof expression. “I might have.”
Jacob pulled off his cap, waved it in the air and let out a whoop. “I knew it! About time, too. What’s her name?”
The smile would not stay hidden. It spread across Simon’s face and made his cheeks cramp. “Lila.”
“Lila? Mm. Even I could fall for a dame with a name like that. What’s she like?”
Simon stopped and pressed his lips together. “You know I don’t kiss and tell.”
“She let you kiss her? In Woolworth’s? You’re smoother than Rudolph Valentino! So what now?” Jacob landed a playful jab on his cousin’s shoulder. “You gonna gently remove the hook and let her go?”
“Let’s just say there’ll be a third date.”

Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

Enter to WIN a copy of Sherry’s book or 1 of 5 custom bookmarks by posting a comment or ask a question!

**US/Canada only**

**MUST leave a contact email to WIN!!!**

19 Responses to Author Sherry Isaac on Imagination + Excerpt + Giveaway

  • We have our Winners!

    A copy of Storyteller goes to:
    Obscured Vixen!

    5 beautiful custom bookmarks to:
    Jessica, Sharon, Leslie, Brinda and Gloria!

    Congratulations and thanks for reading and posting your comment!

  • Leslie!

    We have to stop meeting like this! Thanks for reading!

  • Gloria, only a few more days… and soon, we'll be counting down sleeps until our trip to Hotlanta!

  • Hi Obsucred! Or may I call you Vixen?

    Fingers crossed!

  • Sharon,

    I know what you mean.

    As for bookmarks, you're entered whether you like it or not! (I can't wait to see Joan's bookmarks, either.)

  • Elaine,

    I have your copy set aside for the retreat, as promised.

  • Jessica,

    Your copy is on it's way!

  • You've done it again, Sherry. Posted a bit of writing wisdom on the screen for me to absorb and apply. This excerpt, like the others you've teased us with, makes me wish you had express shipped my copy of STORYTELLER.

    KUDOS, btw, on the high praise from Tanaz Bhatena. I'm certin you'll continue to grow readership and five star reviews.

  • Another tantalizing tidbit, Sherry . . . your power of description is unparalleled. Well done.

  • Hi Sherry! This book sounds great. I would love to win a copy, so thanks for the awesome giveaway!

  • I'm almost at your grandparent's story in your book, so I'm going to wait to enjoy it fully. How nice to know where it came from. I definitely remember those Woolworth counters!

    Isn't it the truth though, how from one real moment we can spin a tale that could go in so many directions. I set a book in 18th century New France and did tons of research, but overall it's a story of what I imagine things were like in one moment of time between two characters falling in love.

    Bookmarks!!! I can't wait to see. (No need to include me in the draw though, but I still want to buy a bookmark!)

  • Well done, Sherry! This is just a great intro to your Storyteller book. I can hardly wait to read it.

  • Hi Sherry,
    I love this story and can't wait to read the rest in Storyteller. What a great idea to draw on the tidbits of your grandparents meeting and re-create it for you readers!

  • Hi Barbara,

    Congratulations on The Secret of Lies!

    A family reunion – what a great place for inspiration. Write those stories down before you forget! Great place for characterizations, too!

  • Hi Brinda,

    The Writer's Bock – clever! I participated in NaNo 2010 too. Hm. Change 'participated' to survived'!

  • Hello, Roanald,

    So nice to hear when my words strike a chord. Thanks for reading.

  • This is such a wonderful, and for me, timely post. So often we're holding onto the perfect tidbits what would meld beautifully into our writing and yet don't always know quite how to use them. Your excerpt here highlighting your grandparents story is a perfect example of slipping truth into fiction.

    This past weekend I attended my family reunion in WV and came home with a head full to bursting with newly acquired family stories and memorable tales. Your lesson has me inspired, excited, and ready to go! Thank you, Sherry!

  • Sherry,
    I love your grandparents' story. The descriptions you use to tell their story are vivid and show what a great storyteller you are. I'm excited to read the stories from your imagination as well!

  • Aww! Very heartfelt, and I like that, the story about your grandparents. It actually makes me think of my own, the snippets I heard of how my own grandparents met at my grandfather's funeral.

    Thank you for that!