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Dannie is a wordsmithing master! As I was reading Home Is Where My Earrings Are, by Dannie Russell, I experienced many Aha! how-to-write moments. I’m aware of using active, not passive verbs. I’ve learned not to load up on adjectives and adverbs, but I could not figure out how to write description without these words.

A few of my observations, some of my Aha! moments while reading this book.

Do you remember learning about figures of speech in school? Such things as similes, metaphors, hyperbole, idioms, personification, etc.? If your school experience was anything like mine, you learned ABOUT them, but you didn’t learn to USE them. My teachers taught grammar, not writing.

A simile makes an unlikely comparison using “like” or “as” or “as if”, as in “Antsy, hyper like preschoolers on a rainy day, they squirmed with nervous energy.”[p. 38] Or, “In our hotel room, a creaky overhead fan slowly cranked like a vinyl record on the wrong speed.”[p. 98] Or, “Each wore a bandolier of bullets slung over his shoulder like a Boy Scout sash of badges.”[p. 328] Or, “…scanning the ground as if looking for a lost contact lens…”[p. 305] “We all slept a sleep as deep as the sea we invaded, like huge sea turtles sprawled on our beds in Asian stability; stable in a tranquil sea.”[p. 150] And, on and on and on.

Dannie is an artist with other writing elements as well. The following are only a few examples.

Idioms – “hot dog” vs eating dog meat; “‘laining cat and dog” (raining cats and dogs), a language exercise in China.[p. 94]

She adds intrigue by expressing doubt with a series of questions. Example, while describing her visit to some schools in China, she used many questions to express her doubt regarding the education of “the rest of China’s children.”[p. 97]

She uses repetition to create intrigue: “We never saw it coming” which she used three times in as many pages.[139-141] And, “Still.”[p. 181] And, “It takes less time to boil an egg.”[pp. 240,243,264,279] I loved the “Ask your father” repetitious dialogue.[p. 169]

Interesting words – “scaring the beejeebers out of us” [p. 329]

Description – “The serrated water accentuated the whitecaps which danced on the surface of the sea.”[p. 137] “Atop gas burners, the steaming grey gruel bubbled-up on the surface of huge black kettles. Unlike the witches from Macbeth, the chef stirred each pot, one by one, with great compassion; with optimism and hope.”[p. 161]

Juxtaposition – “I wanted to be there; I hated being there. I needed to see… I did not want to know…”[p. 149] “whisper-shouting” [p. 143] “love-hate respect”[p. 147] “Wonderful kids; crazy kids. Worldly kids; naïve kids. Socially sophisticated; not street-smart. Creative individuals; harmless groupies. All alike, all different. Teenage Third Culture Kids.[p. 201]

In more than one case she uses a very luscious, calm beginning leading into a terrifying story, such as the pirate episode.[pp. 142-144]

Dannie adds validity to her story by incorporating much local vocabulary and local vernacular, as well as select historical headline quotes. She adds creativity to her story with such items as her imaginary “interview with Madam Jiang Qing.”[p. 111]

This is just the beginning. Her stories radiate with examples. But, Dannie’s stories also have a catchy beginning, an appropriate, often reflective closing. They exhibit setting, plot, characters, narrative. And, they have sentence length variation to grab and keep your attention.

Did she tell everything? No, she omitted much mundane. She shared the highlight stories; the ones with action that grab and hold the reader’s attention.

Did she carry the title theme throughout the book? No, I was disappointed that her earrings were not an underlying current. Perhaps the point was that earrings are insignificant when compared to the humanness, the diversity, the vast experience, the universality.

How could anyone be in so many cultural and political hot spots as Dannie and Daryle? How could anyone first mentally process, then so deftly express these experiences? I’m in awe!

———-

Reference:
Russell, Dannie, Home Is Where My Earrings Are, Sarasota, Florida: The Peppertree Press, 2012. [I ordered the book from Amazon.com, after hearing about it from Dannie’s step-mother, who attended our Treasured Story Writing class at church.]

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