Dammit. I can’t find that post. I searched the blog for flea market, junk and vendor. No luck. No patience either. I want to write, not browse someone else’s blog looking for a post I might never find. I read it during my transition phase, shortly after I attended the West Virginia writer’s workshop. I received unexpectedly harsh criticism. Use action verbs! Show, don’t tell! We read our pieces in order, worst to best. I went second.
My writing improved. My reading improved. I became more observant of how others told their tales. I found Nick’s blog. That day he wrote a list, the things he saw at the flea market. He painted a picture, snapped a photo. He showed me the tattered edge of a tapestry, the rust on a knife handle, a stained Persian rug.
I left him a comment. “How do you do that? I want to do that.” I doubt he knew what I meant. Do you? I want the superpower to observe everyday objects and tell stories about them everyone can understand. I want to point out the obvious—so obvious, no one even notices… until you write about them.
Nick’s flea market trick struck me as clever. I could browse a junk shop, camera in hand, and later scan the photos to illustrate my stories. I made a resolution to make this a habit, to improve my writing with images. I, like Nick, could set heads nodding. Readers thinking I’ve seen that, I know that. I made a resolution and then I promptly forgot it. Years later, I read Gwen’s post.
Gwen does this. She visit’s the Auction Barn, to actually shop, not steal photos. But she makes note of what’s there. … pickling crocks, a wool carpet, Dutch clogs. Yesterday’s items, familiar but outside the mainstream, to enrich her scenes. She reminded me of my vow.
I don’t write about things. I write about feelings, sometimes action, occasionally dialogue, but my scenes could take place on a barren stage. Show, don’t tell—how do you show what’s going on in someone’s head. I need stuff.
My in-laws bought a recliner at T.J. Maxx. They asked Susan if we would deliver it to them with our pickup truck. On the way to get it, Sophie sat shotgun, I sat in the backseat like a kid—along for the ride, the hired help, maybe the muscle. Halfway there, Susan asked if we could stop at a junk shop. It seemed like a set-up. Like something Susan and Sophie already planned. Like they expected me to protest. “Sure, I’ve been wanting to go to a junk shop.” Sophie thought this was sarcasm.
As we pulled into the parking spot, I found what I wanted all these years. Boxes and bowls trying to look haphazard, the kind Susan and I bought for our first house, shabby-chic; mailboxes, mouths gaped like baby birds begging for worms; a ladder, handmade, stolen from a bunkbed; skis from the seventies, when I first learned to ski; one of those nylon chairs I sat in while surf-fishing with my dad; an OPEN sign like the one at the Silver Bullet, the joint we stopped at for beers after soccer. Each item triggered a memory, each memory, a story.
I snapped a dozen photos, most at the junk shop, a few more at the Rescue Mission thrift shop. Fertile ground for growing stories. Weeks of writing lined up. No more staring at a blank page. “So you wanted to go to a junk shop for writing prompts?” Susan asked, “that’s a great idea.”
Thank you Nick, thank you Gwen.