Sunday, February 3, 2013

What Flooding Has To Do With Writing

This morning, I discovered this photo taken in March of last year of the Potomac River in West Virginia.  That year, the river crested at 27 feet and the owners of riverfront lots on lower ground woke up to this sight. Yes, that's a child's swing set in the upper right hand corner of the photograph. Our lot levels out at 30 feet, so we were close, but safe...that time.

We riverfront lot owners know that flooding is something we have to deal with and we accepted that fact when we bought. There have been times when we've chosen to ride out the weather and watch the rising river, praying that it will crest way below what's been predicted. There was the time when my friend Gwen and I decided that it was time to call in the big guns - the tow truck company that would haul the camper to higher ground which is a difficult, tedious and costly decision. It turned out that we'd predicted wrong. The river didn't reach our patio, but many lot owners experienced flooded campers and lots. I saw refrigerators and coolers float by. It's a gamble living on the river. I was okay with the decision that was ultimately mine and I learned to be more patient and watchful for signs that maybe we would be okay staying put.

I have to be alert to NOAA's predictions and then, gamble. To move or not to move to higher ground, that's the question and floods can happen any time of year. In recent years, melting snow in the mountains have caused the MD and WV creeks and rivers to flood and surge toward the Potomac River in the spring. Last April, my friend Kristine and I watched the waters of the Potomac River reach the fifth step of the stairs that lead to the river as we sat around a bonfire at 3 am, wondering if we could chance falling asleep. What an adventure Kris and I had that night! Our adrenaline was pumping and we made the right choice not to panic early and call the tow truck company. We'd gambled and survived and we were very proud of ourselves! My co-owner Dana and I are two of four women who own riverfront lots. Men watch us to see how we'll react, we know that. And, we've learned well and we've survived two seasons now. This spring will be our third - we're here to stay :)

Our friends who own lots on higher ground say they couldn't stand the stress and the uncertainty of living on the river. I shrug and say that the pleasures and beauty of waking up to a view of the Potomac River while I sip my coffee are worth the risk. When I see geese glide over the river, an eagle soar overhead or watch a new family of ducks swim by and listen to the fishermen's conversations from boats I can't see through the early morning fog, I'm at peace. "Just not worth it", our neighbors have said to us and we smile because when the weather is dry and hot, these same neighbors will be calling us to see about bringing their kids over to swim and fish off our floating dock.

Writing a novel is like that.  It's a risk, a gamble that we as writers sign up for every time we start a new book. Writing isn't for everyone. The risks that our story might not be picked up by a big name agent or a big publishing house are there, ever present, but we persevere. Friends and family secretly believe that we should get a day job. But, we know that the pleasure is in the writing, it's a passion that has put its hooks into us and we can't deny it.

Yes, there have been times when I've thought about throwing in the towel and calling it a day at the river and with my first novel-length manuscript, A Decent Woman. I've experienced and dare I say, have been plagued by night time thoughts that we'll lose the camper to flooding and that I won't see my book in print. But then, I think about spring and summer mornings to come when I'll sit and write at our farm table on the patio that faces the river and it all goes away. My two loves will come together again. I'll be reminded of how blessed I am to write and will continue to put myself out there with my novel. I visualize my book in print.

Writing is worth the long hours, isolation and uncertainty that come with it and the longer hours and uncertainty when we're ready for an agent and a publisher. I'm a storyteller and I love the river, what can ya do? How else am I going to get my 55 year old blood pumping?

Peace and love,


  1. Great post, Ellie. I love how you connect the things of nature to events in your life. You are the most talented and passionate storyteller I know. I believe "A Decent Woman" is only the beginning of a long successful career. Stay warm my friend. Hugs - Jasmine

  2. Hi Jasmine! Oh my goodness, thank you! From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your kind words. I hope you're right about that long and successful career :)You stay warm too, my friend. I believe that ol' groundhog, Spring is on its way! xx