I spent the weekend in New Mexico helping my son and his family clean up after the fires in Los Alamos. I did get to attend a workshop in Taos presented by the University of New Mexico. The subject was “a sense of place” led by author Summer Wood.
We visited the farm of Patricia Quintana. A former Washington D.C.lobbyist, she’s living her dream on the land she inherited from her grandmother. Churro sheep, who were brought from Spain as many as 500 years ago, wander on her fields. She has kept the culture of her ancestors and integrates her lifestyle with land. So how do you incorporate setting into your writing? The main point I came away with is that characters need to be placed into the landscape or the descriptions will sound like a travel log. The “character” can be a human or one example given was animal, perhaps a dog, moving across a landscape. History, food, building styles, and human interface with their environment are all a part of “place.” Examples include nostalgia for a time when the land was in a healthier condition or a desire to profit from development. Summer’s list of books that “contribute something fresh and valuable to the role of place in writing” include:
The Meadow by James Galvin
Home Ground by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney
Mayordomo by Stanly Crawford
Power by Lin Hogan
Wisdom Sits in Places by Keigh Basso
Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Is that “sense of place” important to you as a reader/writer? How do you write setting so they are more than the physical location of your story?
<posted by Vicki Law, however written by Gail Saunders>