Sunday, August 3, 2014

Writing Practice

practice, practice, practice

I know we've all heard those words several times during our life. Practice is what makes us better.  Daily practice creates a habit.

In the Write Now class I'm taking with Amanda at A.L.M Writes, she includes exercises to encourage us to practice our writing every day. The short story below comes from one of her exercises. Writing this story wasn't necessarily about improving my writing skills. Although improving skills is never bad, that's not what Amanda's classes are about. Her classes are meant to help establish the routine and joy of writing. I'm not taking her class because I want to be a novelist.  I'm taking her class because I want to journal; record my stories, my history, my thoughts, my dreams,  and my fears. Anyway, here's what I wrote for the exercise. I decided not to edit this writing to pieces. I wrote it for the joy of recording the history of a family treasure.


Sitting on a wooden shelf in Woolworth's Department Store was not exactly where she preferred to be on this hot summer day. She would have rather been in someone's lovely home; maybe in the center of the dining room table with a crochet doily beneath her. This day seemed no different from the many other days she sat on that shelf. She listening to the constant whir of the ceiling fans above her, which seemed to just barely move the stifling summer air. The fan directly above her had a little squeak that could sometimes be very annoying.  She watched as the steady flow of shoppers and tourists walked by making the worn hardwood floor creak. Her favorite sound tough, was that of the children. The small patter of their footsteps and their giggles always made her smile. She was right across the aisle from the soda fountain where she could watch the little ones eating a frosty treat. She didn't know how long she'd been in the store waiting to be chosen, to be thought of as beautiful, and be taken to some one's home. She just knew that she was tired; tired of sitting on the shelf.

Sometimes she tried to remember her early life, which was a good distraction from the squeaking fan!  She couldn't quite remember all the details of her beginning. She knew she had been shaped in a mold, fired in a hot kiln, and air-brushed by one of the women workers in the factory. Her memories began when she was being carefully wrapped and placed in a box for shipment. Before she was wrapped up she had noticed a name written in green on her bottom, of all places, Royal Copley. She assumed that was her name and she quite liked it. Royal sounded so fancy and regal. While inside the shipping box with several other vases she dreamed of being shipped to a nice department store, maybe in New York or San Francisco where she would sit on a lovely glass shelf. Her wishes didn't come true. When the box was finally opened, she was placed on a wooden shelf in a five and dime store in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Although she was disappointed, she wasn't the type to grumble and complain about the fact that she was in a spa city in a small dime store.

One morning Royal realized she'd begun to collect a little dust. Oh, how she wished someone would come by with a duster. How could she be chosen when she was coated in dust?  Wait! She could hear footsteps on the hardwood floor. Maybe it was the sales clerk with her duster. It wasn't, it was a rather lovely lady dressed in the prettiest navy dress. The lady stopped right in front of Royal mumbling something about a new vase to take to church on Sunday. Royal wished with all her heart that she could stand up and shout "Pick me! I'd be honored to go with you to church!" The lady sorted through the vases and finally she picked up Royal and decided that a pretty Corsage vase would do nicely.

That began a new chapter of Royal's life. She was carefully wrapped and placed in a shopping bag and taken to the lady's house. She was put in the sideboard with several other vases. Royal wondered if this was the way she'd spend the rest of her days, sitting on a shelf in the dark. It wasn't quite what she'd expected.

The other vases told Royal to be patient. They told her the lady's name was Florence and she had the most beautiful flower gardens full of roses, zinnias, and gladiolas. They assured Royal that one day she'd be chosen to hold some of those pretty flowers. Royal could hardly wait.

Early one Sunday morning the sideboard doors opened. Royal was trembling with excitement. She'd been chosen to hold an arrangement of beautiful zinnias that Florence was taking to church. Royal sat regally on the communion table proudly displaying the vibrant zinnias. As the ladies of the church walked by they complimented Florence on her pretty flowers and several noticed her new vase. This brought joy to Royal's heart.

The years passed quickly. Royal was kept busy holding flowers for church services and parties. Sometimes she sat right in the middle of the dinning room table holding beautiful flowers for the family to enjoy. Then, one day sadness filled the house. Florence had passed away. The vases all wondered what would happen to them now. Would they be forgotten in the sideboard?

Weeks passed and then Florence's husband, children began to sort through her things. Finally they reached the sideboard where the vases were kept. Tears filled their eyes as they remembered Florence's love for flowers and her gracious spirit of sharing with others. Royal and several other vases were chosen by Betty. Betty lovingly displayed Royal and occasionally filled her with flowers from her own garden. Betty and her family moved several times and after one move, Royal was packed away in a box and stored. When Betty was doing some spring cleaning she opened the box of vases and decided it would be nice to share them with her daughters. Royal was given to Cathy, her youngest daughter.

Her life was different with Cathy. She didn't hold flowers anymore. Cathy was not a flower gardener like her mother and grandmother, but she loved to display vintage items in her home. She found a special place for Royal where she could be admired.

Royal had come a long way from a hot shelf in Woolworth's to a pretty shelf in Cathy's home. She knew how sentimental Cathy was and how she loved family treasures. Royal was now over 60 years old. She'd held a lot of flowers. Now, she could just rest. She was content. She also knew that one day she'd be passed down to one of Cathy's children.

The End

I learned a few facts about my grandmother's vase. Pottery carrying the Royal Copley mark was produced by the Spaulding China Company of Sebring, Ohio. They became the second largest producer of artwork pottery in the United States, selling through five and dime stores. Corsage vases, such as my grandmother's, date from the period of the 1940's and 1950's.


  1. You are embarking on a journey... that of recording your history for the generations coming on to read. I've done journaling for years and years. And, I've written stories depicting my and my families history. Such fun. I loved your story. Can't wait to read about more of your writing adventures.

  2. This is so beautiful Cathy. You did a great job with the weekend homework. We use to have a Woolworth's in our town long ago, you gave me good memories of that store. Lovely to imagine the journey of the vase and how it passed down in the family.

  3. What a wonderful way to share your stories and memories with your family! I love it. Well done!

  4. I loved the story of that little vase, Cathy, and how you photographed it! The flower decoration is so charming too!

  5. How very creative to tell the story from the perspective of the vase. Your words, chosen with care, painted a picture of the small things that tie families together. Well done!

  6. I love this -- the pottery and the story! I wonder what item will be the thing that stands out for my kids and grandkids ;-)

  7. There's the hint of a tear in my eye after reading your story. I love how you described Royal's longing, and eventually, belonging first with Florence and then with you. I'm sure Royal feels privileged to be with you.


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