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SPOTLIGHT
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The Wonderful Writers of Oz

Published on -5/2/2013, 10:23 AM

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The story of the "The Wizard of Oz" has been revamped and Hollywood has found a ripe story for the digital technology available. Evidently, I missed it completely. As I started this column, I looked up the release date -- March 8. Darn it, now I have to wait for it to make it to HBO.

I was so looking forward to it, but got busy with life and real things and forgot to check the movies.

Such is life. It always comes around again. I no longer feel the need to be the first at anything. Being first takes a lot of work and time and stress. I'm choosy about my firsts these days.

When it comes to the story of Oz, being first isn't a problem -- being original is. Taking a classic and turning it on its head, shaking it up and coming up with a new story using the old premise is bold if it's done well, and a disgrace if done badly.

One has to be careful with the classics. There might be a couple of hundred versions of King Arthur and his knights, but how many of them are well done? I've liked something about every one I've read, but only a few authors have done the tales of Arthur well.

What makes any of these stories classics in the first place? Characters are identifiable and relatable, and in the case of Oz, we in Kansas have our own special connection. Oz gives us a shred of credibility in real literature. We have claim to a few such shreds of the nobler practice of language. William Inge, playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a treat to read. William Allen White, remarkable for his influence in Kansas politics, took us to the national and global stages with intelligent discourse, and is worth the time on the Internet.

Antonya Nelson is a prize-winning Kansas author, noted for her attention to women's lives and perspectives. She is one of a few Kansas women considered "notable" in our literature, sharing the list with Laura Ingalls Wilder.

So, why aren't there more Kansas writers? The state is big enough to support more original work than we're seeing. I know interesting people, with good stories that should be told. Sometimes I want to tell their stories, but I don't, because the stories are not mine to tell. The original voice of the main character has to be authentic.

Too often, the pen fails the hand for want of courage. One must disregard the natural fear of exposing your story to scrutiny. No one wants to be judged. Generally, it's just human nature to avoid criticism. We are trained early to fit in, not stand out. It is possible you've judged others harshly and expect the same treatment. Criticism is part of every art, and most artists have trained themselves to treat all judgment with healthy speculation.

It's the biggest hurdle, but the truth is, people read what they want to read and hear what they want to hear.

Everyone brings personal baggage to the work, and you have no control over what they think or how your work will affect them. It's not your problem as a writer to please anyone, but you'll find it settles out to about thirds -- a third will hate it, a third will love it and a third won't finish reading.

And you don't have to publish, if you don't want to. Your writing needs only to please you. You'll find you want to share, though. You will feel the connection. There are many free alternatives for publishing.

Give yourself permission to disregard perfect grammar. The academic aspects of writing are important, and they come naturally the more you write. The story is the important thing. The rest of it comes out as you craft the thing. If it sounds good to you put it aside and revisit it at another time. The craft in the art of writing is editing. You'll never know until you've tried, and not trying is the only failure.

Whether your story is fiction or reality, it matters. You matter. Your life's journey is perfectly unique at the same time it shares connections with the greater humanity.

So tell your story.

Write it down and sing the songs of life and truth and imagination. Allow yourself the expression. There is great freedom at your fingertips.

Mary Hart-Detrixhe is a lifelong resident of the prairie and Ellis county. Her work can be found at www.janeQaverage.com.

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