Amanda Cockrell

Selected Works

Young Adult Novel
Saints and soldiers and the Untied Church of Dog
The Hollywood blacklist and a delayed funeral
Historical novel of a Roman legion in Britain
The Horse Catchers trilogy
Mythological novel of the coming of the horse to the American Southwest
Volume 2 in The Horse Catchers trilogy
Volume 3 in The Horse Catchers trilogy
The Deer Dancers trilogy
Mythological novel of the beginning of art
Volume 2 in The Deer Dancers trilogy
Volume 3 in The Deer Dancers trilogy
Children's books
By my mother, Marian Cockrell, the story of an enchanted castle on the edge of Fairyland

What We Keep

Snowy day...

March 4, 2014

Tags: writing and not writing

The critics
Classes are cancelled so I am at a loose end, and ought to be industriously writing. I am not. I am watching robins out the window. They have arrived from whatever southern clime they winter in, little suitcases in hand, ready for spring in Virginia, and it has snowed on them. They look disgruntled rummaging around in the snow and I feel as if I should put out a bowl of worms.

The dogs are reluctant to go outside, preferring to line up on the sofa and wait for me to come sit with them, where we can bark at the mailman together. I donít even have to cook tonight since I made two dinners last night in anticipation of my Monday night class.

So why am I not writing? The farthest I have got is to re-read (for the twentieth time) a short story that needs something. I discover upon re-reading that I still donít know what it needs. It has dogs in it. Perhaps I should consult the pugs. Alas, they will just assure me that they like it very much, the best thing I have ever done, and how about a dog biscuit since they are worn out with literary criticism.

It should be so easy to write just now. No need to leave the house, a handy computer, a story that needs work. And so easy to revise Ė just delete, insert, cut and paste, move the first scene to the middle, drag and drop. Like magic. No retyping, no correcting with white-out, no renumbering pages. Technology at my fingertips.

Instead, I start making a list of things that technology has made it impossible to do. Person-to-person calls on the telephone, for instance. When I was growing up, my family developed an excellent system for not paying for long distance calls at all. If you called person-to-person and the person wasnít there, you didnít have to pay for the call. But you could hear everything the operator said to whoever answered the phone, and they could hear you. When I was in college, a person-to-person call home for myself meant that I had made my standby flight. When I missed it, I called for Mr. Charleston DeLay or Mr. L. A. Sunday, and told the operator that I would try again about 6:00, thus announcing my new arrival time. My favorite was a call made by my father to a friend who was hosting that weekís poker game, just outside the local rate area. The friend was notorious for forgetting to take the chicken meant for the the playersí dinner out of the freezer until they arrived and reminded her to. Thus a person-to-person call for Mme. Poulet deFrost.

You canít kite a check anymore either. When banks did their business by mail, a check for $50 from Person A to Person B could be deposited and used before it cleared. All Person B had to do was mail a check in return to Person A, who deposited it to cover the first check. You kept that up until someone actually laid their hands on $50 and put a stop to the whole thing. I learned that from my father too. Lest I seem to have come from criminal stock, someone always did eventually cover the check. And he considered a poke in the eye to the phone company (there was just one, and it otherwise did pretty much what it pleased) to be a noble goal.

He was a working writer all his life, but there were days when he said it just wasnít there and went out to prune the pear trees instead. I miss him dreadfully. I think I will take a page from his book and watch robins.


  1. March 9, 2014 12:56 PM EDT
    Hello Nancy,
    Vicki and I read this post and it had me laughing out loud as I elaborated and explained to Vick about the nefarious schemes involving the phone company and the bank. Who knew there was a check kiting gene? We often communicated via the "person to person" method and it was very effective and free. If we we were out on the road, we made a person to person call to ourselves to let the folks know we arrived safely. I vaguely remember my dad making calls to someone named "Jackson Fives" for some reason. A poker game maybe? It was wonderful to read and remember. Hope all is well with all of you. With love.
    - Fred Cockrell
  2. March 9, 2014 2:38 PM EDT
    A call for Mr. Jackson Low was an inquiry as to whether the game was on for that night or not. The response would be that Mr. Low was expected back at 7:30 or whatever time the game was starting. On another topic, in the course of one of those games, my father either sold my blue VW bug to your father and bought my red convertible one from someone else, Fred Hall or Mike Wilson maybe, or vice versa.
    - Nancy/Amanda
  3. March 9, 2014 8:32 PM EDT
    I was close. I remembered the "jackson" part. Dad never had a blue vw but I do remember your red convertble. Your dad must have acquired it from one of the other card players.
    - Fred Cockrell
  4. March 14, 2014 4:01 PM EDT
    I made a few of those kinds of phone calls myself, and the check kiting was, I thought, just the normal way of doing business. Things change. (And sometimes you really do just need to watch the robins.)
    - Anita

Chocolate novios for Day of the Dead

Noon Whistle at the Lizard Works

Back yard bottle tree

The last hurrah

Delia Sherman and Ruth Sanderson, summer Children's Lit faculty

Children's Lit faculty Brian Attebery and Ellen Kushner at the end-of-term party