Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Jane Wodening, local author and former resident of Eldora, spoke of her recent push to get four manuscripts published, volumes that have been waiting to get out there to be read.
She says, in her preface to The Lady Orangutan and Other Stories, “One has to do things or they don’t happen.” This statement is typical of Wodening’s observations of life, which are pretty simple, to the point, and yet, somehow, profound in the fact that many people don’t ever think about the things she thinks about.
This collection of stories brings new tales and some of her favorites from other books she has written over the decades. She is the master of bringing seemingly insignificant moments to towers of drama and emotion, such as the travails of some insects as they strive to survive. She can find courage and strength in the simplest of endeavors, and in doing so, bring hope and sometimes even shame to our human condition where we have so many resources and tools to accomplish our goals.
“The Bumblebee,” “The Beetle,” and “The Biography of a Hen” are complete books in short story form, bringing to life the meaning of the shortest of existences.
In her story “First Presence,” which Wodening says is her favorite, the entire tale is told in one page, ending with this statement about her encounter with a desert tortoise:
“The eyes looked at me and I saw that it was I that was exotic. He was primordial and he looked at me out of days before our days and I found myself now kneeling at his side in some kind of penance.”
On Sunday, Jane read from her books and signed her newest one at the Blue Owl Bookstore. The audience was given a chance to ask questions and many present were interested in her writing and publishing process.
She said it had taken her seven years to get the nerve to write 57 stories, comprehensively and selectively. “How do I start in on the pilgrimage?” She recounted what it was like learning how to drive on the edge of a mountain road with her dad when she was 15. She was scared. But she is a mountain girl and says, “you just do it.”
Jane writes first in her bed, with a spiral notebook and a ballpoint pen. Then she types it out to see if it flows, if it is musical. Although she appreciates the ease of a computer, she says it messes with her all the time.
As far as content goes, she looks for the truth; she does not make up fiction, but she has quoted people in her Lump Gulch Tales.
She is now working on a Wolf’s Dictionary, based on years of research which began in the 80s when she saw a wolf. She read stacks of books and says she is working on a novel but calling it a dictionary,; that it is based on the actual behavior of the animals and how they talk.
When asked about her ability to communicate with animals, to empathize with them, Jane went back to when she was five years old, confronted with a barking, snarling dog. She was looking for someone to talk to and knelt down, slowly reaching her hand to the beast to smell. The dog became a special person in her life. “They are trying to be broadminded and I love all of them,” she says.
When is a story done? The question made her offer a small smile. The completion of a writing project occurs when it has been polished and shined over and over again. “It needs to be beautiful. If it’s not, it is not done.”
When asked about the publishing process, Jane says she owes getting Lady Orangutan published to the efforts of Julian and Janette Taylor, who encouraged her to get it done.
Lady Orangutan and Other Stories, is available at Blue Owl Books and the Nederland Visitor’s Center.