A lot about chickens and a little about writing

It’s hard to break a silence, so I’ll dive in without further preamble.

IMG_20170323_112135558I’ve been quiet but busy. Chicks arrived over spring break, bringing with them tiny peeps and fluff and heartaches. The day before they came in the mail, our two remaining hens were dispatched by (probably) a skunk. Five chicks were dead on arrival. Two were weak and died the next day. Then, on the coldest night of the month, the heat lamp went out some time in the wee small hours and another chick perished of the cold. My eight-year-old and I held the survivors by the woodstove, coaxing life back into them. The following evening, my husband went to close up the rooster, Pontoon, only to find that his head was nowhere in the vicinity of his body. We’re still angry about that one, especially after spending a week nursing him back to health following a possum attack in which Pontoon had his comb completely ripped off. Then another two chicks died. Of the sixteen I ordered, we’re down to six. After spending several days in close proximity to death, I was feeling bludgeoned. Sometimes Nature is Queen of the Mean Girls.

All of this chicken drama derailed any attempt at writing, and I’m only now getting back to it. I’m making baby steps forward on my manuscript project. With help from a handful of writer-friends, I’ve had an epiphany about my current novel–one of those realizations that rocks my socks and also means a ton of work. Basically, after years of percolating, drafting, and revision, I’ve finally articulated to myself exactly what this story is about–exactly why it matters. Which, of course, means stopping the massive rewrite I’m halfway through and lying down where all the ladders start to begin again, this time with a crystal-clear vision.

I’ve never been able to do anything the easy way.

There are glimmers of goodness in the midst of all the blood and feathers. The mighty chick survivors (all of whom are going to be named after warrior-women) are thriving and would prefer to eat from human hands rather than a feeder. They’re soft and sassy and hop right into my palm, cocking their little dinosaur-heads at me without fear. It’s letter-writing month, and I’m making time to write a daily letter, which feels deeply sane and grounding and important. And even though it took me years to get to this point, I now know where I’m really going with this novel.


Oh, and new toys arrived yesterday. I’m going to end up writing on vellum with quills if this keeps up.

IMG_20170406_075442719What’s glimmering in your world?


7 thoughts on “A lot about chickens and a little about writing

  1. I’m glad you dove in (am struggling with the same re: my blog; may try today)! And I’m so sorry for all the chick and chicken sadness. That’s so difficult. It’s part of the reality of raising livestock, but that never makes it any easier. Thank goodness for the survivors. And, best of all, to have that insight into your novel and know where you’re headed, even if it does entail a lot of work… that’s amazing news! Good luck on the climb; the view from the top is going to be amazing! xo p.s. I have that red pen; I love it.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! I’ll look for your post–glad to know I’m not alone! I tend to fall silent for long periods, and the longer I’m quiet the harder it becomes to speak again. Livestock will really rip your heart out and dance on it, won’t they?? But the survivors do make life sweet and interesting and hilarious and beautiful. Thanks for all the good wishes, and best wishes to you in all your many wondrous endeavors!

  2. Oh, dearest Brenna… ALL of this. Even the parts when you broke my heart with chicken carnage and especially when you dubbed Nature Queen of the Mean Girls.

    I’m sure they’ll be a Boudica… Make sure you tag me in a picture of her when she’s ready to be photographed in all her glory! (Speaking of the Queen of the Iceni – have you ever seen the movie Warrior Queen with Alex Kingston – AKA the British doc from ER? I discovered it on Netflix. Watch it with your favorite poultry! It’s probably not a brilliant movie, but it makes me happy. We all need to watch and create such stories as much as we possible can, right?

    1. Thanks, sweet Marisa. ❤ There is definitely a Boudica! Boadicea? Gah!! Studying Irish has been seriously hurting my brain. I've never seen Warrior Queen–thanks for the recommendation! Stories are so, so important–now more than ever.

  3. I, too, have fallen blog-silent, following the death of my husband in December. Every time I think “today, I’ll post something,” i inevitably respond with “meh” before I come anywhere close to opening my dashboard and clicking “new post.”

    So, kudos to you for breaking the silence, for standing strong in the face of poultry-carnage, and for charging back into the fray. Warrior-women & warrior-hens unite! Carry on… I’m right behind ya…

    1. Big, big internet hugs to you, Ami. I’m sorry for your loss. Whenever you’re ready to break your silence, I’ll be eager to read your good words. Love and light. ❤

  4. To Brenna The Badass Bringer of Truth – Only you can write about chicken death in a way that makes one both pause and laugh. (The part about the rooster head being nowhere in vicinity to the body). You didn’t get any ‘writing’ done…but at the same time you had an experience which you wrote about so beautifully here and that I am so glad to read.

    And here’s to doing it the hard way. I’m deciding it’s worth it to change course as many times as needed to get where I want to go. It’s all about the process…right? (That is what I am trying to tell myself). I am so glad you have uncovered some clarity for the novel…I am downright deliciously delirious for you. Hopefully that clarity means it’s easier to move forward in the magical writing zone.

    Good luck with the tough-but-fuzzy remaining chicks!
    xoxoxox, v

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