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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.


Seductive Musings

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A writer's dilemma

Tségháhoodzáni — otherwise known as Window Rock

As I'm writing Kat and Gabe's story here, I'm facing a dilemma I haven't faced much before (apart from a single scene in Surrender) and that is how to respect the boundaries within Indian culture while at the same time explaining things enough so that readers will understand.

My sister and I were emailing back and forth about this at about 4 AM my time (noon-ish her time in Stockholm). She was confused by a scene in the draft manuscript of Naked Edge, and I hadn't given more detail because I felt doing so would be wrong.

It's frowned upon (if not utterly forbidden) to share the details of Native ceremonies with outsiders. You can't photograph sacred sites, nor can you take pictures at ceremonies. That's just how it is. So for me to write an Indian character, I have to show that world from the inside without crossing boundaries that would be considered exploitative.

It's not an unfamiliar balancing act, as I've had to do that as a journalist, as well. I've covered meetings of the Navajo Nation Council in Window Rock (above), as well as an attempt by feds to barricade and shut down the Sun Dance at Camp Ana Mae at Big Mountain (no photos, sacred site). In both instances, I was part of events the full nature of which was private but part of which needed to be made public in order to for people to step up and help Indian people.

Even when I reported on events at "Mesa Butte" (not it's real name), I had to be careful of what to say and what not to say.

Also, I'm working hard to make sure that Kat feels authentically Indian to me but is also someone who feels accessible and real to readers.

OK, so there's not much to this post, but there you have it. :-)


Cheryle said...

It is hard! I know you will find the right balance for what you need to portray! Good Luck!

Ronlyn said...

I have some thoughts on this. There are a few books on Native American spirituallity...I forget who wrote them off the top of my head. I see her in my mind. Long blond hair, looks vaguely like you now that I think about it. She did a great job balancing this. She didn't write fiction...more new age stuff.

gotta run, but wanted to comment. Will call you later.

Debbie H said...

Can Aunt Kat and Uncle Ray help any with this? Still yourself and see what comes.


Hi, Cheryle! And thanks! I appreciate the wishes.

Hi, Ronlyn. I hope your day wasn't too busy. Interesting to hear.

Hi, Debbie. I know the rules and where the boundaries are. Finding creative ways to still tell the story is probably up to me, because I know the characters and plot. But I'm sure Ray will give me feedback if he feels I've gone over the line. :-)

Aimee said...

Good luck figuring things out for the story, I guess being a bit NA myself, I would recommend telling the story as factually as possible, yet fictionalize the sacred parts. I would imagine the tribes would prefer the "gray areas" to losing their ritual privacies. Just my two cents worth :)

Have a very safe trip when you take Ben to college, I'm so glad he's going!

Miss talking to you!

Bo said...

You will be able to pull us into it,no matter what.That is your gift.It will seem real & accessible to us,b/c you are putting the time & thought,not to mention respect,into crafting it.

Hi, Aimee,

Egads! What a cute ferret photo! Adorable! I think I've got some idea of how I'm going to handle it. The last time I faced this in fiction was writing the sweat lodge scene in Surrender, which really did go too far because of what Annie and Iain did in there. :-D

Bo, thanks so much for your faith in me. You're a peach! Hope all is well with you and Brenna and Brodie.


Tena said...

Hello I was in Cherokee NC at one of their Indian sores they have some interesting books that might help, if my mom goes down there I could get you a book if it will help. You're a great writer so I know you'll get what you need. Take care

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