|G. T. Rees and son at Stevens Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness|
An avid hunter and fisherman, Gabe considers himself lucky to live in northern Idaho with his wife and two children, where he feels he’ll never run out of wild places to explore. He has been captivated by the outdoors and everything wild since his earliest memory and hopes to convey that joy to others through his humorous outdoor adventure stories.
Below, Rees shares some of his thoughts about writing, followed by his essay titled Not So Little Blue.
Join me in welcoming Gabe as a Writing North Idaho guest.
I attempted to get a bit more serious with my writing five years ago. I started out with no critique or writer’s group and wrote a young adult fantasy novel. I then proceeded to share my outstanding work with everyone I knew and was somewhat disappointed when I didn’t get the glowing praise I thought my baby was due. So what did I do? I wrote another one. I think the second novel was better, but in reality, they both stunk.
I don’t know about you, but both of my children were beautiful babies---I’m talking real children here. Now, I’ve seen a lot of ugly babies, but I’ve never met a parent that thought their baby was ugly. It’s kind of like that with writing. The difference being that you can work on your baby. You can take it from something that readers wrinkle up their noses at and make it into something adored and loved.
The big turning point for me was joining the Idaho Writer’s League. I know that people learn in different ways, but I have to actually work on a thing for a while. Practice, practice, and practice some more until I end up pretty good at whatever it is I’m doing. Either that, or lose interest, get frustrated and quit, etc. You get the idea. Besides, we can’t be good at everything and life is a process of deciding what you want to invest your time into, what you can just skim by on, and what you don’t want to mess with.
Putting in the time, practicing, and getting input from other writers, over time, made me into a passable writer. Eventually, I began having some success with outdoor-themed short stories that I put my own humorous stamp on. There are a lot of components that go into successful writing and if you want to write for an audience, pretty up that ugly baby. I would say that a support and feedback group like IWL is essential. Keep working at it, develop the ability to accept criticism, and you will become successful in your writing.
Not So Little Blue
By G. T. Rees
It may not be PC now to bring home a wild animal but when I was a kid, there were no wildlife rescue centers. So, our house was often the unofficial wildlife rehabilitation center in our little town. This was not the first, or last, injured or abandoned animal that my dad – the forever amateur naturalist – brought home, but it was one of the more interesting ones.
A year or so before, my dad had taken up a new hobby- hang gliding. Not too far from where we lived, there were rolling hills along the edge of a great man-made lake that provided perfect conditions for a novice hang glider. My dad’s excursions were often large affairs that included the entire family and curious friends interested in learning the sport. Mostly, I remember the awkward crashes- that and sliding down the gentle grassy hills on sheets or cardboard. We must have been ahead of our time because even then we were recycling, using spent boxes from the grocery store for our fun. It’s probably not what recycling proponents had in mind, but we sure liked it.
One day, my dad was out hang gliding, without the entourage, and he saw a turkey vulture land on a heron nest and take off with a squirming chick. Fortunately for the chick, it was well fed and after a hundred-yards or so, the vulture fluttered towards the ground and dropped its heavy prey. My dad rushed over and retrieved the chick. The nest was high up an old snag, bare of branches for a good twenty feet up. There was no way to return the chick, and so he brought it home to us.
We fed the chick cat food and named it Blue. Original, I know, but what do you expect from a six and four year old. In no time at all, Blue was taller than me and began taking great delight in tormenting my brother and me. My brother and I shared a room in our small two bedroom house. We had to go down a long hallway (at least it seemed long at six) to get to the living room and kitchen. Right at the end of the hallway was a reclining chair and it was there that Blue always made his ambush. I would creep down the darkened hallway, trying to be as absolutely quiet as I could so that Blue wouldn’t hear. It never worked. Without fail, I would reach the end of the hallway and Blue would spring out from behind the chair, wings flapping, beak agape, squawking his head off. And without fail, I would scream in terror and surprise.
Blue never hurt us. I don’t think it was in his nature and he was actually quite a good playmate when he wasn’t bushwhacking us. He would follow us around the yard continuously and tolerate our attempts to teach him tricks, as long as there was a little cat food for bribery. Blue also served as quite a status symbol for me with my neighborhood friends. “Bet I’ve got a better pet than you,” I can still remember myself saying on many occasions.
That fall, Blue was fully grown with beautiful dusky-blue feathers and flying quite well. It was a sad day when my dad took Blue to some ponds a few miles from our home and let him loose there. A family we knew lived in a small cabin by one of the ponds and they told us for several years that Blue would come up to their porch every day and steal their cat’s food. I guess he never lost the taste.
My grandfather later got a job running our town’s small community water system, of which the ponds were part, and I spent many a day fishing for bluegill and small mouthed bass there. I always looked for Blue. I was fishing off the end of a little dock one day, I was probably eight, when a magnificent blue heron alighted on the shore, not twenty feet away from me. The bird cocked its head and squawked at me, then went about his business of hunting for small fish and frogs among the lily pads. I was sure it was Blue and I sat there for over an hour just watching the bird before it flew off over the trees.
I was a truly fortunate kid. I don’t know many kids who get to interact with nature on such an intimate level. Our society becomes ever more modernized and the natural world and its creatures become more a thing of story than actual life for most people. I can’t help but think how much better off most of us would be if we could sit quietly and just watch a great blue heron. There are some real lessons there; nature isn’t always pretty or nice, but it is always amazing, just like Blue.
For more information about Gabe, be sure and visit his website at authorgtrees.com.