by Tamela Hancock Murray
During a recent visit to my local bank, I produced a document bearing the Virginia State seal. The banker commented on how terrible the seal is for men.
What an odd thing to say!
Mrs. Judith Gue taught third grade at the small private school I attended in a bucolic part of Virginia. Mrs. Gue was a plump woman who favored silk dresses, kept a paddle on her desk as an unspoken and ever-present threat, smoked cigarettes like a fiend and had also taught my mother. She relished the first story in the Virginia history book, about how Sir Walter Raleigh covered a mud puddle with his cloak so his queen’s feet would not be sullied. Pride filled her voice when she shows us the seal, speaking of “Victory over Tyrants” for our great state. The woman depicted is the Roman Goddess Virtus, the goddess of virtue, and the defeated man is a tyrant. I have my doubts that the men responsible for the seal, designed in 1776, were raging feminists.
I said to the banker, “You’re not a native, are you?”
“No. I’m from Indiana.”
To this day I’m still surprised by how our Virginia state seal, a source of pride for me, had evoked such negative emotion in anyone.
It made me think of the writing life where you never know the thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs your readers bring when opening the pages of your book. One influential family member, one life-changing event, or even the region of the country where your reader lives will affect his or her response to your work.
Let’s be even more concrete. Some readers may be critical based on the use of the words, “soda,” “pop,” and “Coke” to talk about carbonated beverages. Follow this link to a map of the U.S. that shows that it is a matter of where one lives that determines which word you use and creates your own perspective! (Tell us which word you use and if the map is correct!)
When writing for publication realize that it is impossible to know everyone’s background. Instead endeavor to write stories that connect universally to all emotions. Details like the name of a carbonated beverage are important, and accuracy is a responsibility, but ultimately what the reader brings with them to the story is what will let your story challenge and even provoke them to new thoughts and emotions – just honor the Lord by choosing your words with care and let Him do His work through you.